“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” – Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World
I attended a talk once in college where the speaker talked about the importance of self care. “Just because your single,” he said to a room full of students, “doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be going on dates! Take yourself out to dinner. See a movie. Get to know yourself on that kind of level.” In other words, he was advocating the same message as “Parks and Rec” star, Tom Haverford: Treat yourself. I tried to observe that practice in my own life but, because of quarantine, had to put it on hold until now.
So today I decided to take myself out to lunch before going into a job interview. It was a beautiful time: sitting in the Baker’s Square, eating my free pie (available every Wednesday) to a 2000s pop hits radio station. And, as it turns out, I was not the only one to decide Baker’s Square was the place to be today. The restaurant was filled with mostly older couples, a pair of middle aged friends who had not left their homes since February, and two young parents with a small son.
I didn’t realize until now that I haven’t seen a lot of children in public since the pandemic hit. Even in the grocery stores, where they used to run wild, I realized seeing kids around in public spaces these days is rare. So it was a welcomed change when Dennis, the couple’s little boy, excitedly told his parents he just loved his chicken tenders. So much, in fact, he had decided he wanted to make chicken tenders for a living when he grew up. Whether he meant as a chef or a farmer, I cannot tell you. But when it came time for his free pie, joy poured out of him in bursts of laughter as he ate the whole piece by himself.
In short, it was beautiful. I can’t remember the last time I looked at anything with as much love as Dennis had for those chicken tenders. Or giggled gleefully at something so simple as a slice of Oreo pie. Even now, having discovered my passion, I can say with certainty that my faith and confidence in my abilities could ever hold a candle to Dennis’ dream of being a Chicken Tender Maker. As Dennis left with his mother and father, I realized I had lost some of that wonder and optimism that comes with being a child. For the first ever, I felt like an adult.
So I’ve decided that I’m going to treat myself in another way too. The next time I eat a chicken quesadilla, I’ll let it sit in my mouth and savor the taste of cheese and chicken and onions. I’ll let myself feel overjoyed at the prospect of free pie and, without a care to what others might think, eat it so fast that chocolate covers my face. And in the future, when I begin to doubt if I’ll ever make it as a writer in today’s world, I’ll remember Dennis the Chicken Tender Man’s optimism in achieving his dreams. The future will come when it comes; God willing, I’ll be there to meet it when it does. Until then, I’ll be here. Sitting at a Baker’s Square on a Wednesday afternoon, writing and eating a piece of free apple pie.