How To Keep Your Inner Child In Adulthood


As I look around my adolescent bedroom for the first time since college graduation, spring cleaning boxes in tow, it’s almost like I can hear Dashboard Confessional blaring out of my old neon green boom box that I got rid of ages ago. For the first time, it seems funny how much insignificant things like my “Homecoming Court 2008” sash or my blue ribbons from pom camp once meant to me—adorning my bright blue walls like proud badges of achievement, these “treasures” are the first thing you see when walking into my pre-pubescent Pottery Barn Teen sanctuary. Now they just look like they belong in an old PB Teen catalog along with my bedspread.

After walking proudly down the stairs of the Breslin Center draped in my Michigan State-green cap and gown, these youthful prized possessions now hold an all new nostalgia and awareness for me. It’s like graduating has given me a new set of eyes, finally allowing me to see just how much I’ve changed in these four chaotic years. Maybe it isn’t just a matter of a few new holes in my ears, some great new friends and a roller coaster ride of memories under my belt like I’ve been telling myself…this truly isn’t who I am anymore. My life will never be the same.

And then—panic. It’s almost like every virtue I’ve defined myself by up until this point is no longer valid. Sorry, but an unwavering belief in having fun at all times no matter what doesn’t apply here. And a passionate dedication to living in the moment won’t get you a job and earn you the money to move out of your parent’s house.

But, what about all of the friendship bracelets I spent hours upon hours making with my own two hands? What about my collection of Young Adult fiction books or my closet full of old journals tattered with ramblings from middle school crushes? Don’t my scrapbooks filled with pictures from grade school or my painting that won an art award in the sixth grade mean anything? Sort: “Childhood” box.

My CD collection, and that one song by Sublime…I can almost taste my first teenage kiss, can hear the summer rain drumming on the threadbare roof of his beat-up car, a car so old and rickety I almost felt rebellious just sitting shotgun in it. I can feel the raw, tear-stained skin of my cheeks as my college boy left me where I belonged: in high school. It’s almost like I did it because I knew it was reckless and would get a rise out of someone—anyone. Sort: “Teenage” box.

Of course there’s a part of me that’s happy I don’t feel the need to date the college guy just to piss my parents off or lock myself in my room for hours at a time just to wallow in the raw power of some silly “emo” band. Instead of living a life where I’m so brutally affected by everything—the comment my crush who rides my bus made about my shirt, my frizzy hair that won’t succumb to the flat iron trend of the early 2000s—I’m finally a working part of something bigger. Something that still involves my love of art and music and my stubborn, rebellious nature, but has since evolved into a story involving resumes, somewhat functional romantic relationships and big goals to achieve. That impassioned side of me, the side of everyone that’s ignited by the first desirous touch of a cautious hand, or the first time behind the wheel of a car or even simply the lyrics to your favorite song, is still there—even if that passion is somewhat buried beneath term papers, job applications and car payments. I’m confident that I’ll always find a way to let my inner child shine, will always remember that kid who’s enchanted by everything life has to offer, even amidst these documents, diplomas and numbers that categorize me as an “adult”.

The final stack of labeled boxes now rests lifelessly in my storage room, but I find solace in knowing that they’re there. These phases of my life may be separated by Sharpie marker and a thin layer of cardboard, but I know that all of my youthful memories merge soundly into my unique life experience—one that is perpetually building on itself and guiding me to the next phase of it all. Sort: “Adulthood” box.

image – aslakr