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When You Were Eight Years Old


I am taking a course on creative self-discovery, for fun.

One of the exercises is to list all of the things you liked to do when you were eight years old. This was easy for me.

I got to hang outside with the boys in my neighborhood. They taught me to scale fences, ice-skate, swim way over my head in choppy waters, smoke a cigarette, look for the seam of a baseball to predict where it might hit the bat. I learned to follow the leader and by assimilation, live beyond my fears, because I don’t think those boys had any and they liked me enough to invite me along. Didn’t want to mess up the ‘only girl who gets invited into the clubhouse’ reputation.

But in my quiet alone time I did love to create: draw, paint, sew doll clothes, and write little plays that we performed in the neighborhood. Funny skits, short dramas — more exaggerated melodrama than family drama. I also loved school so much that after school we played school. As the oldest, I was the teacher, which didn’t always sit well with the “students”.

I wrote all these things down in the course notebook and realized something: I am still eight years old! Seriously, except for the smoking part, my life has always involved the outdoors and pushing just a half-inch past my comfort zone. Enough to climb to the top of the mountain but not brave enough to repel back down. Creatively I’ve continued to write these goofy little stories and essays for the pure pleasure of writing. Nothing has carried more meaning than the years I’ve mentored or spent teaching.

At this stage of life it’s interesting to review the hours spent in self-discovery — reading, therapy, reflection, meditation, running, writing, etc. — only to come back to the beginning.

The eight-year-old self I’ve wandered from. Denied. Lost. The self I allowed people to take away. The self I searched for — under rocks, up in the trees. This exercise only made me realize that the void between eight years old and this older age (creatively speaking) was a form of fear and denial.

Like, how could you possibly know at eight what your life path would or should be? You didn’t. The point of the exercise (I guess) is to rediscover that happy creative place and with any luck you’re right back where you started.

I’d poo-pooed the creative side of me, the dreamer side, as not worth pursuing. And here I stand, following my dream some fifty years later with no pressure other than to enjoy the process. Just like when I was eight years old.


Original graphic: Stephanie DelTorchio
Quote: Earle Nightingale

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