When I was a child, there were about three things that were guaranteed to put a smile on my chubby little face.
I liked to play Let’s Pretend with my big brother. You know the game, right? It always starts with a sentence that goes something like “Let’s Pretend aliens are attacking and I’m Ace Ventura and you’re Lara Croft and we have to save the day.” or “Let’s Pretend dinosaurs have moved into the back garden and we want to make friends. I’ll be Indiana Jones, who do you want to be?” (I invariably chose to be Lara Croft because a) I’m unimaginative b) I liked to play the training levels of the PC game rather too much and c) she kicks arse.)
I also loved waking up before everyone else on a Saturday morning, when the house was eerily silent, and reading in bed. I’ve always devoured books, since I first learned to read, but there was something special about that witching hour – probably 7-8am – before mum got up to put the kettle on and my brother got up to watch TV, it was like the whole world belonged to me, and was offering up this peaceful time to indulge in a good book.
And finally, one of my favourite things ever, as a little girl, was to get my mum to draw a princess for me to colour in. Each time she would put pen to paper with the caveat “You know I can’t really draw” but she would always oblige and I would insist she add frills to the dress and a crown to her head before furiously scribbling with pens and crayons that culminated in a myriad of variations on a theme.
Those were the things that determined whether I’d had a particularly good day from circa 1993 to 2003 (in varying degrees, as you can imagine). You might not be surprised to hear that only one of those joys has persisted into adult life, and even that has evolved slightly. (No, I don’t ask my mum to draw princess for me, or play pretend with my brother anymore.) Saturday mornings are now sacrosanct and preserved for my once-a-week lie-in. But I still like to steal any moment when I’m home alone to read in the silence, with a hot cup of tea and my favourite blanket.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how the things that make us happy can change over time. Obviously the difference between child and adulthood is quite stark but since I’ve been back in my hometown there are other things I’ve rediscovered that I didn’t even know I’d lost.
Certain people, certain hobbies and a different quality of life have lifted me, and I didn’t even know I was being held down.
The biggest thing, though, is that I’ve rediscovered my love of learning. For years now I haven’t pushed myself academically, I haven’t stretched those little brain cells of mine. I didn’t realise that the niggling frustrations I was feeling were all because of that, until a few weeks ago. I made a decision, started doing something about it, and I feel so much better.
Since the end of September, I’ve been studying an MA in Contemporary Literature. It’s been harder than I anticipated. So far we’ve focused on Critical Theory (not my strongest suit) and it’s been quite a transition to force myself to concentrate on something fully once I get home from work.
But do you know what? Since I’ve been studying again, I’ve also been writing again, knitting again (after a few months’ break – can you believe?) and even cross stitching again. It’s as though I’ve put my brain into a different gear and now it can handle a whole heck of a lot more.
I love it.