When growing up isn’t what you expected

Michael GentileFor generations, parents from all over have preached to their children about not growing up too fast, about not rushing through the simple times, of wanting to go back once on the other side.

These lessons arose much to the dread of their sons and daughters who only saw the freedom of that other side. We wished to ride the big roller coaster, to stay up past bedtime to watch the game with Dad, to live as we saw others live. We unsuccessfully fought from the shackles and bottom stair until the winds of time broke down what held us.

Today we are seemingly free from restraint, free to disappear or eat ice cream after midnight, to do whatever however and whenever we want. But despite all these freedoms, we live as confined as ever before.

At the peak of our maturity, we college students laugh at the way children act and at our peers who act like children since we are all so well-experienced on what can and cannot be considered correct behavior.

Suddenly a boy’s belief that he will one day play for the Yankees or a girl’s belief that she will one day become royalty seem ridiculous, even as we dream of our entry-level salaries and master’s degree programs.

Now, thinking of chasing a butterfly around the lawn or rolling down a hill no longer brings bliss but rather constitutes grounds for social expulsion. Today, “Why?” no longer fills our every conversation with wonder but only pops up to our demise after a yes or no exam question. We wonder less and worry more, dream less and plan more. We respond to our newfound liberty by building up walls of our own.

Perhaps the walls of our childhood stimulated the growth of our imagination as a tool to live in a world that we not only roamed but controlled. In those times we were invincible, no matter what time we needed to get back for dinner.

We could invent a friend when lonely, a sport when bored or a story when wrong.

We ran just to feel the air wrap around our cheeks and jumped in puddles just to see how wet we could get.

We loved ourselves, not yet aware that there were other things to be. At only four feet tall, nothing floated too far out of reach to grasp.

Though the pressures of Hopkins may make it difficult to live so weightlessly, our inner child begs us to not let the moment float away. Yes there is a tomorrow and the year after that and eventually a point when new stresses will replace Hopkins entirely. But to obsess that far into the future eliminates today and erases the person who eventually has to live that life.

JACK AMICK/CC BY-NC 2.0 We used to love when it rained because we could jump in puddles just to see how wet we could get.

JACK AMICK/CC BY-NC 2.0
We used to love when it rained because we could jump in puddles just to see how wet we could get.

Each day becomes duller but more tolerable, harder to enjoy but harder to hate. Before long nothing is worth doing without a justifiable end, no time worth investing without compound interest. Here is where our inner child disappears and where we disappear. Smelling the summer flowers becomes difficult if you’re thinking about how they’ll die in the winter.

As a staunch supporter of being yourself, I beg all of you to be kids. For only one day forget that candy makes you fat, that Santa is fake and that spider bites don’t give you superpowers. Forget that you have an orgo test this week and that cargo shorts aren’t preppy enough.

Play. Whether it’s frisbee or tag or playing house, have fun and forget that anyone’s watching. Talk about something that doesn’t exist and annoy the sh*t out of someone who doesn’t care.

Let your imagination take hold of your reality and fill a pool of impossibility, and when your excitement grows to its peak, when you can feel your six-year-old smile return to its rightful place, cannonball in! Let your splash be your glory! And let yourself spring up for seconds!

By committing to the moment, we liberate our mind of doubt and open it up to all that surrounds us. We take in the beauty of a life lived rather than planned and accordingly produce beauty of our own. Boundaries cease to be endpoints and transform into next steps as we fluidly combine the creativity of a kindergartner with the intelligence of a Hopkins student.

At that point we thrive not only as individuals but also as a collective force of innovation, positivity and happiness.

So be a kid ­— the smartest, silliest kid you know.

As we strip the shadow of adulthood’s eclipse, a pure white moon reveals itself to us as a both a sign and message. There is light in the rarest levels of obscurity; It’s as natural as darkness and harder to shut out. Everyday we must search for that light even if we need clues from the past to find it.

When we find it, the light will fill us until we are blinded to the road ahead and beam upward like the sun. Finally we will be home, free to smile and dance and sing and love and be, simply and childishly so.

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