Last night I watched my husband receive an award for his first feature film. Making movies is a dream he's had since he was a little kid, and of course, I couldn't help but think about the 8-year-old who would have been jumping up and down at something so long sought coming true.
It got me thinking about those eight-year-olds in all of us--what they wanted, what they hoped for. Some psychologists suggest that the ages from 8-10 are a time when we are our most authentic selves, the last breath of our truest individuality before the indignities of middle school and high school set in. I like to imagine sitting down for lunch with my younger self and seeing if she would like me. She wrote stories about headstrong girls who loved horses and the library. And I like to think she'd be delighted to see her grown-up self a writer, and the proud owner of a red bicycle (with baskets!). So far, I think I've done her proud. Here's how to use your own eight-year old self as a compass for your current life:
- Stop smoking. Smoking is bad. Every kid knows that. And little kids are kind of judgmental about their strict understanding of right and wrong. Don't do it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it will make you die, and kids don't like death. (Word on the street is adults don't either.)
- Follow your own fashion rules. I love the way little girls dress. They'll pair their favorite striped tights with their glittery maryjanes and a polka dot dress. They wear what they like, and their concept of "matching" is pretty loose. You don't need to start dressing like a crazy lady, but do let your personal preferences for color and shape win out over what "everyone else" is wearing.
- Go outside and play. What we were doing for all those hours when adults instructed us to "go outside and play?" I was making "stew" from twigs, dirt, and honeysuckles (is it any real wonder that cooking is one of my adult passions?). Find room for the natural world in your daily routine, like sinking your fingers into rich garden dirt or just popping out for a walk during your lunch break.
- Do your homework first. It was a drag to start in on our long division right after our afternoon snack, but this was an important lesson: By doing what had to be done first, we played guilt-free once the books were put away. Fast forward a few years and we were staying up all night before an exam trying to understand a semester of chemistry. But when we were young, we did a little bit every day. Whatever it is you want in your adult life, whether to keep your house tidier, paint, or have a wider circle of friends, do the "homework" every day.
- Play "make believe." I know an adult couple who scratch the imagining itch by inviting friends over to read movie screenplays over wine and cheese. You can boost your imagination by something less organized and less public simply by trying out new recipes or taking a new route to work. It's just about breaking out of your day in, day out routine and thinking outside the predictable box. A kid would turn that box into a fort; maybe you should, too.
- Live by your kid conscience. Kids really have an indignant sense of right and wrong; they respect the social order that keeps life humming along civilly. They stand in line, raise their hands, say please and thank you. Unless you were the school bully, your eight-year-old self wouldn't cut someone off in traffic, stiff the waitress, or cop 'tude just because you're running late. You know in cartoons how there's an angel on someone's shoulder advising what to do? If you live your life by the rules of your younger self, chances are pretty good you'll be doing the right thing, acting with dignity, honor, and politesse. Girl Scout's honor.
Do what you love. Kids know how to have fun. They live in the moment and have recreation built into their lives. They play soccer and take ballet. They get lost in books and take time to finger paint, all because it's fun and because they love it. Consult what you loved as a kid. Maybe it still resonates with you today, or maybe you need to take up the adult version. Find time for that passion, that sense of delight and play.
- Believe in magic. Kids have an infectious sense of wonder at the world. They seem equally delighted by caterpillars and Santa Claus. Can you suspend your jaded seen-it-all-on-a-reality-show attitude to marvel at a bouquet of fragrant roses or the sense that maybe, just maybe, there's something grand at work in the universe? People change the world; when you were a kid, you wanted to be part of that. Summon that eight-year-old scrappy self-confidence and remember that you wanted to be a part of making the world just a little bit of a better place.
Get more from Real-Life Makeover>>
Photo credit: Getty Images