I feel I am essentially the same person I was when I was five. I like to believe that all humans are like this, that we are really all just who we were when we were five. I suppose that makes things easier to swallow.
When I was five, I owned black loafers with Hello Kitty detailing on the toe. Naturally, I was very vain about them. I hadn’t yet begun taking piano lessons, but I told everyone I did because I could play “Heart and Soul” by ear with my sister. I had a much easier time being friends with teachers than I did with people my own age.
Today, I am still basically the same, although I lost the Hello Kitty loafers and gained piano lessons along the way.
But now, precocious is pretentious and enthusiasm is trying too hard and perfectionism is being anal retentive. I will never know what anal retentive really means. Why do we ever decide to grow up? I am sure it is a conscious effort. Why did we ever trade our trundle beds and lava lamps for stiff sheets and no bedtime stories?
I ask myself these questions a lot, but I have yet to find a good response. I am sure five-year-old me would have an opinion on the subject.
It’s like I’m waiting to wake up. And I’m near the end of a dream — the part where all of the details go a bit fuzzy around the edges and faces go all soft and out of focus. That’s how I remember being five. Just a few years ago, I could recall every detail of the books I checked out from the library, of the way I felt when I lost the spelling bee — asterisk was the word. Now, it’s slipping away in pieces.
But sometimes, I will hear a name. Will smell a smell. And I will cry out, “Oh! That’s it!” For a moment, clarity disrupts the nostalgia, and I can remember a fragment. That moment right after waking up when you can still vividly sense all the minutiae of your dream.
How can so many parts of me be different, but so many still the same? If I think hard before I fall asleep, maybe five-year-old me will come back to me in a dream. It usually works that way in the movies. I want to be certain that she’s happy with how she turned out. Is she sad that my nose freckles are barely visible anymore? Does she wish I was meaner to boys? I don’t think I could meet her again. What if I disappoint her? What if I’ve gotten thirteen years older but none the wiser?
But she could never be disappointed. Because she’s me. And although I’m not sure how well I truly remember what it was like to be so young, although I can’t remember the name of the librarian I used to idolize or the little dog that lived across the street, I remember how I felt. The feelings come back to me when the memories don’t.
She would be proud of me. Even though I have lost so much of her, she will understand. It’s hard to keep yourself intact.
So, five-year-old me: just know that even if I lost your relentless self-confidence, I still have your pluck and your moxie and your inability to stay quiet for more than five minutes. I still love black licorice and don’t really love chocolate. Please be kind to yourself. You are more like me than you know.