Saturday, May 28, 2011

Childhood Dreams




Not long ago, a reader of this blog told me, “I want to be you when I grow up.” This was in response to a post I wrote about an interesting experience I had exploring ruins in a less-visited corner of Yucatán.


My thought after reading this and some other similar remarks was,  "All I really am doing is the kind of stuff I dreamed about doing when I was a kid." I've realized it's not about "growing up." In fact, just the opposite. It's about throwing off the weight of inhibitions and expectations society places upon us as we mature. It's about going back to the sense of fun, discovery and adventure in daily living that we had as kids.


Children live in the moment. Relationships are incredibly important. They don't search fruitlessly for fulfillment in the accumulation of status or possessions. They give little thought to others' opinions about what they are doing. And primarily for these reasons, kids live more intensely and have a lot more fun than adults.


These thoughts returned to me recently. I sat, half dozing, aboard the Alaska State Ferry Fairweather, sailing from Sitka to Juneau, when suddenly the vessel’s horn blew. The weather was calm and the trip uneventful. Thinking that there must be another vessel or an obstacle ahead made me curious, so I got up and walked to a forward window to see what was happening. Another passenger, who’d moved to the window at the same moment, stood briefly by my side. We gazed together into the distance. There was nothing visible. We looked at each other, both shrugged, and went back to our seats.

A few minutes later the other passenger came up to me, smiling. He’d talked to a crew member. “A little girl wanted to blow the ship’s horn, so the captain let her do it,” he explained.

Immediately I remembered an occasion some years back when I was in Skagway, Alaska, shooting footage for a video production aboard a working steam locomotive of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. After I had finished, impulsively I asked the engineer if I could toot the whistle. He laughed, gestured to the handle, and said, "be my guest." For a moment I again was a kid of five scooting along the floor in a cardboard-box locomotive, wearing a blue-and-white-pinstripe "engineer" hat and hollering "Woooo-oo-WOOOOOOO."

It was a childhood fantasy fulfilled, and probably the experience that first prompted me to think about the virtues of acting less like an adult and more like a kid.

Looking back at the most engaging activities I have been involved with in my life, it occurs to me that many of these are exactly the things I most wanted to do at the age of eight or ten. Unfortunately when we hit our teen years we often get distracted from these childhood passions as social pressure and then school, family responsibilities and having a job further distance us from the things that really toot our horn, so to speak.

I think that we can enjoy life more and find more meaning when we decide stop acting so grown up, and feel freer to live out our dreams. I guess I will never be an astronaut, but I have managed to incorporate several of my other childhood passions into my life. And equally important, I think that the process has helped me recover a little of the childish sense of wonder and adventure that makes even the mundane and everyday seem worthwhile.

11 comments:

  1. This is wonderful, you have put into words exactly how I feel but could never verbalize. Thank You!

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  2. Nice post.

    Somewhere around my 40th birthday I decided I was taking life far too seriously. No. I was taking myself far too seriously. So, I decided to put an end to it. And it was a great turning point.


    I must admit that I often come across now as something of an eccentric. Or, as a former girl friend called me, "perpetually a 12 year old." I took it as a compliment. (She didn't mean it that way. Thus her honorific as "former.")

    But I am thoroughly enjoying life by paying attention to where I am right now -- ignoring the past and not wasting time on the future.

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  3. Thank you for your wonderful comments Carlos Q and Pat Q and Ron.

    Steve, perhaps eccentric or "twelve year old" is what many perceive, or what they say, but I think at heart they are jealous. You are having the time of your life and I expect that most of those who make those comments are folks who have not managed to unburden themselves of a lot of the baggage they accumulated growing up.

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  4. Well seen, well said.

    ~eric.

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  5. Great post, Alaskan/Marc,

    The last sentence is my favorite -- "And equally important, I think that the process has helped me recover a little of the childish sense of wonder and adventure that makes even the mundane and everyday seem worthwhile."

    Yes, there is wonder in so many small places right here, everywhere.
    And these wonders can be so individualized. (My favorite, still, involves pigeons.)

    You are actually highlighting the benefit of introversion--we introverts find nature so engaging and thrive on peaceful periods.

    Thanks for the post.

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  6. I don't plan on ever growing up. I want to stay 12 forever. It's way more fun being young at heart.

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  7. Hi Marc... a great thought provoking, memory inducing post! Thank you

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  8. This is lovely and inspirational as well. Under normal circumstances, I have little trouble retaining my inner 10 year old. Lately, I find that life keeps intervening in the most serious ways. The 10 year old wants to run off and play, to escape, and the demands of this life I've got prevent her from doing so. I am beginning to think that it is relationships that complicate life. While there is enormous good in connections to others, those connections always seem to come with obligations and demands. And needs. At least in my life. For now. I have a recurring dream of hopping on a train going anywhere. I'd sit on top of a box car with the wind in my hair and the sun on my back and just go. Escape. Freedom. Thus far in my life, still just a dream.

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  9. Excellent! When I was a kid I always wanted to be an explorer, and you have helped me to realize that I have accomplished that!

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  10. As good a reminder today as it was a year ago.

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