On a recent family outing to an adventure playground, I overheard an older lady make a point that I've heard mentioned in various forms over the last few years: You never lose the child inside you. Even with her old bones and aching muscles, I could see a yearning on her face that so many of us can only relate to when we watch children playing with the care-free zest we once did.
The way that life disables us from living as we age is a sickening truth to digest.
In a writing task I initiated with a class recently, they were given a series of questions and unfinished sentences to get them thinking creatively and imaginatively. One of the incomplete sentences stated simply, "When I grow up I will..." and this statement for many students, formed the basis of an exciting discussion about the future.
If I had been given that very statement at aged 12, I doubt I would have been able to finish the sentence; I may have written something down to fit in, but honestly, I hadn't a clue what I wanted to do. I think back to 12 year old me and wonder what she would think if I could tell her that I would eventually become a Teacher, would she be happy? I'm not too sure that she would. I'm not sure it would have filled 12 year old me with much enthusiasm or inspiration back then, regardless of what I know about the profession now. Growing up always appeared such an attractive prospect at age 12: the freedom to make decisions, a world of choice being so readily available, the idea of money and parties, driving, alcohol and the option to eat fast food whenever I should desire.
All of these things are great; freedom and independence is liberating, but of course, responsibility comes hand in hand with independence. At age 12, you somehow have this confidence in your future adult self that you will find responsibility a doddle and that you will know exactly what you want to do with your life; that you will somehow navigate your life into a safe and exciting destination with ease. I think back to 12 year old me who had no idea of what she wanted to do or be when she grew up and I know that the child inside lives on. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
I know that I love taking my child to the park and jumping on the swing alongside her to blow away all of my responsibilities for a moment or two, I know that when she has her first trampoline, I'll be eager to get on it myself, I know that licking the bowl after making cornflake cakes is just as fun as it used to be. What better proof is there that the child inside lives on?
Maybe if I could sit next to 12 year old me now, pen poised in a similar lesson to the one I taught recently, I would tell her that when she grows up she will want to do all of the things that already make her happy. That when she grows up she will enjoy playing on the swings, collecting shells on the beach, she'll still love glitter pens, singing into the hairbrush and reading and writing stories.
I also know that I put far too much stock in the future grown up me now who will at some point make the decision to break away from teaching in the pursuit of something more fulfilling and fun. I feel guilty in writing that, as what could be more fulfilling than teaching the children of our future? But I guess that's another blog entry. I know that when I grow up and grow old, I'll be happy to have lived a successful life, but all I'll really want to do is to play on the adventure playground.