Winnie the Pooh changed my life. Not in a he’s-an-adorable-bear-and-was-my-childhood kind of way but in my-major-was-influenced-by-a-fat-yellow-bear-wearing-a-red-shirt kind of way.
He came into my life when my parents bought me a floating Pooh head balloon. A love affair started. I fell in love with the stuffed bear and I soon amassed a collection of Pooh Bears in various permutations—Pooh sticking out from a honey pot hat, a jumbo talking Pooh, and more. Even when kids my age started to grow out of stuffed animals and into video games, clothes, and television, I kept on with my Pooh infatuation.
My first Pooh book was from a large paper pop-up play set of the Hundred Acre Wood that’s surprisingly still available online. I still remember that moment that I discovered that the real Pooh was not fat, nor was he yellow. The red shirt was nowhere in sight, but the precocious words that Pooh, or Edward Bear as he’s also known, remained with me far longer than anything else from my childhood.
There were life lessons in those words—well, as much as a stuffed bear could be wise about life. I loved the quote about the lasting friendship between Christopher Robin and Pooh, how even when Christopher Robin was 100, Pooh wouldn’t forget about him. There were quotes that never really made that much sense to me and at times, still don’t, such as, “when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it,” but it’s also these vague childlike phrases that remind me that it’s the simple things that make life meaningful.
Later in my senior year of high school, I discovered that my favorite teacher loved Pooh, too. It was nice to find a kindred spirit and the friendship continued past high school. When I graduated, I remember this quote that she sent me: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” It’s the words that Christopher Robin told Pooh, and it’s stuck with me ever since.
I went into college as an undecided student, and every major seemed like a possibility. I dabbled in some classes—among them philosophy, economics, and psychology. Psychology won out. It was fascinating that human behavior had a pattern and that it could be understood but the reason why it stuck out was because Pooh made an appearance.
There’s a running joke that the cast of characters in Winnie the Pooh all have mental illnesses, which was studied and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. While I didn’t really enjoy the fact that I loved a cast of characters who may or may not be psychologically unhealthy, I liked how I could connect something I learned to something I loved. So, off I went to declare psychology as my major (or, as Pooh would say, “I Organized an Expotition to the Undergraduate Studies Office.”)
While I’m pretty sure I would’ve turned out fine without Winnie the Pooh in my life, I would’ve lacked the joy that I feel from a silly, old bear.
Thanks, Pooh. You’re a keeper.