misspent youth

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Photo by J. Chau, taken at the Anti-Mall in Irvine, CA

I remember playing with dolls and cars; winning the games of hopscotch and what mom was cooking for dinner were the only things I cared about. Days spent outside in the sun with my friends in the neighborhood are the things that shape me to who I am today. We learn how to deal with social situations as children, and we develop the skills we need later in life. We decide who we want to be and what we want to do in the world. It is during your childhood that you are painted from the bottles of paint sitting in your parents’ garage.

My teenage years are marked with school and homework. Done are the days outside; most of mine are spent indoors in front of a computer screen, trying to finish an assignment due in half an hour. I care more about which brand of instant ramen takes the fastest to cook, rather than what my mom has on the stove. Time spent chasing butterflies as children is replaced with time spent chasing that Ivy League college acceptance letter. The acrylic paints making up who you are replaced with water colors and made more “sophisticated.”

I spend the first years of adulthood settling into my job, my house, my life. “Wake up, eat breakfast, work, lunch, work, leave work, work out, go home, shower, eat, sleep, wake up, eat…” drones on in my head. There are not nearly as many moments that I spend just winding down. Weekdays spent doing work, weekends spent working ahead. Sleep thrown away in favor of late night de-stressing with books or movies. It is during adulthood that color bleeds from your canvas.

Where does it all go? Why does it all go? What holds onto the color during our youth that we lose during our adolescence and adulthood?

The answer society provides us with?

maturity

The real answer?

play

It’s no surprise that the days where we feel most alive as adults are the ones without work, spent on vacation or with our friends. That is play. So is that game of hopscotch or tag from the fifth grade, so is that day spent wandering the streets with your friends in the eighth grade. Play, by its truest definition, is self directed and uncontrolled. It brings spontaneity and fun into a otherwise monotonous life. It leaves as we grow older because of the society that we live in. Everyone is inclined to think that play is only for children, that the main goal in our lives is to find a job and make money. Play is often seen as a negative thing because it is “immature.”

Play is not only for children. Age should not restrict how much fun you’re allowed to have. Of course, we can’t spend all day playing, as adults, but as we grow older, we should still be encouraged to have fun, to balance out the workload that piles up with age. We need to spend our lives more in the moment than trying to figure out what needs to happen too far into the future. Collectively, as a society, we need to spend more of their time finger painting instead of rushing through a sketch of the world. It is when we take time from our day to play that we continue to develop, and instead of fading into a sketch, we grow into a mural with vibrant colors and lessons learned painted deep into our canvas.

 

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