Last week I went to Sky Zone in Timonium for my friend Sophia’s birthday. I hadn’t been to a trampoline park in years — not since my friend Naomi’s fourth grade birthday party, when I met Anne and didn’t like her. I remember having fun at the time, but it was normal. I used to go to Kira’s house all the time to jump on her trampoline, and I remember doing somersaults on Ivy’s during late night dinner parties. This was normal.
On the car ride there, we talked about PhD’s and research and papers: all the things that were consuming us. Big kid, boring things. But once we got to Sky Zone, we were randomly handed neon t-shirts that we should never wear in public. It was Glow Night. Black lights lit the gym in sixth grade dance ambience.
A censored version of “Truth Hurts” was playing for the seven-year-olds that surrounded us. A stream of hip hop followed, and as it turns out, it sounds different when it’s chopped up for the ears of fourth graders. There was a party for Andy’s eighth birthday while we had our own birthday party for Sophia’s 20th.
The second we leapt onto the main jumping space, it was as if a switch had flipped. “Oooh, this is fun!” someone said. I palpably felt her surprise; I had not expected the sudden giddiness. I laughed until my stomach hurt because we all looked so silly, crashing into bouncy walls and clumsily tumbling over when momentum got to the best of us. I exhausted myself in the first few minutes, but we found that we could not spend enough time there.
We got a little uncomfortably competitive with kids half our size for trampoline dodgeball. Our shots whizzed above our targets’ heads, uncalibrated to this mismatch in size. I thought of the squeaky gym at Somerset Elementary and of Ms. Bryson yelling at me to not stand around in the corner. Maybe I haven’t changed much in 10 years, but now I could laugh at how loftily the foam balls flew from my hand, hitting absolutely nothing.
We did (or attempted) front flips into the foam pit. Apparently it was as easy as “going for it.” There was an obstacle course that some of us navigated with ease, while the rest of us got tangled in the ropes. We all laughed endlessly. Sometimes adult chaperones would give us odd looks while they watched their kids humiliate us in every way. My friend ordered an Icee, which tasted like middle school excursions to the gas station convenience store.
We left Sky Zone feeling like we had been hit by bricks. My back was beginning to ache and my arm was sore from landing in the foam pit a little funny. Our lives were rooted to the ground again, and our minds wandered back to the 20-year-old, grown-up things: the goals we were scared of, the people that hurt us, the responsibilities that haunted us.
It was nice, though, that we could stand in a circle and chat about all of this together, still breathing heavy from the other-worldly hour we had just had.
I’m grateful to be friends with people who are not too concerned with growing up. I have no doubt that they will become the world’s greatest physicians, researchers, storytellers, politicians, experts and so on. But they also miss P.E. class and don’t care if they get too sweaty at a trampoline park. At Hopkins, it can sometimes be hard to be a kid.
I wear suits to networking events and clean white coats to lab, sometimes feeling like the material is too important, too substantial for this confused 20-year-old. At the same time, my 20’s are probably the last chance I have to be a kid every once in a while. I’m glad I’m starting them with people who live life as childishly and joyfully as possible.