When we're born, everyone within our circle of family and friends is excited as we reach each milestone in our development. Sleeping through the night, getting that first tooth, sitting up, walking - every step shows that we are growing up.
Throughout childhood, we are taught to sit still, to mind our manners, to contain our enthusiasm and our giggles in situations where they would not be appreciated. We are given chores, homework, and taught to take on responsibility, all of it in preparation for becoming independent adults.
Gradually, we become less playful, more responsible, and we are officially "adults", working, taking care of our errands, our homes, making sure we have taxes done before the deadlines, seeing to car repairs, and generally looking after all the mundane details of life. There is so much to do.
Circumstances change, obstacles are thrown at us. We lose jobs and can't find new ones. We become seriously ill. We struggle with relationships, with legal matters, with difficult children. We spend many years or even decades feeling as though we have the weight of the world on our shoulders.
If we're lucky, there comes a point at which we realise that this is no way to live. We recognise the fact that being an adult is not much fun, and we long for joy and laughter.
We watch children playing and wish we could squeal and giggle and delight in the simplest pleasures as they do.
Sighing heavily, our shoulders sag and the wistful smile fades as we remember that we must behave like adults.
Essentially, we spend our lives, from the moment of birth, trying to become less like children and more like adults. But once we're there, once we understand and live with our responsibilities, there is no reason in the world why we cannot reconnect with the childlike, playful spirits that hide within us.
Unfortunately, for many of us, childhood was not a happy time. Some of us would even say we did not have a childhood. In that case, it's even more important to discover the freedom, the lightness and joy that come from connecting with that little child who is just aching to come out and play.
I'm not just talking about being silly and playful, although these are good for a start. I'm talking about taking a more childlike approach to life. Your average kid doesn't freak out and stress about what's going to happen next week, next month or next year. They're not worrying about what they did two months ago, two years ago, or even earlier this morning. They're too busy enjoying "right now", completely immersed in the moment, focused on the task at hand, whether it's painstakingly practicing their penmanship or smooshing paint around on a piece of paper with their hands.
By nature, children are very egocentric. The world revolves around them. This is to ensure that they survive, that they get their needs met. Most of us could do with a dose of this "What about me?" attitude, as it can be far too easy to put ourselves at the bottom of a long list of other priorities.
But in reality, if we do not take care of ourselves and what we need FIRST, then the rest of it eventually falls by the wayside and/or we become depressed, exhausted, depleted, burned out and resentful. No one else is responsible for our wellbeing; that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of each and every one of us, to take care of ourselves so that we're able to take care of our responsibilities and to do our bit for each other, and the world at large.
When eyeing a plate of cookies or a piece of pie, children will naturally gravitate toward the largest one, something most of us would do except that we've been taught that this is rude. But all I can say is "Good for them, they know exactly what they want and they go for it."
And how hard is it for a kid to be in the midst of cleaning a very messy bedroom, or doing a huge pile of homework, and sneak in a break, play with a toy or read something fun or stare out the window and daydream for a while? Not hard at all.
Yes, of course it is essential for us to learn how to become functional and responsible adults. But that doesn't have to mean that our spirits (which are so easily visible in childhood) get permanently buried under a mountain of obligation and worry just because we're over the age of 18. That little spirit in each of us is meant to keep us balanced, so we can manage the necessities and complications of human existence, whilst enjoying the experience and getting as much out of it as possible. It's not supposed to be all work and worry!
It seems that childhood is meant to be a journey toward adulthood, but adulthood should involve a journey toward childhood, too.
Now is your chance to get moving. Pack a lunch - making sure you get the biggest cookie - and enjoy that journey. It'll bring you more joy and fulfillment than you've ever known.
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