You’re at a park. An old one.
Paint is chipping away from the cold metal poles securing what looks to be an ancient swing set to the Earth. The grass is dry – as if it hasn’t seen water in weeks. No children are around. You sit in the swing, kicking up dirt as you rock slowly back and forth. Thinking.
You used to play. A lot. You loved it. You started out playing with other toddlers whose parents were friends with your parents. You don’t remember their names, or their faces. As you got older, you started making your own friends to play with and together you joined organized sports like basketball and soccer. Recess and gym class were reprieves – but sometimes you hated them.
Why would they make you swim at school? Don’t they know you hate your body and you’re scared of wearing a swim suit because you think your classmates will stare? Don’t they know you wake up early to do your hair in the morning and you wear makeup on your face and you hate the feeling of pulling on jeans over your cold, wet skin? What a nightmare. Just one of many you can remember from middle and high school. When your friends were mean — or you didn’t have any — you played video games, card games… with imaginary animals, with yourself, with your parents. Mostly to pass the time, but sometimes it was fun. Sometimes you didn’t mind.
But now, you don’t play much. You’re too worried. About the state of the world. The violence. The racism. The stupidity. The lack of concern for other people, other cultures, other belief systems. It’s saddening. It’s infuriating. It’s out of your hands. You sit in the swing — feeling the dry dirt in your shoes, in your mouth, on your hands as your rub your eyes. Staring at the ground.
Suddenly the shadow of a child bursts into view — little feet running up to take the swing on your left. She smiles and, offering a slight grin back, you think how you wish you could’ve held on to the playful, sincere, trusting nature you had in youth. Maybe those are the traits most needed in the world today. Less cynicism, more hope. Less fear, more confidence. Maybe.