I believe there is a lot of truth to the notion that the innocence of a child is the purest form there is. It is the very reason why so many of the experiences we had as children we handled so simply, but when faced with the same issues today, we complicate to the nth degree.
When I was four, and I wanted a baby brother, I just included a little prayer about wanting a baby brother in my daily prayers which I did anyway. As an adult, if I want something that badly, I find myself striking deals with God, telling Him I’ll give up some bad habit if he does this one thing for me or I’ll go to the temple every week for a year, or whatever else I can think of. Why is it so difficult for us to believe that we’d be able to ask for something with a clean heart? Probably because we’re so used to only going to Him when we need something. As a child, I prayed to Him every evening before bed, without any expectations. It is very hard to find that kind of innocence within ourselves, or more importantly, the time, to spend just 5-10 minutes of our day praying (or spiritually reflecting or whatever else you do to basically send out a thank you to the universe for keeping you alive and healthy).
As a child, if you couldn’t go a day without seeing ‘your crush’ and him without seeing you, it was love. Plain and simple. If you cut your finger and he ran to the drugstore in the rain to get you a band-aid, he loved you. If you knew you’d get in a lot of trouble if you went home late but you did it anyway because he was staying, you loved him. Love was never about defining whether it was ‘lust’ or ‘infatuation’ or ‘really like’, and it wasn’t about cheating and jealousy, and it definitely wasn’t about mind games and betrayal. It was just love. Pure, innocent, unadulterated.
Yes, death was probably a part of all of our childhoods as well. No matter how much your parents tried to shield you from it, chances are you witnessed at least one incident that was related to a human death in some way. For some it was their grandparents or even their parents, sadly leaving them at an early age. For others, like me, it was accidentally ending up in a part of our apartment complex where my friend’s grandfather’s body was kept for viewing before the procession left for his cremation. I think as an adult I would have reacted emotionally, probably breaking down or standing there horrified. As a child I just gazed at his face, which had a look of utter peace and tranquility, his white garments giving him a soft glow. I remember thinking that this was the first time I had ever seen this man without worry lines, and it made him look so much better.
And dealing with victory and defeat.
When you’re little, and you play games like relay and hide and seek and lose, the natural response is to pout, or cry, or throw a tantrum. Some might call this childish, with which I agree wholeheartedly, it is. However, the episode occurs, everyone deals with it appropriately (your friends yell “spoil sport!” “party pooper” “sore loser!” etc.), and then everyone’s over it. As adults, we have learnt to take the ‘grown up approach’, accepting losses graciously and even applauding the winner, while we secretly spread cheating rumors or self-handicapping excuses to anyone that will listen!
And being responsible with personal finances.
That one buck your parents gave you for buying candy would go a long way when you were a kid. Instead of spending it all on one huge chocolate bar, maybe you’d put it in your piggy bank for a rainy day, or chip in to pay for a cricket ball with your buddies, or spend part of it on candy and save the rest for later. Today, we charge everything to our credit cards without hesitation, often failing to realize we still really only have that one buck to spend. We’ve forgotten how to use the piggy bank ages ago and are constantly looking for ways to earn an additional buck because living within our means is just not an option anymore.
Having the courage to dream big.
Back then, it was so simple to answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” There was no society to judge your answer (“What? You want to be a struggling actor who will probably never make it big?”), no strapped finances to worry about (I’m sure our collective student loans could take care of that 16 trillion dollar deficit of the U.S.), no anxiety over whether we’d be considered a ‘good catch’ or be forced to settle for someone with an equal or less income (don’t lie, if not you, you know your parents constantly obsess about that factor!), and blissful ignorance of the hoops we’d have to jump through just to get to our dream (Oh, you want to go to med school? No problem, just ace all these courses, maintain a perfect GPA, accumulate a million hours of hospital volunteer service, play in several sports teams, become an RA, be in student government, take classes to take the MCAT, ace the MCAT, write several essays telling us why you want to be a doctor, have glowing references from very important people, and clear multiple other obstacles to be CONSIDERED for a spot at our oh-so-prestigious institution).
Being a loyal friend.
If you’re lucky, like me, you’ve found those few life-long friends who would do anything for you. Who wouldn’t think twice about lending you money, have your back in any situation, worry about you, yell at you for making dumb life decisions, stand up for you, be happy for your successes, get in trouble with you just to give you company, and basically take a bullet for you. Unfortunately, you’re probably also surrounded by the opposite kind – the leeches, the green-eyed monsters, the disloyal, the selfish, the greedy, the users and the backstabbers. Don’t you think these types of ‘friends’ have really grown in number as we’ve grown up? I mean don’t get me wrong, they existed in our childhood as well – we’ve all had that backstabbing middle school classmate who tells the whole school about your crush after which you proceed to spend a horrifying several months hiding from him at recess – but these ‘friends’ have since reached epidemic proportions. Now, we have to take months or sometimes years determining whether a friend is trustworthy, or pay dearly and try to learn from our mistakes. The sad truth is that so many people have an agenda. So many people would rather use you to get what they want than working for it themselves. Be it for money, a job, sex, companionship, or anything else. For a lot of these people, it is a matter of survival, something that was not really an issue when we were young, because we had the protection of our parents. Now it’s every man for himself, which somehow translates to ‘use and be used’.
Laughing so hard it hurt.
Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I laughed. I mean REALLY laughed. I feel like so many of our problems would vanish if we just allowed ourselves to laugh. Remember that time you fell off the swing while eating ice-cream? Or jumped out from behind a pillar and scared the building watchman? Or saw the bewildered expression of your downstairs neighbor when he realized after coming upstairs to yell at you for stomping around your house that it was in fact your grandmother playing cricket in the living room that was the source of all the noise? Yea. I’m talking about those times. The stress and tension we walk around with all the time prevent us from letting loose and laughing our bums off like we used to.
I know life is different now that we have responsibilities, trust issues thanks to some unimportant jerks, and our past experiences, but do not let that be your excuse for curbing your laughter, or really falling in love, or being a loyal friend, or being a truly gracious loser, or dreaming big, or living simply but happily. If you totally hate this post and took absolutely nothing away from it, just do me a favor and remember this one thing: when something is funny (even if it’s you), be a kid again. Laugh at yourself, laugh till your sides hurt!