No, we cannot live in an imaginary world with Peter Pan, win battles against Captain Hook, and never become real adults, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sometimes act like kids again.
I still color in coloring books–judge me all you want.
I recently gave my students a journal topic that had me thinking, as well. Are you afraid of growing up? Explain why or why not.
Of course it was interesting to get all of the different perspectives of teenagers, because they actually have a lot more wisdom and insight than people often give them credit for. As I anticipated, many of them are apprehensive because of that one thing that adults are supposed to have: responsibility. But one answer really stood out to me and made me think quite a bit: I’m afraid of getting so caught up in work and other real world stuff that I forget who I really am.
To me, what’s so scary about that statement is how easy it is for it to become true. Sometimes life becomes so full of tasks and goals and ambitions that we lose ourselves in “stuff” and forget how to enjoy just being us. When you’re a kid, you don’t have as many worries and concerns, and you just do what you want when you want. You play soccer at recess without stressing about the spelling test you just bombed; you climb trees in your neighbor’s yard without worrying about the grumpy woman who lives there yelling at you to get down; you wear whatever you want without really caring about what it looks like to other people; you don’t know the words “gluten” or “organic” and certainly don’t care what they mean; you simply ask people for the things you want or need without concern about what responses they will give you; you tell people you love them and mean it, because you don’t question the things you feel in your heart; you believe in things with an innocent faith without needing any scientific proof; you tell the truth more often than you probably will at any other point in your life; and you act like you all of the time (even when you’re pretending to be a superhero), because that is the only person you know how to be.
And then you grow up, and things change.
But what if they didn’t have to? I know that being an adult carries with it a lot more responsibilities and stresses that you don’t have as a child, but what if we still let ourselves live a little? What if we still let ourselves have those moments when we throw all of our cares out the unwashed window to do the things we really want to do? Sing that song out loud; dance; splash in those puddles; eat that cookie; tell that guy you think he’s cute; climb that tree in the middle of the park; take that art class you’ve been hearing so much about; say “I love you” with no hesitation or regrets; go out in public even if you think you look disheveled; have the fruit snacks with the high fructose corn syrup; be the you you want to be–and never forget who that person is.
I know there are bills to pay, I know there is work to be completed, and I know there are a countless amount of things I have to do in life that are necessary in this thing called adulthood. But I also know that there are relationships to build, joy to have, and love to spread.
And I hope we all remember which list is more important.