Last week I turned 24. I'm still having a hard time absorbing that. Cognitively, I know that 24 is still actually quite young, and that I have my whole life ahead of me. I guess my problem is, to be honest, I feel like I'm 19 or 20. Nevermind the fact that I'm married and I've been through college, etc etc. I do not feel 24. Maybe it's because I spend so much time around kids. Maybe it's because the last five or six years of my life have been so crazy that my brain hasn't really processed the time. I don't know. But the calendar says I'm 24, so I guess I'll believe it.
I am definitely not one to get worked up about birthdays. I think the last birthday party I had was when I was 13. I always do something fun or enjoyable on August 18, but I feel no compelling reason to 'celebrate' me. That being said, this year I did feel the drive to look back at my past birthdays:
One year ago: I hadn't ever broken a bone. I just completed my first season of camp. I didn't know whether I would have a year-round job.
Two years ago: We were living in Arizona (in a hotel actually). Ahhh, Arizona. We were in the midst of a very unsuccessful house hunt at the time, we only had one little puppy, and Travis was just starting at Midwestern.
Three years ago: Taking summer courses, getting ready to start our last year of college, just the two of us living in a small apartment with no air conditioning. Our first year of marriage.
Four years ago: My first birthday with Travis. I was working at Musco, living in my apartment in Osky. Travis and I had been dating all summer, but weren't engaged yet. Getting ready for a big change in our lives.
Five years ago: I was single and working at theatre camp, where I was directing my future camp counselors.
Ten years ago: Getting ready to start ninth grade. Nowadays that would be high school, but when I was in school, it was still junior high. Just a few months before my sweet puppy April passed away, before we moved to our new house, and before the illness that changed my life.
Fifteen years ago: Going into fourth grade. Just starting piano lessons, and taking up the violin. Two very influential decisions of my young life.
Twenty years ago: Splitting my day between Jack and Jill preschool and my mom's daycare. Life was good.
Twenty-four years ago: After years of hoping, John and Diane Ottosson welcomed a baby girl at St. Vincent's hospital in Indianapolis on Tuesday, August 18 at 12:12 p.m., after a grueling 14 hours in the hospital.
Working with children all day (every day) has its obvious pros and cons. There are times when dealing with the younger ones is extremely tiring and frustrating ("Can you tie my shoe?" "Is it time for lunch yet?" "She cheated!" "Someone poked me!")....having 30 kids constantly talking to you like this gets overwhelming.
That being said, there are several of my kids that I love to pieces, and I know I'm going to be crying (or sobbing) at the end of this week when camp is over and I no longer get to see them everyday. ...like I said, pros and cons.
The things that come out of these kids' mouths are some of the funniest things I've ever heard in my life. The kids that come through our program are so energetic and enthusiastic, and haven't yet learned the concept of thinking before they speak. I don't know if I've ever been so entertained.
I tell my counselors a lot that life is so much better after high school - which it is. The freedoms that come with 'adulthood' are wonderful, and I would never go back to high school. At the same time...I look around at these kids at camp and think....what I wouldn't give to be 10 years old. When meeting Justin Beiber is your life's dream (or Justin Timberlake, as was my case)...when your biggest concern in the world is whether the 11-year-old across the table told his friend that he thinks you're cute...when you fall down, get hurt and cry for two minutes, then jump right back up and start running around again...when you're so excited because you found a quarter on the floor and your director said you could keep it....
Everything they do is with this wide-eyed wonder. Even our older kids that have been doing this for a while...the happiness in them, their fun and their spirit and their light-hearted nature...it makes my heart swell and ache at the same time. They're not weighed down by jobs, debts, family troubles....and the pitfalls of life. They're just...light. Happy. Unburdened.
Maybe it's because they haven't actually experienced "life" yet. Maybe it's because they're too young to understand. ...I'm not sure. What will they be like when they grow up? I hope they're just as happy. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the time, we tell kids it's time to grow up, and what we mean is "get serious" "stop goofing off" "no more footloose and fancy free" etc etc.
But I think the only way we can deal with life [happily] is to not take it too seriously. How much happier would everyone be if we dealt with every trial, every debt, every demotion, the same way a seven-year-old deals with a scraped knee? ...cry about it for a minute, put on a bandaid and up you go! Within minutes it's all but forgotten.
I love my kids. And watching them every day....I pray that they'll always be as happy and carefree as they are right now. I also pray that I can have the strength and the wisdom to be more like them. To let the bad things roll off in a matter of seconds, and to just enjoy the good - to have fun and be silly and just not worry so much. We can take responsibility as we grow older without losing the child inside of us. In a society that's so cynical, it takes a lot of work, but I truly believe it can be done. I'm not there yet, by any stretch of the imagination...but I want to be. I'm trying to be.
We always talk about how our children need to learn from us...and they do. They absolutely do. ...but we need to learn from the children as well. Look at us. Look at them. Who's happier? ...Maybe they've got the right idea.
Theodore Geisel [also known as Dr. Seuss] once said "Adults are just obsolete children - and to hell with them."
It's every girl's dream to grow up to become a princess, right? ;)
This week was really long (code word for frustrating) in a lot of ways, but....I have to say, this was the most fun I've had with any of my little onstage things I've done with camp. (For those who are wondering, we did Chronicles of Narnia this week, and my staff and I were the grown-up versions of the kids). It started out as a joke, but the kids loved the idea of us being them...so we went with it! Too fun!
We only have three weeks of camp left, which is insane! Maybe I'll get to breathe a month from now. Maybe.