I will be going back and forth from the adult mind and the child’s mind on this one. . .
I have seen different places in this world. I have seen the faces of children when their eyes are open wide and completely amazed. There is something to this. There is something beautiful and pure. I am amazed by this.
I am amazed by the way a child sees the world, all new, all the time and always wanting and searching for more. I think about the different phases of understanding and how age takes away some of our rights. I think about the absolute wonder of youth and how our version of life is this limitless thing.
I say this because there are no limits to childhood dreams. I say this because youth is nothing more than a plethora of dreams. It’s filled with hopes, imagination and fantasies.
Imagine what it would be like to feel this way again.
Before we go forward, I am going to ask you to leave your “Adult” at the door. For now, let’s allow ourselves to shed the layers that have covered us over the years.
For the moment, let’s allow ourselves the chance to remember what it was like to be a kid and believe in things that age takes away.
I think about my memory of my first pair of sneakers. I remember the store called Buster Brown. I remember when Mom took me. I remember the commercial too. The kids ran faster. They could jump higher. They could walk one step better.
Who in their right mind wouldn’t want something like this?
I remember thinking the sneakers were like magic.
I remember saying, “Look how fast I can run in my new sneakers.”
And I believed this, fully and wholeheartedly.
It was the belief. It was the thrill. It was a feeling.
It was to be alive and young and to think that somehow, I could run faster than anyone or anything. How pure is this? How innocent?
How unfair is it that someone comes along and tells you that none of this is true? Yet deep down, there is this drive and this need; there is the fantasy that somehow, something new, like a pair of sneakers can somehow right all the wrongs in the world and make you think, feel, walk and run better.
I remember being told that I was a stupid little kid. I remember being told I was an idiot for thinking this way. And I believed this too. I was stupid for being wishful and hopeful and most of all, I was ashamed for having such ideas of purity and innocence. This is taught. This is learned.
But imagine if we could unlearn this?
I think about people who refuse to dance because they’re afraid of how they look or appear. I think about a time when I was at a family event. The music was playing. I remember there were people dancing and others who were “Too cool” for the event.
I heard a Mom ask her adult son, “Why aren’t you dancing?”
I heard him answer, “I don’t dance.”
Then I heard someone else say, “That’s because he doesn’t know how to have fun.”
For the record – or wait, maybe this part is off the record, I’m not sure, but either way, the person who said, “That’s because he doesn’t know how to have fun” and the person whose brilliant response was so poignant, so absolutely spot on and so incredibly special; yet, there is one special reason that I tell you this. The young man who offered this remark was a person with Down’s Syndrome. So, I suppose he didn’t have to worry about “Being cool” or the way he looked. No, this was for other people.
Plus, he already knew he was cool.
Somehow, somewhere, something happens and the age of wonder begins to close in a small window. However, deep down, there is a need. There is a drive.
Somewhere in us all is the desire to run and jump higher, to sing louder, to dance like nobody’s watching; to play, to pretend and to do this without the interruption of someone who tells you to “Cut it out.”
Somewhere in life, we learned about shame . . .
And what a shame that truly is.
I tell you this because I would rather be a stupid kid. I would rather have that feeling like when I went to Buster Brown’s and bought my new pair of sneakers. They were blue and white by the way. I remember the tape that I placed on my wall in my bedroom to mark how much higher I could jump.
Now, why am I telling you about this?
What’s the point?
Much of our time is spent thinking about adult life and adult things. Much of our dreams and our hopes have been covered by layers of age and maturity. There is a piece of us that wants to be honored and youthful.
There is a part of us that wants to feel joy. We want to experience hope and hopefulness. But yet, there is a piece of us that is afraid of disappointment. We spend too much time in the win/loss category.
There is a part of us that fears rejection. Or, in my case, there’s a fear of some older kid who comes along and tells me that I’m stupid for believing.
No one wants to believe they are stupid. Not for believing in something so pure or harmless. And somehow, it seems there’s always someone who looks to burst the bubbles. There’s always someone who lingers for no other reason than to shoot down ideas and laugh or humiliate people for having a dream.
There was a time that I recall finding myself in-between groups of friends. I was dealing with different bouts of shame and bullying. I was young and learning about the stages of popularity.
My neighbor was a grandmother of two boys. They were a little younger than me. Not by much, but when you’re a kid, age means everything. That’s why kids are “Nine and a half” because that half means a lot.
Maybe the age difference was a year or two. The younger brother was even more. I remember playing with them. I remember having fun. But the fun had to stop.
I remember seeing my Father. Maybe it was something inside of me. Maybe it was this realization that I was older, which meant that I was automatically supposed to be cooler. Maybe I assumed judgment because of the expression on my Father’s face. I remember stopping. I remember telling the two brothers that I had to go soon.
See, I was too old to be playing games like this. I was too old to be running around and playing pretend, Maybe I was ten. Or maybe I was eleven. I’m not sure. What I remember most about this was their faces when I said this. They looked as if I had gone crazy; as if I had said something that was totally out of the atmosphere. I was too old to play.
The older of the two brothers looked at me with his head pulled back on his shoulders as if to put distance between him and my comment.
His eyebrows twisted with one raising up and the other moving downward. His lip even curled in a look of astonishment and he asked me, “You’re too old to play?”
I remember this. I remember the feelings inside of me.
I remember going home and their willingness to let me do that.
“Why would you be too old to play?”
I didn’t have an answer.
I have spent years of my life trying to understand the meaning of it all. I’ve been trying to figure out where anxiety comes from. Where does insecurity come from?
Why is it that fear is so dominant? And although rejection is mainly internal (because rejection is a mindset) why is the threat of not being accepted so tremendous?
I think back to when we were young and taught about disappointment. I think about the foolishness of finding out there’s no such thing as the Tooth Fairy. I learned this from a sixth grade bully that cheered on the entire bus to laugh at me.
No one wants to be laughed at. No one wants to be picked on. Most importantly, nobody wants to be picked last when choosing teams and nobody wants to be left out or miss out on playtime.
We all want to be included. We want to be part-of.
The idea of being left out does not end after the days on the playground or at graduation. This is something that lingers with us.
I have been tackling the subject of mindfulness and being mindful of this, I have decided to strip everything down to the core of my personal framework.
Fast forward, I can see where there are times when I take things in with a rejective mindset. I can see where my past ideas creep in and suddenly, rather than my product, I see cancellations of sales meetings as a personal rejection; as if it is me and my fault.
This goes back to that fear. This is that simple childhood fear of not being good enough because I didn’t have the cool matchbox cars.
I think about the cool tables in the school cafeteria and how this carries on to the private sector and to “For profit” businesses and the executive lounge and otherwise exclusive areas. I think about the ideas that exclude people who don’t reach the bar.
And me, nowadays, I’m 49 years old.
I’m not looking for the cool tables anymore.
I want to dance like nobody’s watching.
I want to play.
I want to learn how to have fun.
I want to be cool, all on my own.
All of this judgment is part of anxiety. This is part of depression because the need to feel, laugh, play and have fun is as real as you, me, Santa or The Man on The Moon.
(And by the way, I know Santa personally. So, don’t talk shit!)
From the mouths of babes, they say.
Youth is wasted on the young, they say.
Who says youth has to end?
Who says our dreams have to stop?
Who says playtime is over?
Not me. At least, not anymore.
Come to think of it, I remember when we used to play a game of kickball at lunch in the field behind our grade school.
Ever played kickball before?
It’s simple. The pitcher rolls a big purplish ball towards home plate. You kick the ball as hard as you can and then, like baseball, you run the bases and be sure not to be tagged out.
These were the best games ever . . .
I think what I’ve learned on this trip towards mindfulness is that I don’t want to be cool anymore. I just want to be happy. Oh, and by the way, I’m looking to get a kickball game going somewhere at lunchtime.
Care to join?
You can be on my team if you want.
And don’t worry. Nobody will cheer for you louder than me!
You have my word on that.