I was seven, maybe eight years old when I wrapped my fingers around the cardboard pieces of my very first puzzle. Waiting in eager anticipation as my brother put together the border, I imagined what the puzzle would like when it was done.
Would people be able to identify what the image was just by looking at it? I didn’t understand how all of these small little pieces could combine to create one, recognizable image… wouldn’t it get warped? What if some of the pieces went missing?
Like Curious George, I was dazzled by the innocent wonder of the timeless pastime in front of me. I wanted nothing more than to know, firsthand, the feeling of victory that would surely come from connecting that final piece.
When at last the puzzle was completed, I watched in awe as the image before me came together. That feeling — that wonderful, irreplaceable feeling of calm and order — would prove to produce a certain kind of euphoria within me time and time again.
I like to think of the me who puzzles as someone who truly knows what it is to be in control. In life, there is very little that can be truly known or understood, and there isn’t much of anything that has a reliable, definitive “answer.” For me, puzzles are an exception to that rule.
On more than one occasion, I have happened upon circumstance where — with a good audiobook playing, and just the right amount of cool air coming out of the air conditioner — I am able to concentrate for hours on end on achieving the thrilling success of finishing a puzzle in a single sitting.
My current puzzle collection, which was started back in 2021, consists of about ten puzzles, most of which are book-related. Before purchasing my first one at Barnes & Noble, I had gone almost three years without puzzling at all (I know, it’s upsetting). However, as soon as I tasted that sweet, sweet feeling of calm and satisfaction, I made puzzling a regular habit in my life again.
Now, when I am having a bad week, or want to take a mental health day, I just pull out one of my favorite puzzles and get to solving it.
My family likes to make fun of me for treating puzzling as some sort of obsessive habit, but as someone who obsesses over everything — down to the “tone” someone takes with me when texting — I find that obsessing over something with concrete solutions feels rejuvenating.
Last semester, I brought a puzzle into the Scribe office, and found that most everyone on our editorial staff had spent at least some time working on it throughout the last week of the semester.
Not only did putting together a puzzle offer some much-needed time away from the stress and anxiety of finals, but it also created a sense of serenity and relaxation in the office.
So the next time you are presented with the opportunity to work on a puzzle, I challenge you to do it. While puzzles are definitely not for everyone, there is only one way to find out if they are for you. Trust me, becoming a full-time puzzler could be the best decision you ever make.
Photo from artnews.com