It’s a Friday afternoon in 2009. You’re walking home from school listening to Owl City’s Fireflies through cheap night market earphones connected to your bulky iPod 4. You arrive at your house, fling your Jansport school bag onto the floor and grab the remote to turn on your favourite show—Sticky TV. Munching away on your delicious snacks of Tiny Teddies and that 50 cent bag of gummy lollies you bought from the dairy on the way home, you sink into the comforting folds of the family couch, looking forward to the fun weekend you’ve got lined up…
Life was pretty damn good back in 2009. Homework consisted of thrashing your mates at Mathletics on the weekend, friendship drama could be solved by your local playground’s peer mediator and the most stressful part of the school term was deciding what leggings-under-shorts combo to wear for Mufti-day. It’s strange to remember a life that wasn’t dictated by a Google Calendar schedule, numbers of a GPA, or figures in a bank account… unsurprisingly for many of us, our childhood feels like something from a parallel universe—how was life once upon a time so simple and easy?
Nevertheless, nostalgia is a double-edged sword. It triggers both fuzzy feelings of longing for the past as well as crushing and spiralling disappointment that leaves you feeling shit about your current life. It’s also cunning and manipulative, smoothing out major imperfections and glossing over any undesirable bumps in the past through its deceitful rose-tinted lens. In retrospect, the “good old days” can seem like some faraway paradise that’s better than reality in every possible way. Yet, none of our childhoods were ever perfect. For many of us, our upbringing was, unfortunately, the source of a great deal of trauma and suffering.
So what can nostalgia teach us in spite of its romanticising qualities? Are we forever stuck feeling like hamsters endlessly running on their wheel in this game called “adulting”? Fear not friends, all hope is not lost! Let me introduce to you the magical and life-changing powers of—insert cheesy jazz hands—honouring your inner child!
Before you avert your eyes from this page or scoff at the pretentiousness of what I just said—hear me out. As hippie-dippie as it may sound, honouring your inner child simply means recognising and valuing what brought you joy as a kid. It’s honestly the best method of self-acceptance and self-care you can implement into your everyday life. Not only is it effective and therapeutic, above all, it’s also actually realistic and easy to stick to.
Regardless of how great your childhood actually was, much of the joy we experienced as kids stemmed from engaging in hobbies that truly brought us joy. Not only did these activities make us happy, they also played a crucial role in shaping the passions and interests we have currently and likely continue to have for the remainder of our lives. If you’re into art as an adult, it’s highly probable that you were also into some form of creative expression as a kid, like finger-painting or peeing pretty patterns in the sandbox. If you’re into stonks as an adult, it’s highly probable you were either dropped on your head as a baby or you stole other kids’ lunch money for fun. Whatever it is that tickles your pickle, hobbies are an important tool for practising self-love. If you have the financial means and the time, get back into that hobby you used to love as a child to re-introduce some of that childlike wonder back into your everyday life. Whether this is trampolining, baking, swimming or eating glue—no activity is too childish as long as it helps you synthesise some extra serotonin! A side note: if you’re going to eat glue for fun, make sure to double-check that you’re consuming the non-toxic kind or else you might end up figuratively and literally glued to the toilet seat later.
That saying of “time well spent is not time wasted” is in my opinion incredibly wise in the scary adult world that underestimates and dismisses the value of leisure. If a hobby you used to love doing as a kid brightens your day then it definitely deserves a spot in your daily schedule. A great idea is to modify these hobbies to fit into your current lifestyle. Something I used to love as a kid was playing imaginary games with friends, embodying crazy characters in some whack fictional world for hours on end. While playing make-believe isn’t exactly the most feasible pastime, I still allow my hectic brain to run free and entertain whatever absurd and abstract ideas it likes through the underrated hobby of people-watching.
On my what-feels-like-an-eternity commute to Uni, I will observe other fellow bus-riders and any general public I can see chilling through the bus window in order to make up random stories of what lives these “characters” could possibly lead. Before you report me for being a creep, I promise people-watching is not as weird as it sounds and is honestly really fun and a great exercise for your imagination! Also, if you happen to catch me staring at you on the bus, rest assured—I promise I’m looking respectfully and totally not imagining our entire future together.
Furthermore, for those of us that went through some rough patches growing up, while we cannot change the past, it is still possible to take the present into our own hands. Without diving too deeply into the sensitive and deeply personal topic of family trauma, recognising your experiences as a kid allows for self-healing that could take place in the form of self-forgiveness, setting healthy boundaries, working through old emotions or identifying your needs. This encourages past wounds to properly heal in their own time. It also brings attention to any present self-sabotaging behaviours or coping mechanisms that have arisen from childhood trauma. Honouring that kid hiding deep down inside of you is a great opportunity to give yourself anything you wished others had given you during your upbringing, like financial stability or quality time. This shows healing your inner child is not only a great tool for closing up old wounds, but also is a radical act of self-acceptance and self-love.
Another great way to honour your inner child is to embrace the casual everyday magic life has to offer. As kids, every waking day is full of excitement and wonder for everything this world, our playground, has to offer us. I remember when I was younger, a simple trip to Pak n Save felt like a whirlwind visit to Disneyland with its seemingly never-ending shelves of groceries of all different sizes, textures and smells. Yes, I was that kid who used to sniff the outside of any and every packet of laundry powder their nose could reach before their mum realised and proceeded to tell them off loudly in public. It’s so easy for students to get stuck in their old routines and forget the everyday wonder that lies in the mundane. So why not spice things up every now and then? These changes don’t have to be big, you could easily start by taking a different or longer bus route to uni or switching up your coffee order next time you’re at a cafe. It could also be bedazzling your planner with cute stickers or studying outside in the park instead of your usual library spot because why the heck not? As much as I don’t want to sound like a Pinterest mum, it really is the little things in life that matter. Don’t let becoming an “adult” stop you from cashing in on these small but meaningful moments of pleasure or whiffing Surf laundry powder next time you’re at the supermarket! Actually, maybe refrain from inhaling washing powder, you’ll probably end up with a restraining order from Pak n Save—uh totally not talking from personal experience…
So, crunch those leaves with your boots! Sing your heart out to that song with a hairbrush in front of the mirror! Treat yourself to that chocolate cupcake because you and your inner kid deserve to be let loose to enjoy all the wonders this world has to offer. Our everyday life didn’t lose its sparkle, we just learnt to stop looking for it.
Illustration by Rain Santillan