Listen up, kids!

We grow older (brutal, I know). Inside ourselves is the same self that we’ve carried all our lives. Every version, every phase.

We often talk about the inner child as a mode of healing, emphasizing the nature of childhood as one of progress through perceivable triumphs and disappointments.

Disappointments and triumphs are a generalization of course, but childhood, and all our hurts can be summed up by the series of realizations we have about the world, and which shape our narratives into adulthood. Not always regressive, but also not always helpful.

Because of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about how children show up to the world, and the way we present youth as students to the mysteries of adult life. In some ways, but not all, we use the weight of inexperience against our children, and we pretend that the years between us and them have awarded adults with a form of canonical know-how.

We view children as in the dark, with only time allowing illumination and resolution. We tell ourselves the questions we have in our childhood would be answered—and some of them are.

And still, we grow older, our questions shift, and our perceptions widen. But our curiosity and our opportunities to encounter the unknown re-emerge in different ways. We expect that eventually we’ll know enough, or that we’ve done the necessary learning to get us where we need to go. But we won’t.

We close our minds to our imaginations, we make decisions about how the world functions, and we confine our possibilities to match. We make these decisions based on our experiences and we let them inform our daily lives. Subconsciously, we abandon the role of the student that we still occupy, and we grant ourselves authority based on time alone.

There are facets of our youth that remain universal themes throughout our entire lives. Namely, we are never straying the path of ‘first times’ and we are continuously learning and approaching new places, people, and scenarios. Even in monotonous times, it is still our first time being alive on this day, in this way, at this moment.

Many of us feel exhausted in our adulthood, deprived of the act of co-creating that fuelled our younger years. The exhaustion can be attributed in part to the organization of our late-stage capitalist system, and in part our disconnection from play as adults (funny enough, these two are related). Still, I believe that a lot of the resistance we feel could be lent to the reality that this learning about the world doesn’t actually end. Despite our parent’s promises, the mysteries of adulthood, while slowly revealed, are never fully open for our examination (and it wasn’t for them either).

So, maybe this seemingly innate tension of adulthood is in part due to the way we expect a clean and quintessential adult life, one where we know what we are doing and how we are doing it.

As we get older, our ability to recognize the depth of unknowns is only more present, and our capacities for coping with the widening gap between what we know and what we perceive ourselves to not know widens. Still, we cannot fathom the endless list of factors that exist beyond our scope.

Yet, we continue to fool our children out of their state of learning and into the ‘fully-formed adult-child’ that is both certain of most and curious of none.

This is all to say that we have, in some ways, done two things. The first, we have squandered and diminished the validity and strength of our children’s approach to the world. Not necessarily their unique person, but we have closed our minds to the methods that our children use to navigate the unknown with joy and curiosity (and of course sometimes fear). We abandon these traits despite how well they served us.

Second, we tell our children (and at one point were told ourselves) that adulthood is the answer to our questions. That time reveals answers (true) without also revealing questions (not true). Rather than maintaining the mentality that we are infinitely students--vulnerable and learning--we have made it much harder to meet our own expectations and maintain genuine curiosity in the present moment.

At some point, we decide we know better, and we allow the ebbs and flows of life to confirm our suspicions. Life sucks, Humans suck too, and our lives now have nothing more to them than what our underfed adult imagination can provide.

But for a moment consider that ‘first time’ concept. You are here. Right now, you sit with the depth of your experience as a new person. This person has not existed before right now, and they won’t exist for much longer. Remain curious and compassionate, this is your first time approaching today.

Approach your day with the wonderment that comes with your newness. Allow yourself to remain open to new perceptions. Hold hands with a tree, taste water as you drink it. How does the sun feel today? How do you feel today?

Like learning to walk, really take the time to find your footing. Be intentional, sit with sensations as they show up. Childhood never ends. Learn from the genuine curiosity and presence children use to explore the world. Explore it too.

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