A big problem with getting older is the feeling we’ve lost ourselves. The older we get, the less we remember what gets us super revved up and excited. This happens after years and decades of turning up the volume on all the well-intentioned advice from family, friends, and our very protective brain.
What happens then is that we turn the volume way down on the little urges and flickers of ideas that may seem impractical/crazy/impossible/far-fetched/unattainable/for other people even if they spark a feeling of excitement.
It’s not fun to get to a certain point in your life and either have no earthly clue what you want to be doing, or realize that you’ve been forcing yourself to stay in one situation when deep down you knew it wasn’t a true fit for you. I think so many of us hit this point because it’s so much easier to believe the stories we are told as we grow up. It’s so much less easy to question everything we hear and run it through a personal belief radar.
Is it actually true that I’m not good at singing, or did I just hear my mom tell me one too many times that I’m like her and can’t carry a tune? (Okay, I finally figured out that I have no business singing in front of anyone but my husband to torture him, but oh, how I clung onto that story forever without challenging it.)
What about writing? I was always told I was the artist and my sister was the writer. I didn’t discover my love for writing until I randomly started a blog when I was 38.
Think back to when you were a kid, and time seemed to go on forever, the future was forever away, and you easily became absorbed in whatever caught your fancy. If your interest was maintained, you naturally kept exploring and probing and learning.
You didn’t think about whether or not you were the right fit for whatever you were interested in. My 9 year old, who is massively obsessed with dinosaurs right now doesn’t stop in the middle of rattling off some facts and names to inquire whether he should be spending his time learning about dinosaurs because he probably won’t become a Paleontologist. He’s fucking fascinated by dinosaurs, and he’s gonna ride that passion because he wants to. He’s going to take his 40 million dinosaur toys and act out every last scene in Jurassic World, and whatever amazing chemicals that causes to flow through his brain, and whatever amazing neurons are firing pew! pew! pew! perfectly align with who he is, what he’s drawn to, and he doesn’t really ponder it much further than that.
When I was a kid, here’s what gave me the warmest, happiest, safest, flowiest feelings I can think of:
- Making cozy little forts for one in my closet and reading
- Hiding up in a tree so no one could see me and reading
- Hiding in my back yard garden under a tree with a box of sugary cereal and reading
- Clearing everything out from a shelf in a tall cabinet, pulling up a stool, and setting up a cozy, hidden desk complete with perfectly organized office supplies
- Arranging and rearranging my bedroom furniture ad nauseam, holing up in my bed, and reading
(Uh oh we’re back to reading)
Can you see a pattern? Can you tell I’m a complete and utter introvert? Just thinking about curling up in a comforter with an iced green tea and my laptop or a book or a notepad and pen makes me the happiest lass in all the land.
Do you think I’ve ever been happy at jobs where I’m around a lot of people and talking a lot and there’s a lot of commotion and noise? Oh my god, the horror.
I do my very best work when I have my own space, absolute quiet, and a whole open alone day ahead of me, with plans of writing and reading and painting.
Let’s turn this over to you now. You have probably already started to think back to third grade and whatever gave you the thrills. I challenge you to go one step further and write all of this out. Here. I made you a printable with some questions to write about, but don’t feel like you need to stop there. Write until your fingers bleed if you’re moved to.
Remember to add in little details. Remember to sit back a few times while writing and see what just pops into your mind. Bonus points if you think of something that gives you a little spark of feeling.
Take some time to read over your list and compare it to things you are doing today. Does anything align in an interesting way? Can you see any patterns?
When you go in depth with exploring something by writing it all out, you discover cool little details you may not remember consciously, or you can also find similarities and common threads that you might not notice if you don’t write it out and really focus on it fully for a bit.
think about write a list of all sorts of things you are curious about that you have rejected or shelved for whatever reasons. Do any of these line up with some of your childhood interests? Think about how you can incorporate them into your life now. Even as a hobby or something you watch a few YouTube videos about tonight.
Good Idea: If you’re a parent, keep a running list of activities and situations where you notice your kid really come alive. They’ll thank you for this information in the future.