Last week I drove past a group of neighborhood kids standing roadside and dressed like zoo animals. “Honk! Honk your car horn!” they yelled to me, and when I did, you would’ve thought they were told that school was cancelled indefinitely or that every day was pronounced chicken nugget day. One girl literally fell to her knees she was so overcome with pride at their collective accomplishment.
I took in the scene from my car, from a distance, feeling the same delight and splendid confusion I often do when dealing with little kids. Nostalgia for summer break and those chocolate-coated popsicles with rainbow sprinkles hit me hard, but it was their zest for life and effortless make believe that left my heart stirred.
Kids, they can turn anything to fun. It’s a mystery to really anyone older. Poof. Kabamo. Ta-da!! We write off their imaginations like we eventually turn our backs to the oceans, as infinities impossible to understand, and their storybook fantasies grow dusty with the familiar feeling that we once knew them word by word. I’m only twenty, so no I’m not in any way “old” – however you define that – but ask my little cousin who’s in kindergarten and she’ll tell you my play pretend skills are out of practice. My mom will say, “I remember when you used to run around acting like you were traveling time or going to work or Mulan,” and I’ll laugh as if I’m not still doing that every day.
What I’ve been wondering lately is whether we’re giving these youngsters a bit too much credit. I think to look at their role models. Who, after all, is their inspiration? Who is taking them to the parks and local museums and making games out of grocery store shopping? Who is slipping fat crayons and watercolor brushes between their little fingers, saying create, create?
Make sure the angsty thirteen-year-old inside you is sitting down for this one, because surprise – it was the adults all along (“Oh my God, lame.”).
Our parents and teachers saw us as visionaries long before we discovered that potential ourselves. They praised our drawings and Lego inventions, celebrated all our silly ideas. We were encouraged to experiment, prompted to elaborate, and always invited to dream big.
We’re in college, now, and of course, it’s a slightly different scene. No one really gives a fuck about my art or writing, no matter how many times I hang it on the communal fridge. No one takes your hand and walks you outdoors after snack time to point out how the leaves are changing colors at their stems, just as there are few advisors telling me it’s cool to carry on with my haphazard and I guess relatively unfocused exploration of the world.
After so many years of approaching work as a challenge to conquer, we are now conditioned to hate the word entirely, surrounded by tired, sleepy, restless, busy, artificially busy, and the worst of all evils, bored. We’re told this is what the world is like, a giant corporate competition of who’s sleeping less and doing more and who is hanging onto the thinnest thread. Critics of Generation “Me” say we cannot function with constant praise, when in truth what stifles us most is closed doors.
We’re all about possibility and creativity, because we were raised on it, and now we’re seeking out muses and motivators all on our own. This is progress we’re making, are chances we’re taking, and for no reason must we succumb to an everyday “ho hum.” The w-word is not synonymous with misery. It only becomes so once you give up, and go look outside your window! It’s wonderfully bewildering; all there is to see here in the real world.
Yes, there are briefcases, made of the finest leather. There are so many people to meet, so, so many conversations to have, books to read and songs to listen to and bands to see in gritty garages with an unlit cigarette resting in a cocked hand, so many gardens to walk through when there’s a breeze in the air and buildings to explore in the middle of the night. There is philosophy to discuss, art to create, stars to watch.
There are times to be still, and there are times to be SO FUCKING LOUDDDD. Like, TANTRUM LOUD but with more wine than whine. There are times to stamp feet and march up to the front, and there are times to follow the line leader. There are human beings out there to kiss on the face and fawn over with love, relations to be made and spirits to braid, tears to shed, laughs to crack, and projects to craft. There are passions that cannot be confined in lines and there are dreams, such beautiful, beautiful dreams, drifting around the night ready to be caught like fireflies in hands bare and eyes wide.
As is seen in our natural and primitive desire to inspire young ones, we are capable of treating ourselves that way, too, and, with that, I think it’s time I make myself a little pact.
Today and from here forward, I am going to become my own parent and my own teacher. I am going to grow and fill the voids like fresh mist. I am going to applaud myself for speaking words and taking little steps, treasure and nurture my natural talents, the passions I’m gold-star-sticker proud of regardless of how much they might make me.
I am going to explore things and forever quest for curiosity. I am waking up that hopeless love for learning that I refuse to let sleep dormant in my heart. I am stumbling into the unknown, for that is where we find the rushing, rejuvenating wave that is pure and ecstatic awe.
Because we are not “busy,” this is life we’re living, and when the endless ocean is overwhelming you, don’t be afraid to run right in. Forget about fucking sunscreen or your hair for a second and you go splash in without a care in the world, because life is amazing and there’s no reason why every day can’t be chicken nugget day.