Walk, Don’t Jog

I walked back into school after a long time. While it feels great to drive a car and have fancy ‘college’ conversations, it doesn’t beat meeting an old teacher and realising time never touched her one bit. Like every nostalgic semi grown adult, I smiled wisely at the children running around and decided those really were the days.

Jogging down memory lane is the best. Walking, not so much. That day, I decided to really think about the good ol’ days. You know, jump in on the conversations that bash our burden-ridden present and shed a tear at the glorious musical that was our past. So walk with me, will you?

First stop, the playground. That should have some great memories, right? Oh wait, I blurred out the memory of the awkward five year old who was too scared to ask for a turn at the swing. Or the little girl who hated dressing like a boy in the play but just had to because some brat stole the part of the princess. Or the kid who squirmed in her seat all day because some jerk told her there was a ghost in the toilet.

Next stop, my first set of classrooms. Oh look how tiny the benches were! Look how happy I used to be in my tiny uniform carrying my tiny bag with a tiny lunch box in it! Oh wait – that was us jogging through the memories. Slow down, you. Look what you’re conveniently ignoring – that kid was lost in a world of her own. It didn’t matter what the teacher was saying, she just stared into space. She was banished to the corner seat for staring out of the window too much. That didn’t defeat her though – she just stared at the wall. The real world made no sense. Why was lunch hour restricted to just the hour? What if she wasn’t hungry then? Why did she have to pay for chips? Wasn’t it enough that she asked for it? Her entire existence could be brought down to all of one question – “what?”

Now we have middle school. Ah, the time I discovered reading in the old library. What a time it was! Who even has the time to read anymore – unless it’s all condensed to 140 characters?

(I have to pause at this time of our journey, the heavens need to open up and applaud me for my incredibly original social media bashing joke.)

Moving on – the middle school kid had terrible hair. She wasn’t very coordinated. She once wore two right shoes and spent the whole day wondering why her left foot felt weird. She wasn’t good at any sport. She had just gotten close to a few people and she didn’t need a running race to ruin everything.

Last stop, high school. Walk with me through this building and all you’ll hear is laughter. Sometimes you’ll hear girls talking about other girls but don’t be fooled – those are just boys whose names have been cleverly disguised. You’ll wonder why you ever grew up and if you’ll ever feel the innocent excitement of a first crush again. Then I’ll swoop in with some reality. It felt great to look at a cute boy for the first time, yes. But what happened when he came up to you and you didn’t want to smile at him because your braces would show? What happened when he turned his attention to the girl puberty never messed with?

My childhood is still a blur of happy memories. I think of the times I strolled down the aisles of one of Bangalore’s oldest supermarkets, read musty old books in the dingy library and discussed boys other girls in hushed giggles – and these thoughts always leave me smiling. But when people shove these memories in my face and go on about how nothing today can compare to the fairy tale that was our younger years, I say this much. Really walk down that lane. I did, and I saw all my phases – from my “nobody is smart enough to talk to me because I read a lot” phase to my “please talk to me, I swear I’m nice” phase. And I’m glad I grew up. I’m glad I learnt to speak up for myself, stopped being so pretentious, talked to a guy without blushing, and got a phone that can give me directions (let’s face it, I will always lose my way). Is it hard to be older? Yes it is. But it wasn’t a bed of roses to be a kid either and we got past that, didn’t we?

So here’s to taking the occasional glance at the blurry happy past but not using it as an excuse to whine about the present.

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