Do you ever wonder what happened to the imagination and ambition you had when you were younger? Recall what you were like as a child — your hopes and dreams, silly fantasies and favorite hobbies. Think about the perks of an abundance of free time and minimal responsibilities, and how you filled the after-school and weekend hours. Remember the joy you found in simple things, how you looked forward to rather than worried about the future? Now think about your life today. Are you the kind of person your childhood self thought you would be?
I recently spent a significant amount of time cleaning my room after unpacking from college for the summer. But as I stumbled upon relics from my childhood, I got more than just the clean room I bargained for. Sifting through old folders, I came across writing and art projects from middle school. Finding old stuff like this is fun; it holds memories and gives a glimpse into your childhood mind. But as I sat on the floor, surrounded by notebooks and sketchpads, I felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia — not just for an earlier time, but for a different version of myself. The writing and artwork were so creative and uninhibited; I did not make it to please anyone but myself. It was unapologetically imperfect yet bursting with my own voice.
I also found old journals. While they were a truly embarrassing blast from the past — I cringed at my middle school melodrama — they struck a chord. In the journals, I was naïve and excited about simple things; all my feelings poured on the pages without a second thought. I became engrossed in the diaries almost as if they were written by someone else. Yet I suppose they were; fourth-grade me is not the same person as nineteen-year old me. She was far more creative and far less preoccupied with the future, someone who anticipated getting a job because she would love it, not because it was practical.
As a child, the world seems rich with possibilities. Kids live in the moment; they do not worry so much about the future or if their goals are realistic. They take pleasure in small things and find wonder in the everyday. When you are younger, it seems like the world is a canvas — and you hold the paint and brushes.
Why does this perception change as we grow older? It becomes much more difficult to find wonder in the small things around you, to let your imagination run wild, to think of the future with excitement rather than trepidation. Thinking back on my childhood self in my journals, I probably thought that present-day me would still be passionate in my interests. So why does it seem like growing up equals resignation?
After reuniting with my childhood self, I am determined to reclaim some of my lost imagination and ambition. I want to embrace adulthood and rationalize my future while still hanging on to easily forgotten important values. This does not discount the maturity and responsibility necessary for growing up, but rather complements the goals and priorities of adulthood.
Make time for random art projects and journaling, for daydreaming and appreciating the world around you. The summer lies ahead, full of ample time to build a resume or pick up a new hobby. But as you become immersed in the world of college and careers, do not forget to appreciate each day and indulge your aspirations.