My roommate stopped me as we walked by a park. Kids were rolling down hills, kicking soccer balls, and twirling blissfully. The scent of fresh cut grass lingered in the air. He sighed and said, “Don’t you wish you could be a kid again?”
I’ve worked with kids. As much as I delight in seeing the wonder on their faces, I don’t wish I could be one again. Kids, even in the best family-situations, don’t live a carefree existence. They get mega stressed about getting in trouble. They have very little control over their lives. Monsters are no joke. True, there are joyful aspects to being five or eight. But with each life phase, we have our share of challenges.
Our youth-obsessed culture ignores this concept. Visibly aging is seen as a kind of failure. We are at war with the most fundamental truth of our lives – we change, we age, we die.
Part of this obsession is looking back and wishing to be youthful again. But do you really remember being sixteen or twenty-five? And not just the fun parts like in a blue jean ad where all-American teens seem to live at an everlasting beach bonfire, but all of it. Remember having an identity crisis, fights with parents, and peer pressure? I’ve taught middle school and worked with teens in rehab centers. Young adulthood can be filled with painful experiences ranging from awkwardness to apathy.
I recently read an article where the writer referred to her twenties as the “dark decade.” I laughed out loud with relief. There is so much pressure to be having the time of your life in your twenties but, as many young bloggers and Lena Dunham are beginning to chronicle, your twenties can be a time of uncertainty, crap jobs, and lots of break-ups. And that’s okay.
Take a look at Erik Erikson’s life stages. In each part of our lives, there will be pain and joy.
When you find yourself looking to the past or to the future for happiness, pause. @danielleorner (Click to Tweet!)
What is it about a certain age that you are really longing for? Can you cultivate it now? For example, if you are dreaming about those days when you were ten and your imagination transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary, can you bring more adventure and creativity into your life now? You don’t have to be six to have child-like qualities. Dance when you hear music in the supermarket (I love when babies do this). Roll down that hill.
Or maybe you’re watching a group of teens and thinking if only you could have another shot at nineteen. What is it about that age? Maybe you want the freedom to follow your passions and express yourself. Take a class. Try a new style or discover new music. Teens also have intense friendships. Maybe you’re missing a close-knit circle of peers. Get out there and make new friends or reconnect by hosting a Breakfast Club movie night.
Our society also tends to equate sexiness to youthfulness. Women especially report feeling like they’re “disappearing” as they age. There is so much to say on how this cultural paradigm is damaging. If you find yourself thinking you’ve outgrown your sexuality, it’s time to think again. Pop culture idolizes a clubbed-up version of sexuality where the person who gets the most attention wins. Does that fulfill anyone? Let go of these limiting beliefs so you can rekindle a deeper relationship with yourself and others. Having a Victoria Secret body is not a prerequisite to intimacy and sexual fulfillment. In fact, in many cases, it can be a hindrance. Just do a survey of beautiful teenage girls to see if they feel comfortable in their bodies, safe, and loved.
On the other hand, maybe you can’t wait to grow-up or for the kids to move out or for retirement. Listen to the Trace Adkins’ song You’re Gonna Miss This, where a dad reminds his daughter to cherish each phase of life. Pause and truly enjoy it even if you have ten roomies and you can’t wait to get your own place or the baby smeared poo all over the walls. Do you know how often my family has laughed over the story of my baby brother peeing on my dad? Don’t wait for retirement; take a mini-break now. Don’t wait for your own house; grow a little herb garden now. Kiss that baby or kiss those roomies.
Life will be life. Learn to access joy and peace in the middle of turmoil – there will always be turmoil.
As my favorite yoga teacher is fond of saying, “All is coming and all means all.” Dream big. Heal regret. Give thanks. Realize right now is the best age because who knows what comes next.
Danielle Orner is a writer, actress, motivational speaker, yogi, vegan, cancer survivor, and amputee. Diagnosed with bone cancer at age fifteen, she spent a decade getting scans, surgeries, and chemotherapy treatments. Three years ago, she decided to take an active role in her health researching anti-cancer lifestyles. Currently, she is cancer-free. She doesn’t wait for the six-month scan to tell her she can start living. She’s too busy making impossible things possible. To learn more about Danielle, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Image courtesy of The Grand Damme.