The Wonder Years


There is a part of me that has not changed since I have been a toddler: I don’t like chaos, I don’t like clutter and I just want things in their proper place as I love my environment to be highly organized. For ultimately, it is where and how I thrive.

As early as I can remember, when my favorite show, The Muppet Show would come on, and that opening music started blaring, I’d come eagerly running to begin my ritual. Yes, a ritual that began at nearly two years old! I ran around in a circle taking off each article of clothing I was wearing, one by one, and at the very last second, right before the theme song ended, I would plop down in my diaper ready and hyper-focused on that humongous 80’s television set cushioned deeply into the puke-green colored shag carpet.

Now, let me tell you - there was absolutely no way I could focus if there were any toys in my peripheral vision. So it was me who ended up putting them away where they belonged (without being asked – imagine!). Needless to say, I believe, it was around that very early age that not only my obsession with cleaning began but also, my innate need to retreat solo into my own little world.

My parents still like to joke that it was great giving me punishments as a child because ultimately, I would do exactly as I was told and if I was sent to my room - oh, boy - did I go willingly! Crossing the threshold into my bedroom and closing the door behind me was much like when the children in the book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe stepped into said wardrobe and were suddenly transported into Narnia. That tiny bedroom, in that tiny New Jersey house, was my magical world. Alone and away from the rest of my family, my imagination and I were fully engaged and were off and running; apparently, for hours at a time.

But somewhere along the way, probably around the time I entered middle school, I struggled as newfound demands were put upon me. A move halfway across the world to Dubai, thus an entirely new school, teachers, peers - everything was changing so rapidly that I felt like I was repeatedly getting smacked in the face! If only someone had stopped me and said, “Hello Vanessa, on top of all of these new changes, I’d like to introduce you to your hormones and warn you that this is going to be an incredibly painful stage of your life called adolescence – good luck!”

And, after surviving all of that, life did not get any easier. I fulfilled my duties to complete High School, university and go on to have a successful professional life as was expected of me.

Those periods of time of solitudinous serenity and sheer uninhibitedness I experienced in my single digit years, dwindled. As a result, I felt my ability to express myself creatively, suffer and the artist I inherently knew I was, starve. Not to mention, a newfound unwillingness to give myself a much-needed reprieve from the pressures of adult life snuck its way into my psyche. I became more rigid: my Type A personality came out bolder than before and I became extremely unhappy and somewhat systematically self-tortured. It didn’t matter how perfectly I had vacuumed or that I had spent an hour on my knees scrubbing the apartment toilet to the point you could eat off of it! (The satisfaction and catharsis I was used to experiencing at this point was minimal.) Bottom line: I couldn’t manufacture the magic moment I desired. Eventually, there came a time when I had to choose between behaviors that worked toward the betterment, rather than the detriment of my life and admit that I needed help. (Beyond the strength I had within). I’ve had to do a lot of work to change my life because of the changes that happened in my life!

To this day, I miss that simple time – the true “wonder years” - where there was no real concept of time and space and the future. Oftentimes, I am beholden to the notion of nostalgia or swept away on a sentimental journey (cue up some Doris Day please!) and then, just like a snap of the fingers, I am - ugh - back to adulthood (read: reality). 

I think regardless of age, it is crucial we have unadulterated moments of joy. Time we allow ourselves to retreat into a quiet space and daydream, go deep into the imaginary world, feel free on a fantasy plane. Meditation, prayer, sharing with others, music, reading, writing, trying new things and discovering new passions has helped me get closer to that feeling again. And I hope it continues. 




Photo: Margaret Malandruccolo

Hair, Makeup & Styling: Melanie Manson