How to See the World With Awe and Wonder Again
Some simple things you can do right now to make things magical again
My niece is two years old, but I can barley keep up with her. When she puts on her helmet and races to the park on her scooter, she leaves me in the dust. I barely have time to catch up to her before she’s halfway up the play set, heading for the slide. She goes down the slide, smiling and giggling the whole way down. And when she gets to the bottom, she bursts out, “More!” This doesn’t happen once, or twice, or three times. She goes down the slide about 10 times before deciding it’s time to take a break and head for the swing set.
While I don’t have any memories from being two, I have memories from when I was 4 and 5. At those ages, the world was such a magical place. There were so many things to explore and so many new things to see and discover.
I was memorized as a kid watching my mom cook in the kitchen. I would hop on the counter to watch her and ask her if she needed help. I see this in my niece when we’re baking blueberry muffins — she gets so excited to help and her little body shakes with excitement when the muffins rise.
Where is the wonder we used to have as kids? Where has the magic gone? As we get older, the number of new experiences we have dwindles. Often, we favor routine and comfort above all else. These days especially, instead of living in the present and enjoying what’s in front of us, we’re watching the lives of others on our phones or taking a photo we can post on social media.
As I ride my bike to work and run through the streets of San Francisco, I constantly pass by people oblivious to the world around them. Head down staring at their phone, sometimes headphones in both ears, they don’t see the people or places they’re walking by. By staring down instead of looking up, they miss so much of what’s around them, and the opportunity to experience something new and wonderful.
My niece reminds me to be more like a little kid. She isn’t worried about what other people are doing and she’s not staring down at a screen. She’s too busy exploring, meeting new people, and being awed by simple things like the feel of a cold river on her feet.
As we head into 2020, here are some ways to bring back the excitement and magic you had as a kid. While you may not stop mid-run to investigate the noise a cricket makes like a child does, you can find an adult version of excitement and magic.
Leave your phone at home. If you’re walking to a neighborhood restaurant, or taking a walk to the park, do you really need your phone? It doesn’t have to be 100% of the time, but now and then, leave your phone at home so you can be fully present with the people you’re with and the places you’re going. Leave your phone at home and take in the sights and smells on your walk. Rather than checking your social media the next time you’re at the park, just sit on the grass and take in the people and the view.
Remember to look up. A few years ago, I took an architecture tour of Chicago via boat. I was blown away by how much I learned, and saw, just by paying more attention to the tops of buildings. Beautifully designed arches and molding and parapets suddenly became visible.
In the 6th grade, we took an epic road trip across the country. We were driving through the middle of the Utah desert in the summer with no A/c. Even at midnight, it was sweltering hot. We were all in a bad mood and arguing, so my dad pulled over to let us pile out of the car and take a break. I don’t remember what we were arguing about, because as soon as we stepped out, we looked at the skies above and were greeted by the most glorious starry night. Millions and millions of stars filling the night sky. In all my years since, I’ve never seen a night sky as beautiful. I have no pictures of that moment, but the image is forever seared in my mind.
This past year, I’ve looked at more of what’s around me. Try it sometime, now and then. Just look up at the 2nd or 3rd floor of a building. Or let your eyes travel to the very top. Suddenly, you’ll see beautiful murals you’ve missed. You’ll see quotes painted on the side of buildings. You’ll see spires and bay windows and intricate details you’ve been missing.
Take a new route to work. If you walk, or bike, or take public transportation to work, it’s easy to stick with the same routine. It’s predictable and familiar The next time you walk or bike to work, take a different route. Open yourself to discovering some new streets and neighborhoods. For those that take public transportation, try taking a different bus. Do you always take an Uber or Lyft by yourself? Consider getting an Uber pool or Lyft line next time and starting a conversation with your fellow passengers.
Learn something new. When was the last time you learned something new? For years, I’ve told myself I’m not an artist and can’t draw. But then I tried it. And I love it. It’s now something I do to help manage my depression.
Think of something you’ve always wanted to learn. Maybe you want to learn how to do pottery. Or you want to take a woodworking class. Or maybe, after all these years, it’s finally time to sing up for a guitar class. Challenging ourselves is not only good for our mental development, but it’s such a great way to experience something new and potentially magical.
If you want to find magic and excitement again, try making a few small changes. Now and then, leave your phone at home so you can be more present and take in the view. When you’re out and about, don’t forget to look up — there are so many new and beautiful things you’ll see just by glancing up. And start mixing things up. Maybe take a new route to work, or strike up a conversation with a passenger. And try something new — music, art, writing, sailing. Whatever you’ve always wanted to do, try it today and see the impact doing something novel has on your senses of wonder and excitement.
About the Author:
Andrew lives and works in San Francisco. He’s newly married, a big brother in a family with 8 kids, and an uncle to two amazing nieces. A combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he writes about mental health and relationships, and finances. When he’s not working, you can find him running or biking, doing yoga, cooking with his apron on, or adventuring with his amazing wife.