Yesterday I had a day off. Not just a day without work or practicum like a weekend day, but a true day off. A day without anything scheduled. A day with no where to be. A day without obligations, work, academic, or social. A day in which no one expected anything of me. A day all to myself, on my own terms. I can't tell you the last time that I had a day like yesterday or whether I even enjoyed that previous day off.
But yesterday? Oh yeah, I enjoyed it. I savored and relished it, deciding that this day was a gift, not to be wasted, not to obsess over, but just to be lived however I see fit. I didn't try to pack in a ton of things nor did I beat myself up over what I should be doing. It was a day to be lived no matter what did or did not happen.
The only things that I had set to do were to ride my bike and work on a manuscript. This left me open to spontaneous fun moments like finger painting with my friend's three year old. On my bike ride, I decided to stop by their house just for a little bit before showering and making my way to a coffee shop to work on that manuscript. But then her precious son looked at me with his big blue eyes and asked me if I was going to stay and fingerpaint with him. I hesitated to answer and I'm a little ashamed at that hesitation. Even on my day off, there was still this drive for what I "should" be doing. I should take a shower and work on the manuscript. But I soon recognized that there was no room for shoulds on this day and I joined him in painting. "Do you think any other grad students in your program are finger painting on their days off?" my friend asked me. Probably not, but maybe it would be as good for them as it was for me.
As I sat next to him, helping him paint, I thought about the memory of children. Two months ago, he saw a dead headless pig on the side of the road and still talks about that pig. Next time I see him, and probably two months from now, he'll probably remember that we fingerpainted together. But what about two years from now? What about when he's 18 and I'm 40? Will he remember fingerpainting with his adult friend when he was three years old? Will he ever remember me gently wiping the paint off of his face with a wet cloth while he gazed at his painted face in the mirror, giggling at the sight of himself? Will I, for that matter, remember these moments and images with him without reading them on some old blog I had once?
And today I realized that it doesn't matter. A young child's memories may disappear and change as he grows older, but these experiences still impact him. He may not remember the specifics, but as an adult he will look back on his childhood and remember feeling loved. He will remember having adults in his life who cared enough about him to spend time with him, who were patient with him, who wanted to play with him and teach him and listen to his silly made up stories.
Yesterday I came out of a funk I'd been in for the past couple of weeks. A funk of stressing about comps, then still stressing after they were over, frequently feeling tired, unmotivated, judgmental of myself, and dissatisfied. I did fun things this past weekend, but I didn't fully enjoy them because I was frequently worrying about what thing I was going to do next. I wasn't present.
But yesterday was different. Yesterday I was present to my experiences, awake and alert, nonjudging. I lived that day like a child who just lives moment to moment. Though my young friend and I talked about going to the rodeo next weekend to see the cowboys and animals, he wasn't dwelling on his anticipation of that fun event. He wasn't playing with his fingerpaints thinking, "Yeah, this is fun, but that rodeo is going to be awesome." No, to him, in his world, what he was doing in that moment, yellow paint oozing between his fingers, was the best thing he could be doing. There was no dead pig in his past. There was no rodeo in his future. There was just yellow, red, green, and blue.