This morning, as I headed to the windy city on an early inter-campus shuttle, I listened to a song that has really catapulted the somewhat lesser-known Twenty One Pilots into fame, "Stressed Out." The song has one line that particularly struck me, as I suppose that it has struck the many people who have made it so popular: "Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days/When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out."
It seemed a fitting start to a day spent with children.
After I got off the inter-campus bus, I walked to the Poetry Foundation where I was assisting with the Poetry Out Loud competition, a spoken word event for high schoolers. While the high school students were incredible at their performances, what was even more impactful to me was their answer to the question: "What are your hopes and dreams for this coming year?" As most of them were seniors, this was something heavily on their minds (a thing that I'm not completely unfamiliar with). Some of them seemed to know what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. One girl said that she wanted to “disturb the world” and then explained that to her that meant being an environmental journalist who packs a punch. Another said that she wanted to be a dancer and later, when her body would no longer allow it, become a writer who lives abroad. Countless others said that they were planning on using the rest of the semester and summer to “figure their lives out.” While I admired their ambitions, I couldn’t help but be a little worried about these mature young people. Would they themselves and the increasingly pressure-filled world give them the room and patience to take things with time? Would they be allowed to be children even for just a little while longer? Luckily, during the lunch break, a crowd of them led by one energetic young girl sat on the stage in a circle, exchanged names, and then sang together to Katy Perry. It was as if they were at camp or as though they were a PA group of sprightly freshman meeting for the first time. They giggled and peered around at the adults with scheming glances as if to flaunt their indomitable youth. I was glad--relieved, almost--to see that fresh glow of youth and silliness.
Later, as I was waiting for the inter-campus shuttle, I decided to dip into a coffee shop to charge my phone. As I sat at a table, working on my computer, a small child wandered over from beside her mom. The girl was mesmerized by my phone on the table. She looked at it like it was a talisman of sorts, as though it held possibility. This struck me, particularly because I had just become frustrated with this "tool" for not holding a charge when I needed it to. My cell phone has become--as so many things do as people grow older--mundane to me.
When you're a college student, you don't get to spend that much time around children. Today, being around kids and watching their exuberance and energy, their joie de vivre, their simple wonder for life, made me want to wake up a little and shake off the veil of adult banality that so often clouds my vision. I want to stay young. I want to keep young, especially in mind and attitude. As a senior, I want to look toward the future as that child gazed lovingly upon my phone: as if it holds something precious, made sweeter by the fact that I don't understand it quite yet.