Writing for middle-graders as I do, I frequently try to summon up feelings from my own childhood. Not the rosy-hued nostalgia ones, but the real deal. I’ve been mentally thinking of things that do help me relate and remember to the kid I used to be.
- Walk or bike somewhere far away that isn’t a very pedestrian or bicycle-friendly. Arrive slightly sweaty and with dew-soaked sneakers.
- Wear pants that are too big and a shirt that’s too snug and go somewhere where you’re sure everybody is looking at you and judging you.
- Think of the person you love the most in the whole wide world, somebody you can’t live without. Imagine never talking to that person and being mortified if anyone even knew how you feel about them.
- Read something you hate and write a 2-page essay about it.
- Change your mind every day about who you are.
- Eat something for dinner that you don’t especially like four or five days a week.
- Go somewhere noisy and try to find a moment of peace.
- Go to a Viking-friendly bar wearing a Green Bay jersey (adapt as needed for your locale). The important thing is that you hope nobody sees you and are not sure you won’t be beat up. Do this approximately 135 days a year for six hours at a time.
- Share a bedroom with somebody you can’t stand.
- Ask somebody for permission to do anything you enjoy. Frequently be denied. (This might take some planning — try getting incarcerated).
- Do a page of math problems just beyond your ability, then write something dismissive about your efforts in red ink and hand it back to yourself.
- Have somebody buy a Greyhound bus ticket for you and not tell you where you’re going. Get on the bus before you find out with all of your belongings. Move there without having a job lined up or knowing a soul. That is adolescence right there: a journey you will not enjoying, with no idea of the destination or what you’ll do when you arrive.
Some of these might be familiar to some adults (I hope not number 9) but there are a lot we take for granted: getting to plan our own menus, knowing where we’ll be in a few years, knowing who we are, getting to choose who we spend time with, having the freedom to do what we want with our own time, if we have any.
Which of these is the easiest to imagine now? Which is the hardest?
What would add to the list?