As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a Mr. Potato Head. I have no idea where the first one I ever owned has disappeared to, but I had one through high school, college, and right now there is one on my desk. As a kid he was just another toy in the pile of toys, but I could make him stick out his tongue or wear a hat. He could even be bald with a mustache or have the big lips that came with the Mrs. Potato Head set! I could have all the game consoles and fancy board games to keep me entertained, but I’d always find my way back to Mr. Potato Head. He was so simple yet full of endless possibilities. There were no rules to Mr. Potato Head, he could look as normal or as goofy as I wanted him to look. Unlike a dog, he wouldn’t run away if you decided to dress him up. Unlike a game console, I didn’t have to ask my parents for permission to play with him. I’d just pull him out and he’d be ready, even if I had his arm sticking out of the top of his head from time to time.
Since college though, Mr. Potato Head became more than a plaything. I must have been feeling nostalgic because I bought one on a whim while browsing through a toy department. I was a freshman in college. I wanted to be a writer, but I had no ideas. I was constantly stressed out from being away from home, maintaining my grades, and figuring out a major. Mr. Potato Head didn’t heal all of that, but he offered something more. In my ever changing first year of college, he was the change I could control. If I was in a bad mood, his face would reflect that. If I was happy, I’d put those big white teeth in place. If I felt confused, he would look like he just survived a nuclear blast. Or I’d make him look the way I wanted to feel, and by playing with him I would usually cheer up and smile. I noticed something else happening though. I found myself getting papers done easier if I took a time out to change his hat or put his glasses on. If I was writing for myself and got stuck, I’d pull him down and start making as many faces as I could with the few pieces he came with. It was almost meditative. I’d make up as many face combinations as I could until an idea came to me. I could have always moved on to something else to distract me from my lack of ideas, how hard the homework was, or anything else that was bothering me. But Mr. Potato Head was there to mess with. He was there to change as I pleased. He was there to wait out those long moments until I figured out my next course of action, no matter what I may have been doing. He let the creative juices flow and quieted down my surroundings. He never did help me pick a major or stop me from quitting school, but up until that point he made the first round easier to handle by letting me zone out and change him as many times I wanted to.
I now have a Mr. Potato Head on my desk. I glance at him from time to time. I just lost my job and decided to write seriously again. School is starting for me soon now that I’ve made a decision on what I’d like to make my career. I’m going to be spending a lot of time at this computer, tapping away at this keyboard for Associated Content, doing homework. I know I’m going to get stuck. I’m going to get burnt out. I’m going to get frustrated. I’m going to come across serious bouts of writer’s block. But it’s good to know that there will be Mr. Potato Head right here waiting for me to change him around a little bit. Maybe I’ll give him eyebrows. Or there will be an arm sticking out of the top of his head. The possibilities are endless.