The concept of time is very perplexing because we only ever experience the present. We are the same people now that we were when we were three years old, it’s just that our compilation of experiences from different present moments have shaped us and our minds into who we are today.
Realizing this at even a surface level is enough to make your mind spin a bit. But it’s an important concept to understand because it teaches us that we are the same person as the chubby-cheeked baby staring back at us in our old photos.
The happiness, freedom, and joy we felt as children is still within us.
We’re still the same person, though we’re older and have accumulated an innumerable amount of experiences.
Find a photo of yourself when you were a smiling, bubbly little kid. Would you ever wish something bad on that little human? Would you ever tell them that they aren’t good enough? That their body is wrong? That they’ll never be what they want to be? Would you do anything to purposely take away their smile?
Why do we tell these things to ourselves now? Why do we torture ourselves mentally with self-deprecating thoughts? Why do we feel as if we aren’t able to connect to that same level of childhood giddiness?
The joy of childhood that we are so desperately missing is the lack of obsession with anything other than the present moment.
As a child, you were only focused on what you were doing. Do you remember being constantly concerned about what previously happened or what might happen in the future? No. You were fixated fully on the toys in front of you or the candy in your hand. You were intrigued by the colors and feelings of the present moment.
As adults, we’ve been taught to take things for granted. We go into autopilot and our minds fill in our reality with what we’ve learned to expect. We don’t see the vibrance of flowers and trees, because we don’t really pay attention to them anymore. Our minds know the concept of trees, so we just accept that they’re there. We don’t really look at them. When you actually do take the time to stop and look at anything, you might notice just how much color and detail has gone unnoticed.
Self-isolation and shelter at home has flipped the world as we know it upside down and it’s shown just how much we can take for granted. Going out to get a smoothie became a small errand – not an exciting opportunity to experience a fresh, delicious treat. Remember going out for ice cream as a kid? And how exciting the experience was? We take stuff like that for granted. We’re no longer present when we do these things because we just got so out of touch and made them into an expectation rather than an experience.
It’s become normal for people to talk about missing how happy they were in childhood – but the truth is that the child version of ourselves is always within us. We can find that same sense of joy, wonder, awe, and open-mindedness that defined our childhood and gave it such a magical, vibrant flare before life experiences and societal beliefs shut off our access to presence and joy.
Why waste the rest of your life pining over how you felt in the past when you can access those feelings again right now?
Being fixated on the past gives us regret, guilt, resentment, and limiting beliefs. Being fixated on the future gives us anxiety, worry, and stress. Learning to truly live in the present – like you did when you were a child – will help bring back that same level of joy experienced from even the most basic simplicities of daily life.
Likewise, treat yourself with the same amount of love, acceptance, and forgiveness that you give the baby version of you. Inside all of us is the child version of ourselves, wanting nothing more than happiness, comfort, and fixation on the present moment.