We may have dreamed of castles and flying carpets as kids, but what we really wanted was a lot simpler: We wanted adventure, possibility, fun, and a few good friends to share it with. Regardless of how your life looks now, you can have those things. It starts with how you choose to be today, and what you choose to do with what you have.
That’s how you learned back then. You explored and tried on different hats, and rarely said the word “can’t” unless your mom was calling you in for dinner. If something sounded fun, you were game.
Open up to fun again. Be silly, playful, creative, curious, excited, adventurous, and open. Give your overworked adult mind a break and enjoy experimenting. Finding new possibilities isn’t a cerebral experience. The only way to create a life that will bring you joy is to use your joy as a compass.
2. Invite the new kid to your table at lunch.
Okay, maybe you didn’t do this one. We all wanted to belong back then, and that usually meant staying with the group. But sometimes it backfired on you. Sometimes the new kid was fun. Sometimes the new kid was a great friend. Sometimes the new kid had parents who rented bounce houses for their birthdays.
If you only allow yourself to interact with people you know and trust, your world will remain small, albeit manageable. You never know what experiences new acquaintances might introduce you to—and you never know when an acquaintance may turn into a friend that feels like home.
3. Don’t ditch gym class.
It was in the curriculum for a reason: it’s good for you. Shocker, I know! Dodge ball was more than just an opportunity to knock your friends out and be the last kid standing. It got your blood pumping, gave you an energy outlet, and increased your overall health.
You can’t do anything in life if you’re too sluggish to get off your couch. This is nothing new—we all know that exercise is good for us. If you need additional motivation not to sit on the bench, consider these hidden benefits of exercise: research has shown even moderate exercise can boost the immune system and prevent chronic illness.
4. Don’t jump off a bridge just because your friends are doing it.
You don’t want to think of people you love as negative, complacent, or stagnant, but many of them probably are. Thoreau said the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation—and as bleak as that may sound, there’s some truth to it. The majority of people don’t do what they want to do, and feel most comfortable surrounding themselves with similar people.
Don’t be a similar person. Love and accept them as they are, but decide to do it differently. There’s no good reason to be quietly desperate when you can be boldly satisfied. That’s not to say achieving what you want will be easy; but you will respect and admire yourself more when you’re actively living out loud, if not yet in results, in the process.
here is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.
And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing—for the last time—the song to that person.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well. You may feel a little warbly at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you’ll find your way home.
You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.
You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.
But that’s all.
Light trails of glowsticks shown through the movement of the water.