I’m 22 years old. I can vote, drink, sign contracts and drive — although the driving part is debatable. In all legal and literal aspects, I’m an adult. However, I can’t help but want to act like a child again. As I roam the puddle-ridden Grounds after winter break and admire the ice-crusted branches, I find myself mourning the times when I used to climb trees. Sometimes, I think life would be a lot brighter if I allowed myself to tackle my days the way I would as a child.
To my parents’ exasperation, I used to love climbing trees as a kid. No tree around my elementary school was safe from my grubby little hands. The thrill of lifting my whole body as high as I could was so exhilarating. It was my own sheer will that got me so high up. At its core, climbing trees was just plain fun.
Climbing trees was just one of my many forms of play, though. I also loved playing in the rain and making mud pies. I liked chasing my friends around in a game of tag or sitting in the snow to watch the snowflakes fall until my mom dragged me back inside.
But of course, I grew up. I was taught manners and how to act appropriately in public. I began to have new priorities in life. Study hall replaced recess. I traded my stuffed animals for books. Hanging out in the backyard grew irrelevant as television became my go-to pastime. Somewhere along the way, life lost a little bit of its luster.
Don’t get me wrong — growing up is a natural and necessary part of life. We’re supposed to change. But I still feel nostalgic thinking about the times I did things that children do. When I was little, my parents would clutch my hand to keep me from climbing any tree I saw. Now, I pass dozens of the most tempting, climbable trees without giving them a second thought.
I used to think that at some point in your development, you must leave your old forms of play behind and find new, more mature ways to entertain yourself. For me, that has become doing the New York Times Mini Crossword, for example. But I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to pick one or the other. I think it's about time to stop taking ourselves so seriously and loosen up. Being a grown-up is alright, but sometimes, I want to revert to my more childish, feral roots.
When I go to the pool, I want to sunbathe on a lounge chair as well as play mermaids in the water. I want to go on a hike and watch the creek swell and flow, but also crouch on the ground to look for freaky bugs. If I have the right boots on, of course I’m going to jump in a massive puddle on my way back from class. I want to abandon the sidewalk every once in a while to pull myself onto the highest branch of a tree.
At the end of the day, I just want to have fun. What’s the point of being alive if it doesn’t feel like you’re truly living life? Having fun and being childish doesn’t detract from my intellect and maturity. I can ace my classes and climb trees — they’re not mutually exclusive.
I want to start approaching life with more playfulness. Maybe it won’t always mean climbing trees, but I hope after reflecting on this I will allow myself to let loose more often. I hope that you will let yourself have fun too. If you’ve been secretly wishing to do that stupid little hobby or activity that you’ve always felt too embarrassed to do — like building a sandcastle on the beach with your fully grown friends — this is your sign. Do it. Take the leap. Have fun and have a bit of a child’s heart. I think we all might be a little bit happier if we just climbed more trees.
Cecy Juárez is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.