My younger brother does this thing. Whenever I'm home and he's introducing me to someone new, he says, "Guess. Guess how old my brother is."
He says it with a grin. As if who I am at heart is so much younger than I actually am in years. He says it thinking no one could ever imagine that I'm a day over seventeen.
That's because I have no intention of "growing up." I may be a responsible adult, but if you think that stops me from performing ten-minute monologues in my bathroom mirror, you'd be wrong. If you think I have any intention of ever putting my wit away in the name of professionalism, you'd be wrong again. And if you really thought I wasn't planning on building forts in the basement and watching Star Wars with my future kids, you'd be so, so very wrong.
Growing up is a lie. You can be responsible, you can be successful, you can make boatloads of money, and you can still be a child at heart.
But as people get older, many forget how.
These are 17 things that get left in the dust:
1. Building for play, not for profit.
Money is all fine and good, but remember when you used to build Lego monuments and then smash them to start all over again? That's joy.
2. The touch of gravel and grass.
I don't know about you, but I remember spending many hours as a kid on the sidewalk, my cheek pressed to the cold pavement as I watched little tiny bugs crawl in and out of the crevices. Or when I would lie in the grass and feel the blades tickle my neck and the backs of my legs. When was the last time you reached down and touched the ground?
Teachers called it distracting, or worse, a waste of time. But all those hours spent doodling during class was your way of exploring, and letting whatever wanted to come out, flow. Amazing how few people doodle during meetings.
4. Rearranging your bedroom.
Come on, admit it. How many times did you spend an entire afternoon rearranging your bedroom just because you could, or because you wanted to try something new. The switch was another version of creativity. This allowed you to change things up, just because.
5. Games outside, not on your iPhone.
This next generation may never know the sweaty, fulfilling exhaustion that came with playing Ghosts In The Graveyard while it was pitch black outside. Or the sensation of running for your life during an intense game of tag. Don't you want your kids to know that feeling? Breathing heavy, wind whipping against their face.
6. Trying something new, like firing a bow and arrow.
As a kid, I lived for new experiences (at least, the ones that interested me). The thought of getting to try something like fire a bow and arrow seemed so cool to me. Or climbing a tree. Or riding a dirt bike. What happened to that passion? When was the last time you did something new?
7. Using your imagination.
It's astounding (and sad) how many people stop using their imagination, usually sometime in high school or college. But when you were a kid, remember how many worlds you would make up in your head? Games you would create with household objects? Stories you would come up with for the people you saw on the street? Don't forget about your imagination. She's beautiful, and she's your friend.
8. That first kiss.
Who doesn't love butterflies? Everyone knows that exciting, terrifying feeling in their stomach. So when was the last time you looked at the person you love, the one you say you want to spend the rest of your life with, and kissed them like it was the first time all over again? Do you ever?
9. Going for a walk.
As kids, all we did was walk. We couldn't drive. Sometimes we had bikes. But for the most part, we walked. Home from school, to each other's houses, down the street to the big grassy patch where we could play soccer or frisbee. Walking is such a simple joy in life. But now that you're older, you probably drive everywhere. Try going for a long walk and see how you feel.
10. Making up a game.
I would challenge any adult to grab a deck of cards and make up their own game. As a kid, this sort of thing was effortless. It practically oozed out of you. What happened? I'll tell you exactly what happened: you stopped playing. Now, all you do is work.
11. Talking to a stranger.
Even when your parents warned you about stranger danger, if you saw someone who looked interesting, you found a way to get their attention. You were curious. Strike up a conversation with the person you're sitting next to on the bus tomorrow. You never know.
12. Watching an entire movie (without checking your phone).
When was the last time you watched an entire movie, start to finish, without responding to text messages, checking Instagram, or refreshing your email? There is a magic that happens when you immerse yourself completely into a movie, especially when paired with a bowl of buttery popcorn. When you check your phone, that magic gets disrupted.
It's amazing how many people admit to having kept a journal as a kid, but then stopped. Journaling is such an intimate practice, and a way for you to more deeply understand yourself. As a kid, it was a way to make sense of the world emerging around you. Keep journaling. Your journey isn't done yet.
14. Writing someone a letter.
On the note of writing (pun intended), when was the last time you pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote a letter to someone? A friend, a loved one. Writing with your hand is so much more personal than typing. You'll be amazed how quickly your heart will open up as soon as you put pen to paper.
15. Painting (and getting messy).
Oh come on, you know you looked forward to diving into the paint jars when you were in middle school. Painting isn't about being an incredible painter, just like journaling isn't about being an incredible writer. There is a joy that comes from sitting down at the kitchen table, spreading out a bunch of newspaper and then letting the colors fly. Maybe you don't consider yourself a very creative person. That's okay. You're not painting to prove how creative you are. You're painting because your soul hasn't gotten messy in a while.
16. Making music.
Similar to painting, when was the last time you picked up that old instrument of yours? It saddens me to hear people say, "I used to play guitar. Played all growing up, actually. But I don't know, I just don't have time anymore." No, you do have time, you're just choosing to do things you would call "productive" instead of allowing yourself to vibe out with your instrument. Don't you remember what it was like when you were younger? You would spend hours playing different melodies, just because it was fun. Don't lose that.
17. Having open, vulnerable conversations.
And finally, this is something I feel like everyone struggles with as they get older: revealing what scares them, or what they're truly feeling at any given moment. As a kid, you almost couldn't help it. So much was changing in the world that you looked to others for feedback, or guidance. As we get older, and we decide "who we are" in the world, we tend to mask the things we share with other people accordingly.
Part of being a child at heart is all about knowing the strength that comes with vulnerability. It's a level of maturity that is completely content with being open and willing to share.
It's okay to get older. And it should be a priority to work your way up the ladder, achieve your dreams, and become successful.
Just don't forget the kid who came up with that dream in the first place.