What would the 5-year old you think of the current you?
An old college teacher of mine once shared a nugget of carefully accumulated wisdom with me: acting a grown-up is important; growing up… not so much. Many years later, I’ve come to realize that what he meant was that as we grow in some areas, the opposite is true in others.
As a father to two adorable girls aged three and six, I can hardly be accused of impervious objectivity, but watching children do what they do should hold a place among of everyone’s things to do more of in life. It’s difficult to pinpoint why, exactly, but their eagerness for exploration, sense of wonder and ability focus to the exclusion of all else is simply awe-inspiring – when only you can find a quiet moment to observe them.
I’ve often wondered whether biology or culture is the primary culprit for the negative side effects which we contract during our passage into adulthood, but rather than delve into the subject, I’ll simply state my observations: although we certainly do improve upon ourselves in many ways, we also lose touch with parts of ourselves that we could very well stand reconnecting with.
Pray tell; when was the last time you gawked, mesmerized, at a simple act of nature – such as a waterfall – for minutes on end, oblivious to the passing of the world and its ill-conceived concept of finite time?
Works in progress
Some times, my children remind me of betas. They’re constantly, fervently improving, exploring and acquiring new capabilities – all without a single goal, driven only by their natural instincts which propel them towards success and widespread adoption. Sure, they’re buggy, but that’s the whole point: not only is it (for the most part) mortally charming, but exposure – whether towards the elements or society – is how they garner feedback and refine themselves.
Yet on our way towards adulthood, this process of refinement leads us to begin losing things which were once paramount to our beings.
Children can stare in wonderment at something as simple as a flower by the roadside. They’ll follow their hearts’ desires towards whatever makes them happy, without any concerns for the ramifications. New friends are made at the blink of an eye. Fear and failure have yet to dull their edges, and are merely obstacles to be overcome, time and time again until eiher hunger or exhaustion gets the better of them. They question everything, with no regard for whether their ignorance is ill perceived by anyone.
Their world, as it is, is lined choc-a-bloc with opportunities from the crack of dawn until the very last drop of energy is spent and they – sometimes literally – fall to sleep exhausted. As grown-ups, we tend to lose touch with some of these traits, even though we never intended to.
There are no final versions
Much like betas, we humans are works of constant change. What has been done can be undone, although it often requires perseverance on our part; and on a similar basis, what has not been achieved can be. It may not be as easy as changing lines of code, but then again we rarely work as hard on what’s inside of us as we do on what’s outside of us.
Because of this, I try to ask myself every now and then what the 5-year old version of myself would think of the current version of me – and oddly enough, I seem to be reminded of something genuinely important, as opposed to something grown-up important, every time I do.
Compared to how hard it is to regain ones sense of wonder – along with other benefits of childhood, it can seem surprisingly easy to lose. Yet the opposite is true: we lose it through making a million small steps in the wrong direction – not as a result of any one particular event.
Reversing it, then is simply a matter of making a million small steps in the other direction.
And whenever it gets hard, just remember to ask yourself this: what would the 5-year old you think of who you are today?