Paradise Lost?

The Epic Shenanigans of Adulthood Part III: What We’re Missing

What is it that we have lost? Childhood is a time of emotion, imagination, fun-centered friendships, and awe.

Even though adulthood brings with it physical freedom, childhood has emotional freedom. Only those with a child’s heart have the freedom to feel without limit: laugh, giggle, cry, whine, shriek, etc. No feeling is out of bounds.

Likewise, childhood is a time of boundless intellectual freedom. My heart goes out, too, to those whose childhoods were characterized by restraint. My musings and generalizations here are a reflection of my own upbringing. “You had a magical childhood,” my fiancée concluded, after looking through the family photo album, full of picture of me with gloves on my feet, a pitch helmet on my head, and a sword in one hand. Or the video of me telling my third-grade class that I wanted to be a cryptozoologist. My mind as a child was free to go wherever it desired. How many adults can say that? And how many of our minds, given the choice to go to the heights of the ineffable, go to the gutter instead!

The nature of friendship, too, seems to change. Now I did not have any great friends as a child, other than my sister, with the exception of Nate in 5th grade (whom I still call and email from time to time, though he lives at the other end of the country) and some half-assed friendships in middle school and high school. But let’s be honest, most of us didn’t figure out how to be good friends until college (I’m especially speaking for the guys). Even with those qualifications and limitations, I would still see childhood friends as being drawn together by shared fun, while adult friends, as often as not, are drawn together by shared duty. My friends now tend to be my coworkers. But at the cookout on Friday, four-year old Halsey’s friends were determined simply by who else wanted to play in the dirt pile.

If you remember the joys of dirt, then you can agree with the importance of awe at the world around us. A cardboard box is a source of endless joy and possibility, all the more so if you can fit inside it, as it transforms into a car, submarine, and space ship. When we are born, the entire world is unknown, except for mother, and all of the unknown is a source of awe. As we increase in knowledge, the temptation is to decrease in awe. Perhaps the greatest loss in a human’s transition into adulthood is a loss of awe.

The greatest tragedies of childhood – abuse, neglect, loss of love ones, physical hardship – are those that deprive a child of emotional freedom, imagination, friends, and awe.

Do you remember the joys of simply playing in dirt? If not, the next post is especially for you. Meanwhile, I covet your comments.


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You *did* have a magical childhood. And you were fortunate enough that your parents were around to record it. Part of me wants to think that I had a magical childhood as well, but I have very little recollection of the games I used to play and those memories will continue to fade as they get replaced with those of my adult life. As I’ve told you before, I do remember my love of reading, especially Jules Verne. He took me under the sea years before I got to see the ocean with my own eyes.

    I agree with you that most of us don’t figure out how to be good friends until college, and it completely makes sense to me. I think college is the time in life when we become the people we will be for the rest of our lives. It’s easy to keep those friends around who like you and love you, the you who you are now, not the you who you were at age fourteen; the you who you are now is who you’ll always be.

    Through the wonders of technology I’ve been able to get back in touch with people I considered to be very good friends in high school. Now we have very little in common. And that’s fine. I’ve grown. They’ve grown. We’ve changed. The picture I had in my head of the type of people they’d become, the friends that I could continue to be close to, is very inaccurate.

  2. The older I am, the more people I talk with, the more thankful I am for my childhood.

    PS. I like your logo.

  3. I didn’t make the logo (avatar?). I think WordPress gave me that automatically…

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