An Old Friend.
I used to watch the 1977 animated classic, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, almost everyday on VHS. I remember I’d laugh as Winnie the Pooh did his stretches before he ate honey and I’d imagine joining Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Tigger, Owl, Kanga, Roo, and Christopher Robin as they romped and roamed around the Hundred Acre Woods. Sometimes, I’d sit inside a metal toy chest in my house as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh played, ‘thinking’ like Pooh did while he sat on a log in his ‘thoughtful spot’.
I remember the film ended with Christopher Robin saying goodbye to Pooh and going off to school to grow up. He told Pooh that what he liked doing best was doing ‘nothing’. What was ‘nothing’? ’Nothing’ was when grown ups asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ and you said, ‘Nothing’ and then went out and did it. In the childhood world of imagination, simplicity, and whimsy, doing ‘nothing’ made sense.
The characters from the Hundred Acre Woods taught me a lot about spending time well. As a kid, of course, I didn’t know what I was learning because I was already living my life in a similar way. It was forgetting that made me realize what I’d learnt and how much of it I’d lost. I began to grow busier and busier and doing ‘nothing’ as Pooh, Christopher Robin, and his friends always did seemed like a bad thing and a waste of time.
I stopped reading fictional stories and turned to more educational content. I stopped writing creatively and focused on academic writing more instead. I started to forget what it felt like to just sit and let my imagination wander. Worries about finding a well-paying job or successful career began to weigh me down. The question of ‘what are you going to do?’ kept popping up everywhere, but saying ‘nothing’ in response wasn’t good enough anymore.
Late in my undergraduate degree in 2018, I saw that Disney had made a movie about an adult Christopher Robin. It picked up where The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh had left off with a young Christopher Robin saying goodbye to Pooh and leaving for the adult world. But after Christopher Robin grows up, he forgets about Pooh, the Hundred Acre Woods, and doing ‘nothing’.
All Christopher Robin can think about is making enough money, finishing his paperwork, and pleasing his unfair boss. Adventure, imagination, and spending time with family are all pushed aside for productivity and work. I definitely saw myself in the unhappy, burnt out, and imagination-less adult on screen. I remember watching the movie and crying, realizing that I’d forgotten, like Christopher Robin, everything that I used to know about what was important in life.
When Pooh finally appeared on screen, his whimsical, colourful, and warm presence was like the return of an old friend for me. Pooh takes Christopher Robin back to the Hundred Acre Woods for another adventure and reminds him again that ‘doing nothing often leads to the very best something’. Through reuniting with his childhood friend, Christopher Robin realizes that his identity had become so closely linked to his job and work that he forgot who he really was.
As a university student, I became so wrapped up in thoughts about the future and having a job that the pursuit of these things became my identity. And when a clear path or job wasn’t there, I felt lost and purposeless. But as Pooh reminded me, imagination, friendship, family, adventure, and ‘nothing’ are all things that aren’t attached to work or jobs, but are things that will always be there to give us purpose.
Doing ‘nothing’ means doing all the things that make life worth living. The busyness and often mechanical nature of adult life can make us forget this. When I used to ‘think’ inside a metal toy box and watch Winnie the Pooh, everything was easier. But as life gets more complicated, I’ve realized I need Pooh by my side, even as an adult, because he reminds me that it’s okay to do ‘nothing’ no matter how old or busy I get. Growing up doesn’t mean you have to leave the Hundred Acre Woods behind.