I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to grow up, because I feel like I have spent most of my life wishing that I was bigger and older, that I was more knowledgeable and mature, and now, as I see that transformation actually taking place, I turn around, look back, and am suddenly afraid of losing my child-like wonder and trust.
Ryan’s quote by Kurt Vonnegut inspired a reaction in me, because I think I have a tendency to hold up “childlike playfulness” as an ideal without really understanding what it means. Sometimes I interpret it as the ability to spend hours transfixed by a few blocks or a bouncy ball, to approach a simple object with fathomless curiosity. When I fail to do this, and become bored, it feels like it is because I have lost some critical part of my soul, and am already on my way to becoming one of those terrifyingly dull and unimaginative adults.
What I forget, when I start thinking like this, is that children are approaching many experiences from a fundamentally different point of view. That child playing with a bouncy ball might be playing with one for the very first time. When I play with a ball, it’s a relatively familiar and predictable object, but if it were the first time ever, of course I would be enthralled.
I believe that as an adult I have retained the same curiosity for novel experiences that fueled my playfulness as a child, it’s just that as more of the world becomes familiar, I have to travel further and deeper to find that edge into the unknown. That edge is where I play.