A few years ago, while sifting through boxes of my childhood treasures at my parents’ home, I discovered a journal I kept in third grade. In this journal, we were required to practice our cursive by completing daily prompts our teacher, Mrs. Hamilton, had written on the whiteboard. After perusing a few pages of wonky handwriting and rampant misspellings, I came across this entry: “One place I’d like to visit is…Paris.” I’m not sure why I chose Paris specifically (I’ve yet to visit to this day), but I always think about that prompt and my answer. I wonder how I settled on Paris and what led me to that choice. That then leads me to thinking about the dreams I’ve had for my life and where that’s led me, which, in turn, gives this prompt a special meaning. Let me explain.
Sometimes I think we had a better grasp of what we truly want for ourselves as children than we do as adults. I’m not saying we all had it figured out at eight-years-old, but our ideas still had validity despite what we were told. As children, our imaginations are still bright and pure and hopeful. We don’t measure what we want to be when we grow up by salaries or benefits, but by the wonder of never-ending possibilities. It was a time when we could be an astronaut or a veterinarian or crime fighting pastry chef. From the practical to the outlandish, we were weaving our interests with our ability to dream without fear.
Yet, somewhere along the way, I think we allow the pressures of everyday life to smother that hopefulness. The older we get, the more responsibility is thrust upon us: college, career, bills, mortgage, family, etc. It’s that pressure that might lead us down a different path so we have the means to live comfortably, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what we all want. But, what if we were able to reach back in time and bring some of that imagination that fueled us as children to the present? Imagine the additional joy we’d be able to discover in our careers or in life in general. Imagine what we could be if we let ourselves explore the possibility of being who we always wanted to be. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Despite the inevitability of change, there’s always a glimmer of our childhood selves that remains. The adventurous spirit that made itself known in my third grade writing prompt has continued to have a voice in my life. I’ve traveled to various states throughout the US and to several countries in Europe, two of which I resided in for short period of time. Even as I type this, I’m in the process of moving back to one of those countries (Scotland) for three years to pursue my PhD. Though that’s just one example, it’s enough for me to realize that I’d make my younger self proud. I think she’d be happy about where I am and where I’m going. Even if I decide to dream up something else to mold myself into, she’d be satisfied. That is, as long as I promise to take her on a trip to Paris along the way.