I believe in nursery rhymes.
Do you remember the saying, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back?” You probably heard the rhyme in elementary school during recess. Or maybe you heard it on your walk home from the bus stop at the end of the school day. You probably didn’t know why anyone said it, but you swore by it. I, for one, in any setting, also followed this golden rule. Whether I was going to the playground for a fire drill, or if I was just out walking with my parents, I still skipped over the cracks. It may have required me to take a few extra-long steps or take an awkward pause in my gait, but I always did it.
This continued through my middle and high school years. Then one rainy day, during my freshman year of college, I caught myself stepping over the cracks in the sidewalk as I walked to class. I was an 18-year-old college student and it was pouring rain. I thought, to myself “Why do I still skip over the cracks in the sidewalk?”
Then it hit me. I remembered a conversation with my mom when I was 11-years-old on my way to summer camp. I told my mom how much I hated camp and that I wanted to stay home and play with my friends. I tried negotiating with her, saying that I would clean the living room, empty the dishwasher, read more books, and take the dog out for walks every day. But, my mom just shook her head in disbelief. We sat in silence for a moment before she said this: “One day, you’re gonna wish you could go back to summer camp. When you’re older you’re gonna want to shirk your responsibilities and just play. You’re gonna be tired, overworked, and sometimes, just plain bored. Enjoy your days in summer camp while you can.” That shut me right up.
As a college student thinking back on that moment in the pouring rain, on my way to my third class of the day, worrying about the essays, homework, and responsibilities I had to complete later, I finally got it.
Once you go off to college or start a job, there’s a lot of work to do. You can’t just take a day off to relax. There’s no swirly slide at the end of the monkey bars; there are just more monkey bars. You have more responsibilities, more stress, and less energy to do the things you actually want to do.
I could easily let go of that silly old saying that forces me to avoid sidewalk cracks. I could let that part of me disappear, or I could hold onto my childhood tightly, fearlessly, and with joy—just like my younger self would encourage me to do now. If you don’t bring that little person with you into the future, you’re leaving behind what keeps you young, adventurous, courageous, and imaginative. And with that thought, I continued on to class being extra careful not to step on the cracks of the sidewalk.
I believe in nursery rhymes.
Essayist Britney Ubele is a sophomore at Penn State majoring in marketing and psychology.