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The New Me-How to Enjoy the Past without Ruining the Present

Shorty J. Thai: Posted on Friday, October 11, 2013 11:50 AM

I could feel my legs cramping and my calves burning. My hands began to ache from the tight grip I had on the coarse, metal chains. I began to take deeper breaths, becoming weary from my grueling efforts. I pumped my legs harder, using all the strength I possessed.

"Faster! Harder!" I kept telling myself, as I felt a bead of sweat slowly crawl down my face. I continued with all my effort, ignoring my fatigue. Just as I was about to succumb to the pain, I finally reached my goal, and I actually became fearful when I looked at the ground below me. As I looked ahead, mesmerized by the beauty of the sky, I jumped. I flew through the air, almost as if I were running in the sky, and came crashing to the ground one foot short of my goal.

Great, I was now covered in wood chips. How embarrassing. I think my whole photography class just witnessed my graceful attempt at playground history. Oh well, it was fun--maybe the most fun I have had that year: jumping off a swing on an elementary school playground.

As I rose to my feet, I attempted to brush off the damp wood chips from my clothes. I felt like a five-foot-two giant. I walked back over to the swings and sat down, beginning to think of a time before college, before high school, before standardized tests and before AP classes: elementary school.

What a long time ago, almost a former life. It was a time of simplicity and benevolence, of carelessness and nonconformity; it was a time when words such as "midterm" and "college essay" did not exist. Cliques had yet to form, and no one could drive. I actually wore what I wanted to, and didn't care if I was having a bad hair day. It was a time when having five dollars made one rich, and ten a millionaire. A good day consisted of a competitive game of touch football at recess. I was an accomplished artist, musician, actor, athlete and scholar. I remembered the Fall Festival welcoming autumn with pony rides and small tree mazes, pumpkin decorating and face painting and body airbrushing.

Yet, for how perfect grade school life was, I remember I was unsatisfied, eager to grow up. I could not wait for middle school because East had a girls' basketball team. I could walk to class without teachers waiting in the hallways and would have my very own locker. High school would be even better, because I could pick all my classes, make more friends and drive. I would be a free, independent spirit. After all, being a sophisticated fifth grader stuck in a school with kindergarteners was just an insult to my intelligence.

I returned to the recent past, where I was an eighteen-year-old college student enjoying the simple pleasures of a playground, pretending I was a ten-year-old again. I still could not believe I was in college and how quickly time seemed to pass.

As I continued to swing, I realized that I wished my childhood away. How sad, I thought, that I could not enjoy my youth in its entirety. I found that I was focused more on the future than on enjoying the present. I found that I repeated the mistake in high school, wishing for summer and graduation instead of taking the time to fully experience high school. I learned from my twenty minute realization that life is too short to wish away the present for the future, no matter how promising the future may be, and that it is important to experience and appreciate everything while you have it, especially your youth.

The fall breeze brought leaves brushing past my face. I began to swing again, in no rush for class to end.

What a perfect day!

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