A few weeks ago I went to a festival at Alameda Park. I was hanging out on the grass with a few friends, watching the band, when a little girl and her father sat in front of us. The girl was two or three years old, wearing pink shoes with sparkly flowers on them, a floral top, purple skirt and leggings, and pigtails. She was loving the music. Dancing, spinning, twirling, just totally into it, completely unabashed. The kind of freedom you only have at that age, when you are not afraid of anything. She spun, fell, rolled on her back, kicked her legs in the air. She twisted sideways and lifted a single leg up, then held that awkward pose for a moment before diving back into jerky movements all her own. Her dancing was the kind that you are not supposed to do after a certain age, because the movements are no longer socially acceptable. The look on her face was pure enjoyment. She grinned at us and her expression said, “Look how much fun I’m having!” But it wouldn’t have mattered if we were there or not. She wasn’t dancing for us. She was dancing for herself.
I told my mother about the girl later, describing how free she was. My mother’s comment mirrored my thoughts: “That won’t last.” Her cynical remark was offhand, a reflex. She was right. There was also an old man on the lawn, having the best time with a hula-hoop. My mother’s comment about him was that he has done everything. What is there to care about? By then no one else’s opinions matter.
What is this space between the unabashed freedom of the young and the experienced carelessness of the old? Why is it that we spend the majority of our lives concerned about how we will appear to others?
I don’t think I really remember what it was like not to care. I find I struggle to write only for myself. I think about what my writing will make people feel, think, do, and say. Where is that place that I must draw from, to continue on, to believe in myself, when there are no assurances – in fact evidence, in the form of rejections, people telling me that there are a lot of better writers out there? I am looking for this place in myself. I want to tap that careless creativity, that freedom.