“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
I wish not to imply that I am egotistical, but I feel I was near perfect at the age of 10. I would wager that you were too. Perhaps we all were?
At 10 my life embodied simplicity and happiness. I was curious, had a sense of wonder and the itch to wander. I achieved without planning and lived fully without trying to fully controlling my destiny. I did not worry about what I wanted to do an hour or a day forward. I lived in the moment. My cognition was developed enough by 10 to absorb everything. I was a in a constant process of learning and developing. Laughing was a primary means of communication. Acting immature was acceptable (to a point). Playing was encouraged, work was not a distraction. My awareness was keen. “Atrophy” was something I won in little league. I was content. Not to say I am not content or happy today. But, I feel a greater sense of meaning and connection in my life if I hold strong to that which inspired me in my youth, thus happiness is amplified.
God created us in his image and from his viewpoint we were nearly perfect as children. As we grow up and our lives become a spoke in the wheel of modern society, we sadly lose an integral connection to our inner child; our true nature. I have heard a belief that we are all children again in heaven. This makes perfect sense, and the thought makes me happy.
I’ve often found it ironic that we are nearly in perfect balance and happy when we are about 10 years old. Then, we spend the next 50 years of our lives working to return to that balance, often unaware of this fact until our prime has passed us. It’s not until we retire from our busyness and conceive our mortality that we go back to that state of peace we had as children. We return to a place, a lifestyle, and hobbies that are familiar staples of our youth. Perhaps we really don’t ever want to grow up and build a legacy, we just feel we have to? Perhaps what we had at 10 is all we really need to live meaningful lives?
There is no right and wrong. We all choose our paths and we all aspire to do great things, be impactful and achieve success. It all makes a difference and it’s all good, but I can’t help but feel that through our adult life we are missing something that if we had, we would be happier people and live fuller lives. It’s common for us to think that we’re different people than we were when we were children, but are we really?
I find it interesting that for myself, I need to connect with my inner child on a regular basis to be truly happy. That means regularly doing things that I used to do as a child and nothing more complicated than that. When I was 10, I loved to be outside exploring the unknown within God’s great nature. I have vivid memories of ‘secret spots’ in the back corner of our family woodlot. I had favorite trees I would climb, and a pond that became a sanctuary to me. I can still smell the rich soil of my mother’s garden and taste the sugary-sweet snap of fresh peas I would eat off the vine in the heat of mid-summer. Picking wild blueberries with my grandparents is as vivid as this morning’s cup of coffee. The “Big Rock” in their back yard was a special place full of mystery, a simple rock that was loved by all of us. It was just a rock, or was it? In preparation fishing trips, I would soak the lawn with a garden hose by day, and hunt night-crawlers by moonlight. During the spring snow-melt, I would build my own river channels in our gravel driveway and float stick-boats down them. It was an adventure in and of itself to see my rivers carry my ships into the unknown. I wondered if my vessels ever reached the ocean? In summer, my soul was filled with the smells of fresh-cut grass and tansy flowers in bloom. When my sister and I hunted for that perfect Christmas tree, the process was not just an adventure, but artful. The tree resonated the spirit of winter within us. It was all so simple, yet all so powerful! My life embodied Creation and I was one with nature. I was living fully the way I was meant to live. To this day, going back to nature helps me reconnect to that person; the child I was meant to be. I want to go back, and I will.
There was a foot trail that led through a thick forest between my childhood home and my neighbor, my best friend at the time. That trail was a symbol not only of my connection to a friend, but also to my childhood and a simpler time. Eventually weeds and underbrush slowly consumed the trail as we aged and marched out out into ‘the real world.’
Since age 10, I’ve phased into adulthood as we all do, and in my own way have strived to be successful. I’ve been blessed with many unique opportunities including completion of a gainful education followed by starting my own business. I’ve lived in and traveled to cool places and met influential people. I’ve done what mentors, educators, financial advisors, accountants and peers have instructed or encouraged me to do (although often with much reluctance). I’m grateful for the fruits of my labors of which I am proud, but such fruits seldom offer more than that pride, or a temporary sense of achievement. I hope though that my life is not defined by these achievements. Deep down, all I have ever aspired to achieve was to return home to where I began. It has taken me 30 years since my 10th birthday to realize this. It has been 30 years of trying to control and direct my life as many of us are expected to, or are driven to with dreams of better things if such things really exist. To return home is not so much a physical destination like my childhood woodlot, but rather a state of once again being connected to something larger than myself; something out of my understanding or control that I am amazed by… Something I just feel… Something like true freedom and happiness only a child has.
Perhaps by nature, we are perfect at age 10? Perhaps God intended it to be that way all along? Perhaps if we simply look back and remember how it was then, we can reintroduce that child back into our lives now? We can carry that spirit with us every day of our lives. Maybe we should focus on this instead of the next big thing?
It is my hope for myself and others to return to a state of true contentedness, with keen awareness and an itch to wander. I hope for us to be led by curiosity, and to live in the moment. Let us return to a state where laughing is a primary means of communicating and acting immature is acceptable (to a point). Let us follow trails through the wilderness to secret special places and keep those trails open. I hope for all our lives to be more simple yet more powerful, a power we can’t define. Today I think is a good day to start that process… time for me to re-connect with my childhood…. to remember what it was like to smell the flowers… to find happiness… to yet again become a perfect 10.