Sometimes I think that it isn’t so much that we get old, but that we forget how to be young.
Going back to college helped me remember what it was like to be young. Doing a play often reminds me what it feels like to be young, even when I am playing a 90 year old. Watching young love blossom and grow has helped me to remember what being young can feel like.
I was a preschool teacher for several years and watching those little ones taught me a lot. I can remember one time when two kids seemed to have a disagreement about something on the playground. The other teachers wanted to rush in, separate them and solve the issue. I asked the other teachers to please give them a minute. We could stay close by, keep an eye on them, but let them try to work it out. And they did. It took a minute, it took some cross words and some scrunched up faces, but eventually the three year olds worked it out for themselves.
Small children are willing to try things without fear of failure. They use their imaginations, they know how to play. They accept each other and when they have a dispute they often work it out.
They want to learn, they want to push past their boundaries. They want to wear their costumes to school, their rainboots to church and their dress up clothes out to play.
They love glitter without worrying about the cleanup later. They paint with their hands and don’t think about the green paint under their fingernails. They can’t wait to know how to read and they want to learn, to soak it all in like a sponge.
They don’t attach baggage to someone else because of their skin color or special needs. They play with boys and girls and dolls and trucks. They paint with every color of the rainbow.
They are honest- to a fault. They tell it like it is. Although they are often not very tactful, they definitely let you know how they feel about things. You know where you stand with children.
Once they start to listen to grown ups, who tell them what to do and how to act and who to like, things begin to get muddy. When faulted for painting outside of the lines or doing a project “differently” than their classmates, when told they can not sing well or mustn’t make a mess, the walls begin to build. They then begin to fear failure, to fear rejection, to fear each other.
Last night I ran into a few friends who are rehearsing a show. They had just come out of a dance rehearsal and although some of them are not really dancers, they all seemed to glow from the fun, exercise, and release of dancing. I know how it feels to just let go and dance, even if only for a moment before the real world comes back to fill your head with doubt and fear. We forget how to feel the music, feel the joy, feel the freedom.
We all have different personalities, but I believe that we all begin as open vessels, ready to be filled with love, light, joy and yes- glitter. We all long to be seen and loved and not much else matters to us as kids. The ideas of failure and normalcy and “should” begin to fill us with doubt and fear, jealousy and rage as we get older.
The older we get, the more we seem to close up. The less time we have, the more we seem to guard ourselves instead of throwing ourselves into what ever we can do with whatever time we have left.
We forget that we are lucky to be old- so many others never get that chance. We forget that we can learn from the younger generations instead of always trying to talk about “the old days” and how it “used to be.” We forget that each minute we are given is precious and that maybe we would be better served to imagine, to play, to explore, to accept and to love. Maybe we would be happier if we felt free to play in the mud, paint with our fingers and pretend we are princesses.
We forget that being in church is more important than if we are wearing our tennis shoes while we are there. We forget that it doesn’t matter how good we dance, but how good dancing makes us feel. We forget that a little paint under our nails can be beautiful and that there is really no failure, only lessons.
We forget that although there are definitely life changing issues to deal with, most things are not as important as we make them out to be. We forget that if we all take a moment to sing, dance, paint, play, imagine, and love, some of those important issues will take care of themselves. We forget that even the tough issues can be handled better if we are creative, free, accepting and loving.