I believe that while hard work gets the job done, play makes the world less complicated. I realized early in my childhood that the world we lived was not a bed of roses. Everyday, there was something to remind me that pain and suffering exists. Being exposed to violence, abuse, and financial struggles at a young age forced me to grow up at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, I missed out on the large portion of my childhood that included being happy and carefree, which I later discovered would be my liberation.
During my sophomore year in high school, I “burned out”, allowing high levels of anxiety and stress to build inside me until they come out in bursts of frustration, anger and depression. Outside sources suggested therapy—a safe environment for me to tell my innermost thoughts and possibly grow and learn from my experiences.
Working with this woman for the first time, I felt vulnerable. Her “office” was a small room in her house. Shelves that spanned the walls were filled with all sorts of toys and materials for arts and crafts. There was even a small sand tray that some of her patients used to “create” scenes and tell stories about their work. At the beginning of each session, she would try and make me feel at ease.
After the first couple of visits, I got into the habit of taking off my shoes and working with pastels, markers, and crayons. Sometimes I even engaged in the sand tray activity, made bracelets and played with the dolls. I reveled in these simple, childish pastimes while I talked about personal topics.
She asked me what activities I could do to become more at peace. “What made you happy?” Surely in the span of those 16 years, I had to have found at least one source of delight in life. Instantly, I thought of all the times I sat on the swings, pumping my legs in the air, almost flying. I reminisced about the times when I would play shark tag on the jungle gym.
When I entered therapy, I was a scared little girl who just wanted to believe in the beauty of life and its simple pleasures. With time, I became a young adult, capable of dealing with her issues, standing strong. It was only two years, but so much growth took place. I realized that moving forward meant going back and living the part of my life I skipped over.
Sometimes society becomes so concerned with work that we forget about the play. I believe that it is necessary to nurture that child within us, who viewed the world not with skepticism or fear, but with hope. The world was a beautiful place when we were children. You could be anything you wanted to be and nothing was impossible. The future was bright and full of opportunity. Nothing could stop you, and I remember that each time I play.
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