Yesterday a coworker relayed a story from her days in kindergarten, and it bears repeating.
In many kindergarten classrooms, the bathroom is attached to the main room since 5-year-olds tend to have urges with short wait times, and such was the case with V’s classroom. For reasons unknown, one particular day V wore her fancy black patent leather shoes to school, which was unusual so it must have been picture day or some other dress-up day. She remembers loving those shoes, and remembers the sound they made when she walked across the hard tile floor. V also noticed that this sound was accentuated in the confines of her class's tiled bathroom.
V began clicking her heels and toes, and soon found herself full-on tapdancing in the bathroom, oblivious to the world beyond the closed door. The acoustics of the tile made it that much better. Not a trained dancer, she winged the moves extemporaneously. Jazz hands, scissor kicks, and big finish! The spirit moved her, and she had to dance.
When her big number was complete, V washed her hands, straightened her dress, and opened the door. To her surprise, the entire class was staring at her. The teacher stood stoically, arms folded over her chest. “Are you finished?” she asked. Mortified, V remembers feeling the heat of embarrassment envelope her. She took her seat, never to attempt such a performance again. AT least not during school hours.
I had tears of laughter streaming down my face hearing this story. Not because I was laughing AT her, but because it was such a beautiful display of the joy of spontaneity we enjoyed as children. Who among us didn’t have a moment where we saw an opportunity for delight and took it, without regard or forethought to how silly it might look to others?
There was an episode of Friends where Rachel gets embarrassed when she goes running with Phoebe in the park. It seemed that Phoebe ran with wild abandon, arms flailing. Phoebe explained it simply, “I run like I did when I was a kid because that’s the only way it’s fun.” After reluctantly trying it for herself, Rachel realizes she’s right, “You don’t care if people are staring, because it’s only for a second and then you’re gone!”
I used to do cartwheels everywhere. I was a cartwheel fanatic. I loved that I could do it and I loved how good it felt. But I couldn’t tell you the last time I did one. Somewhere I realized it looked silly for a 6-foot adult woman to cartwheel in public. But so what?
We should look more often toward the way children approach enjoyment, giving less consideration to our possible audience and more to the honest joy it brings us. The amount of time we waste worrying about other people’s perceptions could be so much better used just enjoying simple pleasures.
If you gotta dance, by golly you dance and do it with vigor!