Recapturing the Wonder of Your Childhood
This evening feels so familiar. It's not that different than the last few nights. At about 7:45 each evening I've been grabbing my headphones and Chuck Taylors and walking around my family's neighborhood in Atlanta. Yet, there's something different tonight. There's such a vivid color to the sky as the sun is setting. Tints of orange and purple mix with the clear blue sky, to make for an evening scene that's like no other this week. A few minutes in and a couple fireflies are circling at eye level. I cup my hands together and make a sudden grasp at one. I slowly open my hands and there lies a firefly. It flickers its light, flaps its wings for a few seconds, and then is off again. This scene is so reminiscent of my childhood. Running outside after dinner to get one more burst of play in before I have to get ready for bed. I can picture myself sitting on the steps of my childhood home, grabbing at fireflies, as vivid colors light up the sky just before it turns dark. "Oh to be his age again." I've been around kids a lot lately as I've been visiting old friends and family. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that or a similar phrase. Evidently, I'm not the only one. I did a precise Google search for "oh to be a child again" and it returned over 55,000 results. Some of the first page responses included a poem, artwork, and blog posts and photos that talked about this phrase. The phrase presumes that there's something about being a child that is to be envied, but isn't being experienced. I'm going out on a limb to say that it's probably not nose picking, the other gender having "cooties", having to pee every hour, and eating chicken nuggets. It could be the part about being able to freely run around naked. However, I'd rather think it's something closely related to that. The "it", is that wonder, joy, freedom, and lightheartedness of children. We want that wonder of our childhood to be recaptured.
I recently added some new things to my bucket list and enjoy reading what's at the top of other people's lists. Have you ever read a bucket list or been talking to someone about where they really want to go and it's like this: "Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, see the Great Migration in East Africa, visit Norman, Oklahoma, go sightseeing in Lincoln, Nebraska, walk the Great Wall of China." Have you seen one like that? Probably not. If you have, please send me a link or a hard copy and I'll pay for postage. The reason you don't see destinations like Norman or Lincoln on people's bucket lists is because they want to visit awe-inspiring destinations. They want to feel their adrenaline pump, have oooh and ahhh moments, take memorable self portraits that they have to crop their arm out of, get off the beaten path, and go to the places people dream of.
Norman is a lovely city. Really, it is. There's a great college atmosphere and a cool Irish pub that has a great beer selection and good bangers and mash. However, most people aren't biting at the bit to travel to Norman and many other places that are just "normal".
At the root of all this is the longing to be more than just normal. Sure, people travel to see sights, but I'm convinced that it's so much more than just places, but travel experiences that transcend time and place. They want stories; so that years down the road when they're sitting around the table with their family they can say: "Hey, you remember that one time"; and everyone responds together: "Yes ma', you've told us 20 times already."
This post, at its root, isn't about recapturing the wonder of your childhood. We so badly want those feelings to resurface from our childhood that we'll do anything. Will a self-help book do it? Maybe a new lover? Wait, perhaps travel? We want those permanent experiences and feelings that typically come in brief sparks as a result of a grand trip or romantic rendezvous.
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
This is really about doing what you want to do. In my post, 11 Things I Learned From Being a Traveling Nomad, I penned the words: "I can largely do what I want." What do you want to do? For me, I wanted to travel and be a professional writer. So I did what was necessary to make it happen. I said goodbye to home and worked 80 hours for a couple weeks until I had enough writing work that it could support me traveling. Not everybody wants to travel for months. For others, it's starting a nonprofit. For many, it's being their own boss and starting a business. Many people dream about being a housewife. None of these are better than any other. The fact is though, you don't have to do what others want you to do. I did this for years. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. What resulted was being unhappy, insecure, and becoming somebody I wasn't. When I started doing what I wanted to do, it was as if a light flickered on.
Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people.
I loved the quote by Henry Ford that Chrisine of C'est Christine brought to my attention last week when discussing this idea of doing what you want: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right." So what is it that you want to do? Maybe you're already doing it. If so, share it below and I hope it serves as inspiration to others who so badly want to do life on their own terms.