On The Importance of Roots… (and not the hair kind!)
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend who moved away when we were both very young. Our families remained in contact, and as a result so did we through the years, seeing each other at staggered and unpredictable intervals every six or seven months when our parents decided it was time for a catch-up. Even though our lives naturally took different routes and twists that nobody could have anticipated, we remained solid friends, the advent of the likes of e-mail, Bebo and MSN in our early teens enabling us to stay in more regular and consistent contact, albeit rarely face-to-face. As such we now have the privilege of being able to introduce one another with the title of ‘one of my oldest friends’; a phrase I had previously never used, having thought it a cheesy and overly-emotive phrase reserved for American TV shows and chick flicks.
This time, however, after an absence of over a (fairly turbulent) year with only the odd Facebook or Snapchat message allowing us insight into the others’ busy and ever-changing life, it really hit home for me that this person has known me my entire life. Not only that, but she has stuck with me, an ever-present comfort for me to contact should the need arise, even if that contact consisted purely of a name on a screen. Although we share none of the same friends anymore, and live completely different lives from the days we played knick-knack on the neighbours around the corner, there is something extremely reassuring in the knowledge that there is always someone there to talk to that will give honest and objective opinions about things that are going on in your life, sit down and listen, even if it no longer has anything to do with them.
Going back to your roots and re-connecting with old friends, places, or even family you haven’t seen for a while really can help change the way you look at things. For me, it succeeded in bringing me back and reminding me of how I looked at certain things when I was younger – how easy things seemed, how little panic is actually necessary in dealing with situations I tend to make bigger deals out of than is required. The 5-year-old Jenny did not care how many calories she ate in one sitting. She was just happy to be sitting there eating them. It made no difference to her what she looked like leaving the house – she was just happy to be going somewhere.
In returning to this childlike state of thinking, sinking below the heightened sense of responsibility, anxiety and guilt that comes automatically with being an adult, there was such a freedom and respite that after we said our goodbyes I genuinely felt like I was floating on a sugar-buzz from the bags of sherbert flying-saucers and 10-pennys mixes we used to get in the shop down the road.
For anyone struggling at the moment to find themselves, or to establish a firm foundation on which to build and take the next step from in your life, I urge you to first take a step backwards and look at where you’ve come from; who you’ve grown from – that little boy or girl who got excited at the mere thought of a trip to the cinema or playground, not needing to think into it or worry about the implications of such actions. Not needing to worry about what people would say if they did or didn’t go to the party that night; not needing to explain and absorb mountains of guilt and apologise for making mistakes.
Because it was natural; the next step forward, and the lead-on from the previous day at school to get up and go again in the morning. We didn’t question it, or dwell too long on the negatives – generally by lunchtime I was happy to see a packet of Iced Gems and carton of Ribena in front of me, and that was that. The simplicity of it astounded me to remember, but moreso the realisation that in reality there is no reason for us to not be able to access that purity again. The only difference is that we now have responsibilities, ‘expections’ to live up to that really have been placed there by ourselves, and a society that questions our purpose with every new acquaintance and shake of the hand enquiring a ‘polite’ “So what is it you do??”
Usually this question is not put out of any genuine interest or agenda whatsoever, and serves as a filler of a line that begs a concrete answer with each new encounter. Heaven forbid you respond with a semi-confident ‘I write’, or ‘I play music’ that has taken you years to get up the courage to undertake as a lifestyle– you’d be lucky to get an awkward nod of the head and an ‘oh, fairplay!’
What I’m trying to say is that meeting up with my old friend and talking as if it hadn’t been almost 2 years since we’d seen each other genuinely felt like the last few years of confusion and uncertainty in the post-college floundering to tread water and establish myself as a human being hadn’t happened. It reminded me that I’ve been me all along. I’ve been that child who ran to the shops to get another 50p bouncy ball from the machine outside Super Valu and chased it around the garden for the rest of the evening – I just stopped enjoying the little things about taking the trip there; the excitement of wondering which one would come out, and the delight when it bounced higher than I’d ever made it go before.
It reminded me that no matter where you go, who you meet, what friend-groups you become a part of, what sector you’re in or division or new team you play for, countries you travel to and time spent alone in strange new places, you will always appreciate that strong base of the first friends, family and experiences that shaped you as a child, where you ground your first roots and started to learn to stand tall by yourself.
It doesn’t matter if things got a little bit lost and mixed up along the way – some trees go years without any noticable growth or change. Each layer is built around the previous one, and is merely a reflection of what is actually contained inside. The reason your true self was so easy to access and embody as a child is because there were less layers to peel back to reach it. As we grow and become more accustomed to the world, people, relationships, habits and experiences around us, these layers become thicker, more complicated, and ultimately harder to see and retreat back through. In knowing now that this inner strength still exists as strong as ever, with all these new layers which I see now are there to protect instead of mask it, there is a potential and energy so exciting that I can barely contain myself.