While I have been accused of stealing (a traumatic incident, to say the least), I’ve never actually stolen anything. Nothing I can recall, anyway—nothing that counts in my mind. Sure, I’ve eaten grapes while I’m dallying at the grocery store, and one time we accidentally packed a spoon in a to-go box. But these instances were of the bird-stealing-bread sort. They lacked any accompanying sense of nervousness; there were no sweaty palms, no arrhythmic heart patterns, no moment of hesitation before the plunge, no thrill of accomplishment. (All of this is how I imagine it should be.)
Growing up, I was the teacher’s pet of the class, the Goody Two-Shoes among my friends. But now, in an about-face, I wish I had. Stolen, I mean. An exciting tale of thievery, whether masterfully executed or not, almost always makes for a good story.
Stephanie Georgopulos writes about how she stole 100 books from the Brooklyn Public Library when she was ten. That’s a cool story. I wish I stole library books. Most of the library books I ever checked out were of The Boxcar Children or The Baby-sitter’s Club sort. In fact, in elementary school, I sneakily purchased a subscription to The Baby Sitter’s Club from a book order flyer. Every month, a set of books would arrive in the mail. But my mom got tired of watching the books collect dust once I’d finished reading them. So one day, unbeknownst to me, she donated them to the library. That’s the opposite of stealing.
So why on earth do I wish I’d done a brief stint as a kleptomaniac? At the least, it’s writing material, a potentially great story that will forever remain untold thanks to my straitlaced ways. Aside from this, stealing is one of those things that are only permissible when you’re young, when your missteps will land you in time-out—not prison.
I might even venture to assert that many, if not most, have stolen something at some point in their lives (hearts excluded). At the tender age of 9, you’re allowed to be messy, to get glue in your hair and paint all over your clothes. Mistakes and missteps are second nature. Society doesn’t encourage theft, but it won’t blacklist you for it either. When you’re 9. But now, my window of opportunity has passed. In an inverse relationship, the larger those double-digits get, the less admissible the screw-ups become.
When is screwing up no longer simply dismissed, something that you’ll grow out of like you would a pair of shoes? When are you expected to have all your shit together? I don’t know. I feel like Oprah—the fount of wisdom that I turned to as a teenager—would say it’s okay to not always have it all figured out, if watching a box set of DVDs and too many episodes to count has taught me anything. We’re constantly growing and learning and changing, she’d say. That the whole point of being alive is to constantly evolve into the person we’re supposed to be. (Cheesy enough for you?)
Well, if Oprah says so, then maybe I can afford to not have my shit figured out for just a little while longer.