“We don’t stop playing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop playing.”
—George Bernard Shaw
I believe in the little things.
Mid-day walks through the forest in golden afternoon light; riding your bike down a big hill and taking your feet off the pedals, whooping for joy all the while as the wind makes your eyes water; climbing old trees to read good books; discovering new places; creeks and rivers and waterfalls cutting through mountains like a snake winding through underbrush; cold winter air on my face with the windows rolled down; music that makes my heart, my soul, stir; a crackling fire next to me as a curl up with a good book and a cup of some hot beverage. These things are the things I think we, as humans, must let ourselves enjoy lest we lose some intrinsic part of ourselves.
There have been many studies done on how humans of all ages need play to keep themselves sane and relieve stress. It’s this essential thing we grow up knowing how to do, and yet so many adults nowadays scoff at the idea of playing, like it’s childish, something we should grow out of. I never believed this, however; I have always said that the moment you let yourself feel old, the moment you don’t let yourself have fun anymore, is the moment you actually become old. I know so many people in their late forties and older who are still young, and yet I know many people younger than thirty who complain about how old they are, as if your twenties are the prime time for a mid-life crisis.
Meanwhile, I have never felt old once in my life.
Even now, at twenty-two, I feel like I’m still seventeen at heart, and I think it’s partly because I find time to let myself play. When I’ve had a bad day, often the first thing I do is go run through the woods, journal in hand, imagining I’m some great explorer set out to discover new lands. (Yes, I actually do this.) I will not let myself lose my youthfulness, because I honestly don’t want to live in a world where I can’t run through the woods like a madwoman or roll down hills with my nephews or jump on trampolines. I don’t want to live in a world where it’s not acceptable for me to spend my time with a box of colored pencils and detailed coloring books or talk to myself at all hours of the night while I plan out my next great story.
These are the things that make life worth living. And though I might be an adult, one who has a car and a job and has to pay off bills and student loans, I believe I’m only an adult chronologically.
Recently, I started a job at the United States Post Office. The work varies from annoying to downright fun, and it’s kind of hard to explain all the ins and outs of the gig without going into major detail, but I will try my best.
My job, as an RCA, is relief work of sorts; I deliver the mail on the days when the regular mail carrier takes off (which are quite often, seeing as I worked four days last week). In the mornings, I get to the post office at seven thirty, and I spend anywhere from two to three hours “casing” the mail—sorting it all into its proper spot in the route case. Afterwards, I take all my mail down from the case, in order, and then take it and the packages I have to deliver out to my car. This whole casing process is my least favorite part; as a matter of fact, I hate it, but it’s also the smallest part of my job, so I can deal with it.
Once I’m all settled in my car and ready to go, the fun begins.
The route I’m on is Route 9, and it’s one of the longest routes we have. Eighty-two miles long, with about 750 mailboxes to deliver to, and evaluated at nine hours. (Ironic, since its Route 9). It can be frustrating sometimes just because of the sheer number of mailboxes I have to stop at, but still this part of the job is honestly my favorite. I get to drive around by myself for about nine hours, no distractions, listening to music or podcasts or whatever I feel like as I shove pre-sorted mail into people’s boxes. It’s not hard at all; in fact, it’s kind of fun.
In the time I’ve been delivering at the post office, which is only a few weeks so far, I have met so many friendly dogs, had great conversations with people in Draper I’ve never met before, and discovered new and beautiful locations. There’s one area of my route called Reed Creek Drive, and it’s absolutely gorgeous—this wide creek goes through the whole place, and the road often runs right next to it. Driving next to that with my windows down, music blaring from my speakers, wind in my hair, and sunlight warming my skin is honestly akin to a spiritual experience. That’s just one of many such beautiful places; Route 9 is a rural route, and nearly every inch of it is just as breathtaking.
One of my favorite parts of running the route is right at the beginning, when it’s still early and the soft blue hue of cold winter mornings hasn’t quite left the air. My other favorite part is, coincidentally, right at the end, when the sun is beginning to set over the mountains, turning the sky all the colors of autumn, and the evening air has gone gold in the waning light. Today, at the last part of my route, I stuck my hand out the window and let out a loud whoop as I drove through the twisting, turning roads I’d known all my life.
Honestly, I never thought I’d enjoy a job delivering mail this much, but I have come to look forward to it every time I’m scheduled, and I’ve found I can make the most of it if I let myself have fun—if I remind myself that not everything has to be serious and I can let myself enjoy the little things.
There have been multiple times I’ve pulled over for a few minutes in the midst of delivering to just let myself take in the beauty of the area, or to play with a dog, or watch horses roam through their fields. I also know many of the people who live on the route, so sometimes I’ll deliver packages to them and then linger for a bit to chat. I get to take snacks with me and coffee, and there’s a gas station I stop at half-way through to use the restroom and stock up on food or whatnot.
Today, I listened to nearly eight hours’ worth of podcasts as I drove through twisting mountain paths and along backwater gravel roads, and I just had so much fun.
However, I don’t think all the fun I’m having is necessarily because of the job itself; it’s because I know this place and its people, I know how it works and I know where to go, and I know I can stop my car at any time, breathe in the cool Virginia air, and thank God I’m alive at this moment in time.