No Toys, No Problems

By David Dinh Ngo

I didn’t have a lot of toys when I was a kid. In fact, I recall hating action figures when I was younger and preferred playing with Legos, drawing comics and just admiring shiny stones, actually deciding to polish them and leave them beside the window to glimmer in the sunlight. Then I became a teenager, and the intruding chemical romance of hormones in my body completely wrecked me.

I’ve very recently turned 20, and now that my rebellious teenager phase has shifted towards passive-aggressive adulthood (because that’s apparently the mature way to be immature), I’ve been looking back on the childhood influences that have stuck to me like super glue.

From what I can recall, there are two ideals I’ve lived by my entire life — the first one coming from the toys I mentioned.

Like a lot of parents who love their kids to the point of pressuring them to succeed, my mom and dad cared very little about entertaining, instead emphasizing the educational.  This meant I needed to be creative when I was bored. Solving endless math and English problems was tedious and motivated me to look at the answer keys while my parents weren’t home.

My lack of toys led me to be more in tune with my imagination, and I enjoyed the simplicity of things like the shiny stones. As a result, I got to work finding all the random things in my house that I could mess around with: from playing cards to keyboards, to making poorly drawn comics with poorly written jokes to wondering what those two stiff circles connected by a wire were, every time someone did the laundry.

So what have I learned from that experience? Firstly, those circle things are called bras, and I still don’t know how you put one on. Secondly, you should explore your options. Be curious and find things you can experiment with. If you’re tasked with something dull and menial, try to find a way to do it that lets you have some sort of fun. Find loopholes or alternative methods that could change the way you feel about certain tasks.

Here’s an example: back in high school, my chemistry class was assigned with creating practice questions that could potentially be on our final. I hate chemistry with a passion and found no joy in that assignment. So instead of drudging through it, I turned my questions into a story about a group of women working in a nail salon who were also running a counterfeit Gucci business in the back room. They were still very valid chemistry questions, of course, using acetone and nail polish and whatnot. I ended up getting an A on the assignment and actually enjoyed doing it.

To this day, I still try to find the fun in things that may not necessarily seem fun. My attempts don’t always work, but when they do, they completely expand my purview on various things. In fact, it was writing those chemistry questions that made me interested in writing.

Now, the second ideal that’s stuck with me comes from that electronic device that supposedly scrambles your brain: the television.

Before any assumptions are made, yes, I watched a lot of cartoons as a kid. I think my cartoon habits were pretty typical for an elementary school student. I thought it was more regular than my then teenage sister’s tendency to watch pro wrestling and nature violence at least, but I digress.

While I often watched cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants, Pokémon and The Fairly OddParents when I was younger, I actually enjoyed ‘90s sitcoms just as much. I loved shows like Friends, King of Queens, Full House and The Nanny. While I was too young to understand some of the more mature or sexual themes in these shows, I adored them nonetheless.

I think what I was so attracted to was the closeness of family and friends that these sitcoms conveyed. My parents were always at work, and once my sister went off to college, I spent many years home alone. That’s probably why I’ve become such a sentimental person. Either way, if these sitcoms taught me anything, it was to cherish your family and friendships. Of course, relationships in TV shows are never like those in reality. As I got older I noticed a lot of the conflicts within my family, and also began losing touch with friends as we all split up to go to different high schools. While I learned to appreciate these relationships, it felt like no one else was doing so besides me.

Now that I’m older, I think I’ve learned how to handle these situations better. Forming new relationships can be hard, and letting go of some old ones can even be harder, but as cheesy as it sounds, I’ve learned it’s all a necessary part in being a loving, caring person.

Childhood is interesting to look back upon. It helps you understand yourself a little better as a person and reveals a lot about how you are in the present moment. Before writing this article, I never realized how largely I was influenced during my early years. A lot of us forget how impressionable we were as kids, and how lasting those impressions can be.