it doesn’t happen all at once. you can’t even remember when it started, but it did. the day came when you looked at something and said, ‘that’s for little kids’ and you never did it again; the day when you cared more about how the world perceived you than about how much fun you were having. you don’t mean for it to happen, it just does. the second star to the right gets dimmer and the world around you gets sharper, spins faster; becomes a watercolor blur of faces you recognize and names you forget, of things you want to do and things you have done, and things you can’t remember doing because you did them so long ago. friends fade from your life and new friends take their place. hopefully, family remains constant. you watch the people around you grow and wonder how they got so old so fast, while the face in the mirror never changes. not that you can see. your taste moves up; from nancy drew to the fault in our stars, and beyond, and then one day you realize you haven’t wanted to read young adult fiction in a week, in two weeks. you have a driver’s license and you have voted. your drawings are true artwork and you are never satisfied with them, and you miss the days when every scribble was a masterpiece. you feel like atlas, with a world of responsibility on your shoulders, and you want to shrug them off but somehow you can’t escape the weight.
and then one day, you’re old enough to be young again. you pick up that book you read and re-read as a little kid, or you put in Winnie-the-pooh and remember how happy it makes you. you put olives on your fingertips and you might even step away from the computer and take a walk; feel your hair get hot from the sun and your feet get cool in the grass. you say something that’s on your mind instead of bottling it up. you pretend you see a fairy in the brambles, and maybe you do. you sit on the floor and play chess with your nephew, or make paper airplanes with him, or show him how to draw a new kind of dragon, or tell him stories about worlds trapped inside thrift-store purses. and the second star to the right shines a little brighter.