There is something to be said about the magic of childhood, when every book you cracked open was an actual gateway to another world, every film you watched utterly immersing, every experience delightful, every bad experience quickly forgotten. Fairies really did flicker in glints and glitters at the bottom of your garden, your parents were gods who held up the moon and the stars, and the world had not yet grown its teeth.
Before reality seeped in and we “grew up”, life was a delight. Unlike the adults of today, very few children, unless they grow up in abusive households or harsh environments, are depressed, let alone anxious. During my brief stint as a teacher, what struck me most, and made me the most happy at the end of each lesson, was the sheer, frolicking happiness and boundless creativity of the children. They live entirely in the moment, as we all once did. Wherever I looked, smiles greeted me like tiny suns, a phenomenon you would be hard put to find in an office crammed with men and women tapping at keyboards.
We lose that innate joy as we grow older, is what I am trying to say, and it is an awful shame. If adults saw the world through the eyes of a child, perhaps our planet would be plagued by fewer problems: Let’s not cut down the trees because the birds need them to live in; let’s share our toys with everyone; let us all play together, beneath the sun, laughing and shouting. Instead, what we have, most of the time, is suffering and war, whilst millions of the well-off slave away at jobs they dislike in order to fill their houses with fancy toys, almost like petulant, overgrown children.
I wish, like everyone, that I could return to that halcyon age, when every day was an adventure, and fun the agenda. It could be argued that the reason parents enjoy seeing their children happy is not only out of simple parental concern, but because it reminds them of how they saw they world when they were their son or daughter’s age. My younger self would never have dreamed of killing herself to escape this world, or found it anxiety-inducing just to go down to the shops.
That is why it is important, I think, to tap into your inner child now and again; deep inside, we are all still that little girl and boy; only to survive we wear our big, adult selves like armor against the world. So perhaps next time you feel the urge to take out a piece of paper and doodle a bit – do it. Next time you take a stroll in the park, look and gaze at everything in wonder, from the way the sunlight winks between the branches to the feel of the gravel beneath the soles of your shoes. Treat yourself to some ice-cream or an icy-pole (or Popsicles, if you’re American). Dance around in your room to some music you listened to as an eleven-year-old. Re-read some of your favourite childhood books.
It is good to remember how we were as children; it will make us kinder, happier, more loving. Any negative emotion we experience these days, be it competitiveness, or jealousy, or hatred, are but products of our adult society, and not a true reflection of who we are on the inside.
On some level, it is as if we have forgotten ourselves, forgotten the joy and beauty of life and other people, brainwashed by the media and the constant negativity it pours down our throats, scared and isolated in our big cities like children sent to our rooms to be punished. We have lost the spark. Nowadays people stare as if you are peculiar or “not right in the head” if you gush over a garden of flowers, or stop in the middle of the footpath to lift your face up to the sky, letting the sunlight warm your cheeks. Our eyes are affixed to our phones now, or on the ground, or into the distance, in contemplation of the non-existent future or some other misery.
Having a doodling session or eating a bowl of ice-cream with the same spoon-licking delight of a toddler might not change much in your life. In the middle of doodling your phone might ring, or after looking at the label on the tub, you might decide not eat the ice-cream – you do need to watch your weight, after all. After reading this, you will probably go on living your life as you have always done: eyes on the ground, ignoring the beautiful sky.
And that is okay, because we all have responsibilities we must tend to, trials and tribulations to face. Even children get sad sometimes, or do not feel like drawing. But what you must not lose is the essence of childhood, which is the delight of being alive, breathing and existing. You must not forget to smile. You must not forget to appreciate the world you see around you each time you wake up in the morning. You must not forget how it was to be and feel happy, not because you received a raise or bought a house or have a holiday planned, but simply for the sake of happiness itself.