Like many other kids, I thought that childhood was a staging time for the real-deal: adulthood. A time when I would finally be allowed to do everything I want, go anywhere I want and eat anything I want. I thought all adults were innately brilliant, beautiful and wise; I thought adulthood meant non-stop bliss.
Turns out, I was wrong.
When I actually got to my early 20s, and was wondering when the bliss and wisdom was going to kick in, I looked around and realized that adults are no better off than 8-year-olds: we’re all in the same boat, though some of us have just amassed more wrinkles, gray hairs and baggage (which we like to glorify by referring to it as experience).
These last few months in particular, I’ve been getting a strong desire to feel like a child again. In my yoga classes, I stress approaching each posture as if it’s the first time, with the curiosity, openness and purity of a child. In my personal life, I’ve been craving laughing till my belly hurts, or doing something silly even though my oh-so-wise adult mind knows better.
I’ve got the urge to play, and I want to share it with you to think like a kid again, and feel younger and happier.
Kids have no baggage
To the three-year-old you, every experience was a new one. When kids are meeting a new friend, they are 100% present and open to the person, to the moment. They aren’t thinking about the fact that last time they made a new friend the person ended up being a liar and broke their heart. They approach each and every single moment without any comparison to similar moments of the past, because they literally have no past to reference.
This is as pure as wisdom gets.
What if we, as adults, could let go of all that crap we’ve learned from the school of hard knocks and just be. Just experience everything exactly as it comes.
Because let’s face it–there are no two identical people, situations or experiences, so any referencing to the past we may do is bound to be wrong.
Kids learn faster
There’s now a large body of research on language learning, and how and why learning languages as children is so much more effective than when we are in college cramming for our French final. Though I’m not at all a linguist, I have my own theory (which, by the way is also supported by research and more research): kids learn languages faster because they don’t care that they might sound stupid, that they might make a mistake or heaven forbid mispronounce or mess up grammar.
They’ve got no complexes about who they are trying to be, they just are.
As babies, we play around with sounds (aka baby babble) until we string together sounds like DADA that get excited responses from our parents. We learn, we keep experimenting. And as any immigrant child will tell you, their primary goal was to tell you to throw the ball to them, regardless of how they do it. They don’t care if they had to use hand signals or speak in a funny accent.
So how about next time you’re learning something new, you forget your fear of failure and messing up or how silly you might look or sound and just do it already.
To kids every day is about playing
At the Ashram I studied at in India, my Teacher would constantly rail into me for referring to what I do for a living as a “job” or as “work.” He yelled at me demanding to know why I want to do such a dreadful thing with my time. I told him I needed to earn money to live (duh), and that I actually loved my job.
Even so, he insisted, it should be referred to as PLAY. And so I realized that it was all in the semantics- he wasn’t asking me to literally change what I was doing, he was just asking me to refer to it as “play” rather than “work,” because for our adult minds unfortunately language is important and does frame our perspective, and ultimately our experience. As such, a simple shift of what we name our day to day activities can have a profound effect.
This is why when I’m simply making my classic morning to-do list, I title it my play list. It adds a lightness, a certain joy to any task-filled day.
So please, by all means, consider this another reason to let go of your baggage, learn without fear of looking foolish, and chose your words carefully to frame and elevate your experience into the playful realm. Let’s stop being so serious and have some fun.
Also by Irina: 7 Reasons to Visit the Real Mexico
Photo: Nathan via Flickr