Me: But that piece fits in everywhere!!!!
My thirteen year old cousin: Priyanka, you’re supposed to be older than me.
I used to view jigsaw puzzles as a social activity as a kid. And by that I mean I used these puzzles to try to convince my older brother that I was cool. I always wanted him to make time to do them with me. Of course, as any younger sibling would know, more often than not, I didn’t get that time. And eventually, as I grew up, in my attempt to be a ‘cool teenager’, I dropped doing them altogether.
The thing about those jigsaw puzzles though, as I recently re-discovered, was that there was far more to my building them than the ostensible cool factor. I loved putting together the picture. I loved to find out who the artist was - this magical artist whose painting I could touch and in some sense recreate myself. I loved the feeling of running my hands over the finished landscape when it was done, feeling those bumps for every time my palm touched a new piece that was fit in with another. The smooth, finished picture that I’d slaved over gave me so much joy.
But none of this was the best part. That special moment was reserved for right at the end, when after two days of staring lovingly at my creation, I would break the entire thing with child-like glee and laugh as I did so. There! Now, I could rebuild it again. And maybe this time, I could build it differently. Of course, to be fair, I never actually rebuilt any puzzle I broke. I was just a teensy bit too lazy for that. But that hardly matters now, I think. The point is, every small bit of the entire process mattered to me.
This summer, my first summer back from college, I desperately searched for something familiar to my inner child. The whirlwind of my freshman semesters made me ache for something that was simpler to my mind. And that’s when I found it- the 1000 piece puzzle of a country side landscape.
I’ll confess that finishing it is far more of a struggle than I'd like to admit. It’s been a while and them puzzling skills are slightly rusty. But you know what? Every time I sit down at the table to continue working on it, it’s like I’m 11 years old again. 19 year old me has done everything from dragging my father to the desk to show off when I finish a small segment, to leaping up and down in excitement, to arguing with my 13 year old cousin brother over why a piece is being mean to me. And it feels great. Taking happiness in those small things, those small victories, feels amazing.
I’m not yet done with the puzzle, although I’m promising myself it will happen soon. (My new deadline is Monday morning). But at this point in my life, it’s not about the cool factor, or the finished product- it’s about that small smile on my face every time a piece fits in to it’s correct place. And for now, for this very moment, that’s all that matters.
P.S. The artist is Kevin Walsh.