“One of the most obvious facts about grown-ups to a child is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child.” —Randall Jarrell.
I missed childhood. I missed running into my parents’ open arms after a hard day. I missed playing in the ladybug-shaped sandbox and wildly chasing after my little sister. I missed singing along to the lyrics of The Lion King for the umpteenth time with dear friends. Most of all, I missed the wide-eyed enthusiasm of my younger self, the little girl who read Pippi Longstocking under a warm sky and smiled for no reason at all. Notice how I use the past tense “missed”. My birthday passed several weeks ago and I made the best of vows: I vowed to grow younger.
I personally love kids. Yes, they can sometimes cause exasperation beyond one’s patience threshold. But children are some of the few people who embrace life with complete openness and unconditional love. I’m not implying that adults don’t view life the same way; it’s just easy to forget about the inner child as one grows older.
Adults like making lofty to-do lists and worrying boundlessly. I’m not a super-worrier but as my previous posts may have indicated, I sometimes fall into the trap of translating my “busy bee-ness” into spiraling concern over things I can’t change. Kids don’t worry as much. This lack of worry gets them into all kinds of scrapes and mischief but by bedtime, they look back at their past day as one short adventure—at least, I know I did!
Kids are fearless. Kids are proud of who they are and don’t compromise their morals. They act on what they believe is right without thinking of others’ opinions. I freely admit that there have been times when I never raised my hand in class for fear of sounding silly or giving a wrong answer. I remember plenty a moment when I compared myself to others and worried I wasn’t good enough. There have been times when I hesitated to share my “Muslim-ness” for fear that others would scoff at the idea of cherishing faith in a society that views religion with skeptical lenses.
But quite honestly, I don’t like being afraid—who does? I’ve stopped caring. I think back to a time when I wasn’t nearly as cautious or worried, and when I still got the most fun out of wildly swishing down a slide with my long braids blowing in the breeze. While my academic playground no longer houses a jungle gym, I want to fearlessly embrace every living moment as my last. That means accepting myself for who I am and realizing that my greatest competitor is no one but myself.
As the days get warmer (well, at least warmer than they were a month ago), I find myself bumping into families walking across the quad. The parents walk behind the two kids racing on their tricycles while a fluffy small dog races behind them. The kids are squealing with delight, the dog pants with excitement, and the parents just look at each other with a smile playing at their lips and keep on walking, hand in hand. For some reason, my eyes begin pricking because their happiness is so infectious, and I want to feel exuberantly the same way. I’m tired of taking things for granted.
Thus, I’ve tried making this vow to grow younger and so far, it’s worked wonderfully. I don’t think twice about showing outward love and dependence towards those I love. I’m not afraid of who I am or what I face; I try doing what I have to do and just keep moving. I’ve done more simplifying rather than overthinking, which has led to quiet moments of subtle self-examination. On a lighter note, dreaming like a preschooler means appreciating things in ways I’ve never done before. My inner three-year-old loudly sings A Whole New World in the shower and tries having faith in other people. She literally jumps up and down when excited, curiously stares at the old with new eyes, and clings to what she believes is right. My inner three-year-old and I have never been happier.