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Follow your inner child

| Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When I started to decorate my room at the start of this year, I didn’t begin by setting up a TV or covering the wall in posters. I sat down at my computer and ordered glow-in-the-dark stars for my ceiling.

When I was a kid, I had one glow-in-the-dark star in the corner of my bedroom. I remember lying in bed wondering what my room would look like covered in stars. Finally, as a senior in college, I decided to actually find out. In doing so, I started to embrace the kid in me again.

I’m not writing this because I’m a nostalgic senior. I’m writing this because it took me until senior year to figure it out. I spent the first three years of college doing everything I could to position myself for life after college. My eyes were always forward, thinking ahead, considering what the next best step would be.

Finally, I reached that point. Less than a year from graduation, I had an unofficial job offer from the employer of my dreams (or what I thought was the employer of my dreams). The last three years had put me there. Then, with it all finally at my fingertips, I realized I had made a mistake. So, I ordered glow-in-the-dark stars. Then I went back to the drawing board.

I had been ready to move onto the next big thing: a pretty cool corporate job. In doing all of that, I lost sight of part of me. The childhood version of me was naïve in so many ways, but he was also genuine. He knew what he really cared about, regardless of what that meant for his future.

I’m a blind and foolish optimist, who always holds out hope for the ideal. As a kid, I just wanted to make everyone happy and do good things for people. In all honesty, I still wanted that, and my path wasn’t going to lead me there.

So did I figure it all out? Do I know where to go with my life? Nope, I’ve got nothing. That’s part of the conundrum. I always had a plan and an answer. When I didn’t, I made something up and ran with it.

As a kid, if I didn’t have an answer, I said, “I don’t know” and accepted it. Sometimes, you have to go back to the drawing board and get to work with only two things. First, you know what you want to do, but, second, you don’t know how to do it.

I’m all about staying in touch with one’s childhood and never growing up. Oftentimes, that takes the shape of jumping into a shopping cart and riding it through the parking lot. Sometimes, it’s going through the carwash simply for fun. Or jumping in leaf piles. Or walking in the snow because the sound of it crunching is cool.

On occasion, I have to dig deeper into what being a child means to me. For me, it’s getting back in touch with my irrationally optimistic side. Where does that lead me?  I don’t know, but it’s kind of picking a direction, jumping into a shopping cart in a parking lot and then seeing where you end up.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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