Gabriela’s Double Dog Dare
Gabriela Leskur | Thursday, November 21, 2013
By GABRIELA LESKUR
I remember when I was little, my cousins and I would play tag all the time. It’s probably one of my fondest childhood memories. The tree in their front yard was base and we had to climb the tree to be safe. We would climb higher and higher, smiling and laughing to make room for each other, as the person who was “it” was stuck down below.
This week’s dare brought me right back to those days.
Late this Tuesday night, I made my way to the big tree right outside of LaFortune Hall and, with the help of a friend, hoisted myself up into a wooden wonderland. As uncoordinated as I am, I was terrified even though I was only a few feet off of the ground. Despite my fear, sitting and chatting in that tree was one of the high points of my year.
I honestly had completely forgotten that aspect of my childhood – the thrill of climbing a tree – until I climbed that tree again this week.
Climbing back down, I wondered why I don’t play tag with my cousins anymore, why I don’t climb trees anymore.
And then it was clear: because I’m an adult now.
What does that even mean?
A French children’s book by Antoine de Saint-ExupÃ¨ry I read in high school provides an answer.
In this book, “Le Petit Prince,” the main character talks about how when he was a little boy he made a drawing of a boa constrictor eating an elephant. He was so proud of his drawing but when he showed the picture to adults all they saw was a hat. They made the little boy feel bad and encouraged him to find pleasure in practical things.
In college, we are on the brink now between adulthood and childhood. We see responsibilities, careers and families in our future: practical things. The days of climbing trees and drawing boa constrictors seem to be in our past. Or at least, that’s what we’re told.
I remember last year, walking with a friend and seeing the huge inflatable obstacle course on South Quad. I got really excited about it.
“Ah! I wish I could go on that,” I said, considering I was on my way to class and couldn’t. My friend looked at me and scoffed.
When I asked why, he said, “I always wondered what type of person would get excited about those kind of things,” as if there was something wrong with me. He, obviously, was a practical grown up, and I, a silly child.
Saint-ExupÃ¨ry says in “Le Petit Prince”: “I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.” I have to agree with Saint-ExupÃ¨ry.
We spend most of our childhood wanting to grow up. We see the adult life as the ideal life, full of the freedom to do whatever we want. But what if what we want to do is climb trees, draw pictures and play on inflatable obstacle courses?
At times, we seem to lose ourselves in this “grown-up” version of the world, the version of the world where climbing a tree is supposedly beneath us.
This version of the world is missing something. We shouldn’t look down on those who marvel at double rainbows. Even if we claim to be adults, partaking in the simple joys and wonders of climbing a tree are not beneath us at all. In fact, they are quite literally above us and we should strive to join them.
As I climbed up a tree this week, I was filled with a sense of joy and wonder that I haven’t felt in a long time. I remembered when I first read “Le Petit Prince,” my high school French teacher, Mr. Langa, said “Never stop wondering at rainbows or smiling at butterflies.”
Growing up doesn’t mean growing old. It isn’t as much about holding on to ignorance or innocence, as much as it is holding out against cynicism. We should try to climb higher above and find happiness in reclaiming our childlike wonder for the little things, even while we take on responsibilities and careers and families.
Saint-ExupÃ¨ry described how he would treat the people who looked at his drawing of the boa constrictor eating the elephant and saw a hat instead. He said, “I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors, primeval forests or stars. I would bring myself down to his level. I would talk to him about bridge, golf, politics and neckties. And the grown-up would be greatly pleased to have met such a sensible man.”
While I think Saint-Exupery got a lot of things right, that’s one thing I would revise. Instead of bringing ourselves down from the tree, down to their level, I say we should instead continue to climb higher. We should look in the eye all the people who walk by on their way to LaFortune, and as they look up at us incredulously, we should wave hello.
Contact Gabriela Leskur at email@example.com