Someday When I’m An Adult

Playing was important to me as a kid.

I never thought of is as playing, but more as freedom from everything else.

“Playing” was such a broad term term adults put on this thing kids did. All the rules from parents and teachers, homework and chores, none of it applied when I played. I was free.

Cleaning up was an annoyance, adults were confusing and grumpy, and my life was full of promises to future self that….one day, when I’m an adult, things would be be different.

And here I am, and yes they are.

Now the question I wonder every day of my adult life is, “when I’m 60 and look back on my life, will I feel good about how I spent my time here?”

There are always things to get done and boxes to check, but did I really use the time I was given to live with passion and imagination?

This question always leads me inexorably back to what was important to me as a kid.

Having kids of my own makes it much easier and less weird to “play” as an adult (so I’m in luck there), but this “need to be responsible” thing is something I always have to consider. Someone has to make sure everyone gets enough sleep, eats “sorf-of” healthy food and stays away from the bad things until they’re physically and mentally prepared to deal with them.

As a grown-up, I now see the challenges grown-up face, which kids don’t fully understand (yet), and I didn’t then. For example, some people are mean, traffic is infuriating, and things like paying bills really sucks. Work is usually no fun, and planning for the future tends to take away from the pool of money available for doing fun things right now.

What I loved about playing as a kid wasn’t the actual act of whatever I was doing. It wasn’t the bike riding, the city of micro-cars, or the really fun dangerous playground equipment we don’t seem to have anymore (except in American small towns who never took it out).

What adults called “playing”, I would’ve described more articulately as freedom, or put another way, no one was telling me what to do.

I didn’t have to think about anything except what I wanted. Someone else was taking care of the “other stuff” like laundry or dinner, and all I had to do was not get hit by a car on my bike. If I wanted to write, I could that, or if I wanted to head down the block and raid my grandma’s candy dish, it’s what I did.

I know grown-ups impose these oppressive, freedom-restricting weights on purpose, and to an extent, and it has to be this way. Sometimes I have to be the oh-so-big-and-important-adult so things get done.

But this mental exercise of time travel consultation back to a committed promise of a nine-year-old-me to my future self (now), is a reminder that checking all the boxes everyday doesn’t have to be the daily focus.

It’s so easy to make “getting things done” the reason for doing things. But making everything run is not always the means to the end.

I’d like to think when I’m 60 and I look back on my life, these years will be filled with invention, exploration, and foolishness. I’ll re-evaluate the promises I make now to my future self, and hopefully only have to make minor adjustments.

Start.

photo credit: Florence I Italy via photopin (license)

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Originally published at ryanknightsmith.wordpress.com on March 16, 2016.

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