1. Make friends.
While the fact that we are constantly in proximity with people our own age and have nothing better to do than go out and play with sticks for a few hours no doubt helps in our ability to make friends, there is an openness in childhood that allows us to embrace people without a weird layer of judgment and hesitation. There doesn’t come a moment in kindergarten where you see someone across the classroom and you’re like, “Oh, eww, that girl needs to stop looking at me with those bitchy eyes. What is she wearing? A skirt? Pfft. Okay, grandma.” We’re just like, “Hey, you have a Hello Kitty lunchbox. I like Hello Kitty. Let’s be best friends until the end of time,” and we are. It’s perfect.
2. Forgive people.
There is a strange tendency we develop as we get older (except, I imagine, in old age when you literally stop giving a shit about anything that doesn’t absolutely matter) to hold onto things long past their expiration date. There are certain slights that we shouldn’t go back on for our own mental health/emotional safety, but let’s be honest — most things don’t fall into that category. When you’re young, though, you basically just punch each other in the face and then you’ve immediately forgotten what you were upset about. Were that we could have such sage calm when it comes to our significant others. “You forgot to take out the trash again!!??!?!?! This is unforgivable!!” Come on, it’s pretty forgivable.
3. Try new things.
It’s as though life could be divided into two distinct categories: the time when you’re willing to experiment with unknown but potentially awesome things, and the time you’ve decided that everything unfamiliar should be side-eyed into oblivion. It perhaps comes at the moment when someone makes you try brussel sprouts for the first time and your child self feels so profoundly betrayed: “What is this!?! What cruel God would make a food grow from the earth that literally tastes like feet??!” From that moment on, we are destined to hesitate considerably before we embark on any new adventures.
4. Be content with what we have.
There is such a sweet innocence for our ability, when young, to be completely content with what is available to us. We have no real concept of envy or inferiority yet, only a sort of general excitement about being alive and getting to play. You don’t know how much money anyone has, or where they live, or if they are better-looking than you. There is just a pleasure in what is available, in making the most of what you have. If only we could feel this way when one of our friends invites us over to their new apartment that is beautifully furnished, in the perfect location, and filled with impressive-looking knick knacks from various world travels.
5. Admit we are wrong.
Why is it often so difficult to admit — to others and, more importantly, to ourselves — when we are in the wrong about something? Apologies should not be easier to deliver with insincere qualifiers like, “I’m sorry you felt that way,” but they so are. There is just something so grating, so offensive to our pride, to admit that we made a mistake and owe someone else a sincere apology. When we’re kids, though, there is about a .45 second duration to any feeling of righteous indignation, and we’re fully aware that getting over ourselves and saying we’re sorry when we should is the key to happiness, friends, and potential lollipops after dinner. Maybe we should all start giving out lollipops for thoughtful, honest apologies?
6. Enjoy simple things.
Have you ever played with a stick? I mean really played with it? Have you ever seen all the amazing things sticks can do and become with your imagination? Have you heard the dulcet tones they produce when run along a picket fence? Are you on my stick level? No? Then you have some five-year-olds you need to chill with stat, because they are about to blow your uptight mind, brah.
7. Come up with something to do.
You leave a kid alone in a room for a few minutes and they will literally just start talking to themselves and pretending that they are flying or some shit. They don’t care. They will take that cardboard box and travel to the moon to have tea with their family of teddy bears. What do you do when you’re alone in your room? If we’re being honest, probably complain on the internet about how bored you are and dismiss the fact that you are literally constantly surrounded by potential sweet things that you could be doing. No one cares if you look crazy, just start talking to yourself and making up an awesome alternate universe to hang out with. It’ll be great.
8. Let go.
While there are definitely things that can upset you as a kid — moving to a new school/town comes to mind — we are so much more elastic when it comes to rebounding from the setbacks. Sure, you’re upset for a while and there are definitely things you miss, but you’re going to focus on the positives and enjoy yourself as much as possible, because you understand how little being upset about things actually gets you. Besides, there are wayyyy too many sticks to play with in your new neighborhood to worry about the past.
9. Find the humor in things.
If you can pee your pants in front of your entire class and still go out that night and enjoy your “let’s make you feel better” dinner at Chuck E Cheese’s, I think you have found the secret to a higher plane of existence.
10. Be comfortable in our own skin.
I often look at pictures of myself when young and am struck by how purely happy I look, how confident and sure I feel, all while wearing these heinous sweaters my grandmother would make me wear with these weird puff-balls of fabric all over them. I look like a hairball Nyan Cat coughed up, and yet, I am just so chill I couldn’t be bothered with what anyone thought. I didn’t know what it meant to look silly, or for people to judge me, and I was happy to have my picture taken. If only I could get back to that time, perhaps I wouldn’t spend the morning after parties paralyzed in fear that my unphotogenic self would be plastered all over Facebook and I wouldn’t be able to detag the particularly egregious shots with the necessary speed. We could all stand to be that little kid in the ugly sweater again, not giving a damn if anyone thinks we’re pretty.