The value of the inner gremlin

While school breaks offer a much needed respite from the hectic life in academia, they also bring out the laziest part of me. Type A personalities like me tend to smother that gremlin-like, do-nothing part of ourselves and stuff it in a closet somewhere. After all, the inner gremlin is a nuisance: she gets in the way of working, doing and accomplishing.

The word “break” can unleash that nasty little ankle-biter, who seizes control of my mind, body and soul. Set free, she makes me sleep in until 11 a.m., read mindless romance novels, and eat chocolate chip cookies before going to bed.

But when the new semester arrives, I must rein her in. The clock is ticking. It’s time to pull out the gremlin-catching kit. Its contents are mini Hershey's Special Dark chocolates, Marie Claire magazine, self-tanner, a recorded episode of Saturday Night Live with Justin Timberlake, a pedometer and, finally, dog treats for a trusty sidekick.

Bear with me while I provide my Legally Blonde-inspired rationale. The first and most important item in the kit is the notorious mini Hershey Special Dark chocolate: a piece will pacify the creature in moments of panic. Next, a casual read is essential. Digesting too many textbooks and peer-reviewed journal articles can drive anyone insane. Marie Claire magazine distracts the gremlin with colorful ads and scandalous stories. Self-tanner fools the creature into thinking we have spent the afternoon outdoors (minus the harmful ray exposure). Next is a DVR’d episode of SNL hosted by Justin Timberlake: laughter is essential in quelling the beast. The pedometer, a mechanism that counts my steps, serves as a reminder that one of us (the gremlin or the Type A half) will have to walk off the multiple mini Hershey's Special Dark chocolates I have consumed. And finally, when all else fails, a puppy is the best medicine; dog treats will ensure the presence of my trusty sidekick during a sudden gremlin assault.

Once the gremlin is reined in, the key to maintaining control lies not in a padlocked room. Rather, I must remember the evolutionary value in this inner demon. Frustrating as she may be, she represents the playful side of human nature that adults often forget.

I must remember that the gremlin, in all her apparent foolishness, is in fact wise. She reminds me to laugh until my sides hurt, blow dandelion fuzz into the wind and sing in the car at the top of my lungs.If I forsake the gremlin, I lose the very part of myself that makes life worth living.

Thus, I pledge to use the gremlin-catching kit only in emergencies and to make room for her in my daily life. I will dance to greatest hits of the 80s and 90s at least once a week, engage in fits of giggles for no apparent reason, and make grass angels in the backyard. I urge you to do the same. But for the love of all things holy, always keep a mini Hershey's Special Dark chocolate on hand. Just in case.

Mary Carroll Courtwright teaches at Bryant & Stratton College. Her novel "Song of the Messenger," set in Cleveland Heights, was published in 2007 and her writing has been featured on National Public Radio. Learn more at

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Volume 2, Issue 6, Posted 2:17 PM, 05.19.2009