Before I entered The World of the Employed (a.k.a. slapped by reality several times), I engaged in various extracurricular activities after school and during summer. It was sort of my choice. Mostly my mother picked a summer activity for me and I had the freedom to say yes or no. I mostly said yes, except for piano lessons, which my uncle suggested I take. My seven year-old self was horrified at the thought of just sitting on the piano bench FOR HOURS ON END. I didn’t want that. It would’ve been boring. But I nodded my head yes to the following activities mentioned below and you know what? Looking back on it, I was — and still am — grateful that I was given the chance to experience them. I may have been just a kid during those times and had little to no idea what I was getting my wee self into, but I went through it, anyway. I started it and finished it through the end. It taught me self-discipline and allowed my shy, quiet self to befriend other kids, ones who weren’t schoolmates. Lo and behold, the top three activities I participated in during childhood and teen-age years:
TIPPY TOES AND TUTUS
age: seven / eight
I remember the thrill of dipping my dainty ballet slippers inside a box filled with rosin (a chalk-like substance). I remember wanting to perfect every position and plie. I also remember looking forward to this particular after-school class. I guess I liked the soothing music and how beautiful it felt to dance to it. And, well, I did love wearing my baby pink tutu. Plus, I got to participate in our school’s ballet recital. The light blue costume we wore and its matching headdress thrilled me for weeks. I wouldn’t even take off the headdress while at home and even went to a grocery store wearing it… Okay, admittedly, I forgot I was still wearing that silver and light blue headdress with the moon and stars decorated in it. I was mortified when we went back to the car and I realized I had been wearing that thing the whole time. I remember thinking, “Other people probably think I’m crazy!!!!”
KICKING, KICKING, AND MORE KICKING
ages: eight / nine and eighteen
Tae Kwon Do. That was my second extracurricular activity. I know, I know. It’s an odd choice after taking up ballet. Odd or not, I loved tae kwon do better than ballet. I was aware and very self-conscious about how most of my teammates were boys but I really loved taking that class. There was something exciting about connecting your foot to the kick pad, making a loud THWACK! when you do. It’s like thunder and the lightning is the adrenaline running through your veins. I felt challenged and alive. The only thing I dreaded was this boy who was always being paired with me because we were nearly the same height and age. I dreaded just the sight of his brownish head because he kept calling me “hairball.” He’s all “HEY, HAIRBALL!!!” It’s in all caps because he’s always hollering at me when he calls me. I know my hair was everywhere and it’s wild but I hated that nickname he gave me. Aside from him, I truly did love taking up tae kwon do. So much so that I reconnected with it years later, during Freshman year in college.
It was varsity, then. The coach saw that we were too many and decided to bring down the number. For weeks, the training got harder and harder. True enough, the number thinned out during the middle of it all. There were a little over a dozen left of us by the time the coach decided to announce who made the cut. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.
OF HANDSTANDS, CARTWHEELS, AND TRAMPOLINES
Of all the extracurricular activities I found myself signed up for, this had to be the worst. I don’t know why but I always thought that handstands and cartwheels were death-defying stunts. And I was sure I wouldn’t defy death when I performed one. I would either die or break a bone. Or break a bone first and then die promptly afterwards. That terrified me, big time. It took me days on end before I could finally perform a handstand without having a panic attack. Even just jumping up and down the trampoline scared the hell out of me. I was so sure I would jump too high and hit my head on the ceiling (which was pretty impossible, really) or I would jump with too much energy and catapult across the room, resulting to a broken body. I’m not gonna lie: Each time I managed to finally perform a handstand or a cartwheel or what I used to think as “death-defying stunts”, I was relieved. But I was even more relieved and thankful when that summer activity FINALLY ended. I crossed off gymnastics since then.
Looking back now, I can say that the younger version of myself was so much more… fearless. At 11 years old, I took my younger brother’s skateboard and used it to perform a “stunt” which involved me sloping downward with neither a helmet nor a set of kneepads. Stupid, yes. But at 11, it made me feel like a badass daredevil. And as the wind whipped across my face over and over, I felt exhilarated and brave and free. At 11, that was the best feeling in the world. Well, right next to scarfing down six buttered toasts and washing them down with iced tea, all in one sitting, while watching “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”
Sometimes, I find myself wondering where did my recklessness go? Where did that part of my personality — the one who threw caution to the wind — go? Did adulthood tamper it so well that I have resorted to being wary and conscious (too conscious) of how to act, what to do, what will happen when I do it? Sometimes, I wish I was a kid again, all reckless abandon and savoring moments with a loud whoop of joy.
Oh, if only my life was more like
all these things would be more like they were at the
start of me
If my life was more like
I’d plot a course to the source of the purest little part of me
* Song lyrics from “1983” by John Mayer. I was not born in 1983, though. Go back a year later and that’s me.