How I Took my Eye Off the Prize

Pass the Parcel. It was a game we played at parties as children. A waiting game. A tempting game. We sat in a circle. Crossed legged. Filled with anticipation. Digesting soggy egg salad sandwiches and over-sugared chocolate cake.

When the music stopped, if the parcel was in your lap, you were allowed to unwrap it; tearing away a layer like the papery skin of a bulky onion.

As the minutes ticked by, the parcel diminished, growing smaller and smaller with each undressing.

I wanted the final prize. I longed to be the lucky winner whom fate looked kindly upon. I sat patiently in that circle, party after party, dreaming of being the one. The golden child who would reveal the treasure.

It never occurred to me that fate played no part in this process at all. It was all up to the grown-up with the cassette player. It was they who pressed the pause button. They who determined which child became the proud owner of a yoyo or a skipping rope or a leaky bottle of bubbles.

The funny thing is – I have no recollection of ever ‘winning’ that game, despite that fact I played it countless times. But I do remember the unwrapping. I vividly recall painstakingly peeling back the tape, willing the present to appear, even though I knew it was at least two songs away.

I remember being enthralled with the possibility. Compelled by the potential. Of course I wanted the gift at the end, but I was equally fascinated by the mechanics. I liked feeling the paper crinkle in my hands as it fell away from the parcel. Perhaps I also perversely enjoyed the feeling of envy that flooded me when it was all over. It began to define me as the child on the outskirts. It prepped me to avoid the limelight, in favour of the familiar safety of the shadows.

Why this memory now? Because it was right around this time last year that my novel, Playing Along, was passed on endlessly, while I sat silently in the circle, cross legged, holding my breath. Waiting to get lucky.

It took me until I was 42 to fully understand how important it was for me to take ownership of the damn cassette player. I could learn how to commandeer my own pause button.  I could release myself from being purely at the mercy of a benevolent publisher, and I could stop focusing solely on ‘the prize’.

Those  cheap yoyos never really worked anyway. Can you imagine all the scores of  ‘winning’ children left with a tangled string and a sinking feeling of inadequacy, even though they were indeed ‘the one’?

Once the all powerful cassette player became mine, Write To Be You workshops and blog were born. I liberated my creativity and discovered a ‘voice’. In doing so, I directly and indirectly released others, also bound too tightly in the very same game.

It has been incredibly humbling and inspiring listening and reading as new voices articulate in that circle around me. Thank you for keeping me company. Each week I learn something fresh and valuable from the process of writing the blog, reading your comments and stories, running the workshops and educating myself about self-publishing.

There is so much to be gained from paying attention to simply passing the parcel. Who knew that taking my eye off the prize could be so much fun?!

What memories of childhood party games do you have? Could you see them as metaphors in your present day?

OR

Reflect on if you might benefit from taking your eye off the prize and immersing yourself more fully in the process instead.

Have you been wanting to share your thoughts or stories on Write To Be you but never taken the leap? There is no time like the present!  Stop waiting for the ‘gift’ to materialise in your lap, just post something from your heart and pass the parcel on!

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2 Responses to “How I Took my Eye Off the Prize”

  1. Karen H.
    December 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    I grew up playing Hot Potato at parties. It’s pretty much the opposite of pass the parcel. Kids can’t wait to get it out of their hands and on to the next person’s. It was never hot, and it was rarely a potato, but it was fun to pretend. I guess there was music playing and if you were caught with the potato when it stopped, you were out. The last one empty handed got the prize.

    I got a prize when I was seven, for being the first to arrive at a birthday party, early in fact, which I thought was a good thing. But for some reason the gift I was ceremoniously given by the birthday girl’s mom once all the other kids had arrived was called a booby prize and I didn’t like the sound of that. I don’t even remember what was inside of the package, but I can still remember the large bow and it’s pretty wrapping. Maybe I never opened it, afraid of what might be inside.

  2. sophie james
    December 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    It’s amazing to me now that we would go to parties as kids and be prepared to leave with nothing! Now kids expect a present just for turning up. Life was ‘hard’ (i.e.normal, unadorned) – but it was probably a good lesson. And yes, the wrapping was always more fun, the peeling off of the layers. The game itself was the draw. Good to remind ourselves to enjoy the ride. Thanks Rory 🙂

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