Audrey struggled for a couple of weeks to find her topic. Sometimes the little things you do can reveal the most about who you are. Audrey started in the early summer, and spent countless hours over five months perfecting this essay.
I hit a boy with a bat in the second grade after he said “short girls can’t play baseball.” I saw red, and as my mom says, “When Audrey is seeing red, let her be.” Overcome with emotion and not thinking about consequences, I was too young to find a constructive way to deal with things that upset me. It would not be until my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago that I found a balance.
Alzheimer’s ran in the family, and knowing that it may only be a matter of years deeply rattled my mom. She read that jigsaw puzzles could delay the presence of the disease, so we began to puzzle together.
She puzzled because she had to. I puzzled because I wanted to.
For every puzzle, there is a strategy. First, find the edge pieces. This gives it a structure, a way to begin, a way to work from the outside in. From there, find a dominant color scheme or a section that appears easiest to tackle. Pull out all the pieces that fit this microcosm and complete a puzzle within the puzzle. Continue doing this—section by section—until you see a completed picture tied together by all the challenges you just tackled. Then, start over.
Within a year of casual puzzling, puzzles took on a new meaning. I went from doing them for fun to using them to reset. I saw red less and less.
My biggest puzzle, one that took over two years to tackle, is that of my sexuality. For the year before I came out to my parents, I was jumpy, testy. Obviously not at peace, I needed something to do to keep from bursting, so I did jigsaw puzzles once, twice, three times; I finished a puzzle, gave it a look, then ripped it apart to start over. I did it faster each time. Unaware of it then, every time I finished a puzzle, I got closer to putting together the pieces of how to deal with the component of myself that did not seem to fit—the gay part.
Life is full of situations that require some movement of the pieces to achieve something workable. Every day in Calculus, I stare at the page until I can find some way to begin the problem. I will try anything until I find the right edge pieces to work towards to the answers. In soccer, I play in the center of the field and my job is to be the brain. I see the second pass before the first is made and find a way to manipulate the players and the ball to get the outcome we want. My job is mentally exhausting, but every game it’s a new puzzle—and that’s why it’s fun.
I’m tiny, I’m gay, Calculus drives me insane, but puzzles reset me. They alleviate stress and bring understanding of my world and the world around me. Audrey is doing her puzzles, let her be.