If you had to live forever as either a child, an adolescent, or an adult, which would you choose — and why?
A few weeks ago I had a revelation over dessert with a friend from grad school. As we were chatting and laughing and joking about school, I said something to the effect of “If I really said what I thought while I was in grad school…” To which she replied, “Yes! That would’ve been a whole different experience.” And I thought, yea, what would grad school have been like if I had been my most authentic self? Shoot, what would most of my life look like if I didn’t worry so much about propriety and being liked?
That question is the reason why if I could live forever as a child, adolescent or adult, I’d choose childhood. Each stage of my life has its benefits and I don’t regret much but my childhood is the last time I can remember being truly fearless. Some may call it youthful ignorance or naivete. But it would be nice to return to my truest self before I started doubting myself; before the what ifs started butting in and getting louder and louder; before I really started censoring myself and worrying about making sure everyone liked me.
Now don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I didn’t care about these things at all. But as a child, the considerations that seem so natural now either didn’t exist or were not as…stifling. I could wander and explore and ask questions and be free and not give much of a second thought to anything.
That version of myself is the closest place I enter when I am relaxed: smiles and giggles are abundant, laughs are a little louder, jokes run a little more fluidly, hand gestures pop out, my inquisitive nature kicks in and I speak too quick, too much, too long…and I don’t worry about what you’re thinking or apologize.
I think my desire to reclaim my childhood is also steeped in my affinity for most things 80s and early 90s, when I was growing up, and my disdain for whatever is happening culturally now. I’m talking bright colors, big crazy hair, classic television shows and movies (ahem, The Last Dragon, anyone?), and the MUSIC. There’s something bright and unrestricted and buoyant about childhood that I honestly miss (and I don’t think it was all that neon, lol).
I don’t think it was simply age that led me away from the bolder, more fearless parts of my childhood self. Maybe it was puberty or having to navigate between different social contexts on a daily basis or the latent introvert in me took her time to develop. What I do know is that conversation over dessert got me thinking about why I’m so fearful of being, well, fearless.
Thankfully, I don’t have to live as a child forever ( I mean, having a curfew? no control of your life? Bleh), but I’m encouraged to know that the traits that I miss and cherish about my childhood self, part of the unvarnished Kaara, are still here. They might need a lil’ dusting off, but they’re here and I’m ready to reclaim them.