How many times do you see it posted as a meme on your social media feed?
“I can’t even adult today!”
I see it often, usually among friends and family that are exhausted, overworked, and worn down to the bone. Because we are responsible adults, we often take on more obligation than we can handle, or feel personally accountable for having to create miracles at work and at home. Yet, even when we do accomplish these Herculean feats, we don’t have the energy or the mindfulness to enjoy them. Instead we either worry about what’s around the corner or regret that we dont have time to do anything that we love.
Yet, when I say it, I mean it differently. When I say “I don’t want to adult”, I mean that I want to engage in a conscious effort to make myself more child-like. And I don’t mean just for that moment. I want to bring a more child-like sense to my everyday life, because it’s healthy, it’s therapeutic, its cathartic, and most of all, it’s fun.
Like so many of us, as I grew older into adulthood, I lost my innocence and my sense of wonder went away. I remember when I was a kid and I loved astronomy. I was the first kid in my neighborhood to have a telescope. I loved that thing, and at night many of my friends did too, but during daylight, being a 10 year old astronomy geek wasn’t cool. Many of the same kids who wanted to see the moon through my telescope mocked me when they were around their other friends the next day. I started 7th grade at age 11, and I had already packed away my telescope, but I still loved my toys. Hence, my nickname became “Transformer”, and that persisted even after I disavowed my toys. Most painfully, I had a blanket that I loved since I was 2 (it replaced my original blankie) and couldn’t sleep without. When my folks took it away at age 12, it was like a part of me had died. I grieved for weeks. It was a part of me. All of these things were parts of me that I lost or gave up because I had to become an adult.
And so, I find it ironic that as an adult, that I now make a very adult decision to not be an adult. How that inner kiddo manifests with me varies depending on the time and place, but it’s a mindful practice of mine to always have it present, even if it’s just as a silent observer. There are other times, when I feel safe and I’m in the company of other adults like myself, where I am just not a 44 year old man. I don’t want to be, I’m choosing not to be. Most of the time, I’m varying degrees of both. I can be an adult and yet stunningly child-like at the same time.
The best part about this isn’t that I get to hang out in a ball pits or build Lego castles (and then put on a dinosaur kigurumi and smash it Godzilla-style). Its not even the ability to let go and not worry about the things that concern me as an adult. It’s that I’m regaining my ability to be amazed and intrigued by simple things that are actually amazing, but that as adults, most of us dont give a second thought to.
Yesterday I posted about how a simple music shuffle rekindled my love of many different bands and artists. The day before I shared a mindfulness exercise I recently adopted that, had I not been in the process of deconstructing adulthood, I might have written off as silly. I want to think of things in terms of possibility, not limitation, and so much of “adulting” is viewed through the lens of limitation.
By making that choice to free that kid inside of me, it allows me to release a lot of cynicism and doubt. It allows me to be an adult without feeling that sense of confinement. It helps me to enjoy playtime and not feel guilty about it. It absolutely destroys toxic shame. Most important, it gives me a chance to “do over” parts of my childhood that weren’t so pleasant. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
Yeah, I know a lot of people won’t get this, but that’s okay. They dont have to. I’m not seeking approval from them. I’m sharing my story for the benefit of others like me that never felt comfortable as grown-ups, who never really wanted to grow up, and who never wanted to lose that sense of wonder and curiosity. I’ve long been okay with others thinking I’m an oddball, but at least now, I can show you where all that stems from. There are certainly many others who identify and express themselves similarly.
I even have a blankie again. I’ve had it since I was 20 years old. I’ve come to realize that I’ve always been a little kid no matter what the stupid calendar says, but now, I have balance, and I’m so thankful for it.