loving your childhood self

Eliza Heaton

There’s something to be said about the twisted joy that comes along with teasing your past self. Sharing stories of adolescent embarrassments, remembering the way that your palate expander gave you buck teeth for months or how you were dared to ask your fifth-grade desk partner out on a date. 

You finish recalling these nostalgic tidbits with a grateful sigh and a little prayer of thanks that you finally reached adulthood. 

Finally. 

But what if we were to remember with love instead of repugnance? Looking at one’s childhood self through cringe-ridden glasses enables us to lose the potential connection we should instead work to nurture. I love the way I used to solve my own boredom. Instead of resorting to endless social media stalks and scrolls, I would listen to songs on repeat, tediously writing down the lyrics to songs on the radio because I had no awareness of the ease of googling said lyrics. I felt it was my mission to do it myself. Instead of binge-watching multiple Netflix series, I would explore my backyard, pretending I was running away from home but always returning just in time for dinner (covered in dirt and smiles, of course). 

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 2.28.41 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 2.28.49 PM.png

I love the rush I would feel when I knew I was about to have a playdate with a newfound friend. A note in hand for my friend’s bus driver explaining that I had permission to ride with her, my heart would race. Playdates were filled with crafts, imaginary quests, and Wii Karaoke games. I love the way I would hide in the closet when I heard the doorbell ring, knowing my mother was inevitably on the other side of the door waiting to bring me home. I still swear by the fact that no lawyer can be any more convincing than two friends pleading with their parents to let them turn their playdate into a sleepover. 

I love the way I saw journaling not as a tool needed to ground my mental health but instead as a way I could pretend to be Nikki Maxwell from The Dork Diaries series. I would innocently scribble about the drama of my day, convincing myself I was the protagonist in a teenage movie. There was no need for repeated affirmations of gratitude or stressed-out to do lists spanning page upon page. There was no productivity involved; I wrote for no greater reason than because I wanted to. 

I love the things that kids used to use against me. To say I was eccentric would be an understatement, but many specifics of my childhood have escaped my memory. There is still that familiar twang of sadness when details arise from deep in my mind, but I now choose to reclaim what I used to be made fun of for my own good. 

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 2.42.16 PM.png

I love the way I used to lack self awareness. Imagine keeping your self-confidence in your back pocket rather than always leaving it at home. Imagine never second-guessing sharing your opinion to a crowd of people you barely know. Imagine insisting everyone hear your personal rendition of ‘Secrets’ by OneRepublic on the recess blacktop. Never feeling the need to overanalyze my actions, I was just impulsive enough to be free from self doubt. I would not say introspection is a dangerous thing, but I miss the freedom that ignorance brought. 

I love the person I once was and I am excited to say I have welcomed aspects of her back into my life with open arms. Once deemed too positive and naive, I cling onto optimistic feelings to remain above the clouds of negativity attached to some people’s backs. Once seen as overly dramatic, I now relish performing on stage. Once deemed too ditzy and imaginative, I now use my creativity to my academic advantage. Maturity is a gift, but should never replace our ability to remain curious: I want to think outside the box, to color outside of the lines, to change the rules of the game so that everyone can join in. I am bored of sitting down and shutting up, of refusing to ruffle any feathers for fear of straying from normality.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 2.28.31 PM.png

At the ripe age of 20, I am now faced with so many questions: Will people take me seriously if I let some old characteristics slip out? How do I prevent my childlikeness from shifting into idealism? Development psychologists love to rave about how children crave discipline, but I know adults do as well. With the autonomy to choose how you want to be portrayed, it is easier to live by the rules of what society deems as right. The responsibilities of adulthood are not what scare me – it’s the freedom that does. 

Not to be too philosophical, of course. The rabbit hole that I often fall into when approaching these existential thoughts only keeps me at a stand-still. I think the answer to many of these problems arise once I decide to limit intention and embrace spontaneity: The more I overthink, the less I am behaving like my childhood self.