Throughout our lives, we are told to grow up. This is college. It’s time to find that internship, update your resume and make a LinkedIn. There are so many things we must do to act like adults, and preparing for the “real world” becomes less fun. When you look at life from the perspective of tasks that must be completed, people that must be pleased, and have a no-nonsense attitude. Life can sound quite boring.
But, it doesn’t have to be.
Everyone talks about appreciating the little things — that’s the key to happiness. Yet who sees the little things? Who is curious about anything and everything? Children.
Cliché aside, embracing your inner child is truly one of the best choices you can make to change your outlook on life. I started acting like a kid again this summer, and the world is so much more breathtaking.
It started on a volunteer trip in Hawai’i, where a guide encouraged us to “let out our inner child.” I was away from home, surrounded by people I had never met before, and I decided to dive headfirst into this sentiment.
Next thing I knew, I was swinging from the branches of a tree, scrambling through caves where no others went, observing the flowers, letting waves crash over me and asking questions about all the plants I didn’t recognize. I had forgotten what it was like to feel the grass on my bare feet. Who cares what anyone else thinks? I’m having fun. Suddenly, the world was so much more alive.
Even as I returned home to Ohio, I continued to explore. I climbed rocks in the woods — falling wasn’t even on my mind. I looked into the creeks and saw all of the little fish while hearing the birds chirp above me. How incredible that there’s so much wildlife right near my house. I used to ride my bike everywhere before I got my license, and I went on my first ride for pure enjoyment in years. I remembered that reading is a lot of fun when you let yourself get lost in the world the author creates.
A huge part of embracing this wonder about the world around me, I realized, was being fully present. It is not just about appreciating the present moment; it is about fully immersing yourself within it. Go back to looking at your life without the framework of habit, and everything becomes so new and wonderful.
How cool is it that I can type on a computer? The colors of the flowers outside my window are amazing. I just saw a turtle on my walk. Turtles are so cool. The music I’m listening to makes me want to dance. So, I will.
Let me walk across this log without shoes on, balancing above the water. Let me learn about this bug and that tree. There are so many different trees. How did they all get here? I want to spend time with my friends. We can laugh together at the smallest things, without a care in the world. The sun will rise again tomorrow, and I can do it all over again.
In a perfect world, I would spend my days climbing mountains, hiking in the woods and exploring the corners of the Earth. But I am not doing that right now. What I have discovered this summer is that instead of constantly searching for something way out there, you can explore what you have right in front of you.
Everyone has their own dreams, and it’s important to never let go of them. But it is just as important to realize that where you are right now is amazing as well. There is so much life, so much curiosity, so much joy all around us.
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Obviously, this change of mindset is a huge help to make your life so much more interesting. But what really does it for me is curiosity about the natural world. Is that not at the root of human existence? There is so much to learn, so much to see, even in your own backyard. The world is magnificent, and treating each moment as if it’s your first time experiencing it will make you so much more excited about this life.
Stop being so serious about your life. Embrace your childlike wonder about the world.
Sam Norton is a junior Biology major with an Environmental Science co-major and a Journalism minor. He has written for The Miami Student opinion section and magazine, and is the editor for the newly created GreenHawks section. He is a student of the Honors College and has won a regional SPJ Mark of Excellence award for his opinion columns.