I don’t remember how old I was at the time, but I can awaken the memory like it was yesterday. It’s almost as if every feeling and emotion that I experienced that evening, latched on and tattooed itself in my brain.
We were coming back from some school field trip, the details of which I’m sure held much more weight prior to. Our big ass yellow school bus pulled over in an empty parking lot half a block away from the McDonald’s; when you travel in packs of 30, there’s always a bit of a hike involved.
As we got off the bus, we didn’t have any direct supervision, only the promise that we would return at a certain time. I remember feeling so alive and grown up as we booked it down the road as fast as we could, our fanny packs bouncing vigorously up and down on our hips.
And as we got closer to those big, bright, beautiful Golden Arches, our thoughts took flight and started to explode with all of the different possibilities; fries, milkshakes, cheeseburgers, nuggets, cookies, sundaes!? – anything we wanted, because we were buying!
As kids, we waited so long for the freedoms that came with being an adult. We yearned for them, we even cried for them, but often times when we finally got there, we started to realize some of the downsides as well.
I remember the exact meal I ordered: cheeseburger only ketchup, small fry and a chocolate milkshake. I can still vividly see myself waiting patiently off to the side, the florescent lights beating down like a spotlight on my moment, as the deliciousness magically appeared on my tray.
I felt absolute pure joy, as I walked away with my food, carefully and slowly bringing it back to the booth like it was goddamn royalty. I sat on the edge of my seat with my toes standing at attention. I took a long, deep sip of the shake and then indulged in a big, juicy bite of the cheeseburger – to which I was immediately met with and completely violated by the taste of mustard and pickles on my tongue.
I would say there’s nothing quite worse than having your expectations flattened and squashed as a kid, especially when it was food related. And there was nothing quite trickier then trying to navigate this dilemma as an extremely shy kid.
So, I just ended up sitting with it and holding this incredibly awful feeling inside of myself – I don’t think I even told the people I was sitting with.
Now unfortunately, I think as we grow up and become adults, we start to believe that this theme of disappointment and letdown is just part of the adult-ing gig. It’s not always food related and most of us certainly don’t deal with it like I did, but we definitely become more accustomed to it.
As kids we are oblivious to all of the tiny things we constantly have to fight for because our parents usually cover all the bases for us.
And sure, as we grow up, learning to adapt and roll with the punches is an extremely important skill to have. But depending on our personality type, we might start to get a little too comfortable with narratives like, “it’s ok”, “whatever you want”, “whatever is easier”, “oh, it’s not big deal.” When in fact, it is a big fucking deal, all of it is.
And sure, depending on the day, sometimes things just don’t bother us as much. Or sometimes we just simply don’t have the energy to engage in any of it. Or sometimes we just swallow it because it’s easier, and I think for a lot of people that happens more often then it should.
It might seem like a tiny thing, something that shouldn’t be a big deal, something that as an adult you should be able to handle, but I think it’s the tiny things that hold everything together – like a small thread that can seem so harmless but at the same time can easily unravel absolutely everything.
So whatever it is, whatever type of day you’re having. Whether it’s a seemingly big moment or an inconspicuously small one, do yourself a favour and say whatever it is you need to say, loud and clear.
Because learning how to not bend, and fighting for yourself, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, is an extremely important skill to have, as well. A skill that allows you to hold on to a very imperative piece of yourself, a piece that connects you to all of those deep needs, wants, and desires that have floated with you ever since you were a kid.
And whether it’s something as simple as a cheeseburger on a hard day, or something as big as our hopes and dreams for the future. Never settle, my friends, and fight until the end.
“I said, only ketchup!!”