I got Sam this race car helmet from the gift shop at the Glasgow Museum of Transport recently (an awesome place to go by the way). Museum gift shops are a guilty pleasure, I always find something I want that’s usually overpriced, and the kids always seem to as well. However, this helmet was only £4! It must have been a mistake, as I’ve seen all manner of plastic items with much fewer parts priced three times as much, so I considered it a purchase worthy of the few hours of fun that we would have with it.
The thing is, Sam barely took it off once over the course of the next couple of days. I think I actually had to tell him that he couldn’t sleep while wearing it on the first night.
That £4 purchase has now given us days and days worth of fun.
But the best part of the helmet purchase is seeing how Sam behaves differently with it on. He’s a race car driver! A superhero! He’s invincible! He pretends that the visor gives him an extra shield to protect him against the sun (which is actually kind of true) and against Grandpa’s robot laser beams and careens about shouting and sliding with wild abandon.
Aside from the huge smiles that we all get and how much fun it is to play with Sam and his helmet, it’s gotten me thinking about the connection between the playing dress-up and pretending to be something versus actually being it. What’s the difference? We all start as pretenders and we all feel like fakes at first. What you wear (and how it fits) can make you feel invincible or invisible. You have to start somewhere.
One of the best pieces of advice I have been given was from a former mentor who would tell people that really wanted to switch what they were doing professionally (i.e. take on a new role doing different work than they are currently doing) to simply find a way to start doing the work now, regardless of whether they had permission. In other words, get a helmet and start pretending.
A £4 helmet gives Sam permission to be something that he might not think he is, but that’s exactly where the path to being a race car driver starts.