like a kid

I am trying to capture a feeling. It is a feeling where I am stuck in a Whorfian situation of sorts — I cannot think of the particular words that will help me do justice to the feeling. So I turn to writing, in an effort to better put words to the feeling. Why? Because putting words to things tends to help me think about said things. Interesting how that works.

The feeling is most bluntly described as the feeling when you experience a situation where you feel “like a kid” again. You probably have heard that expression before — in one form or another. But what does it mean? Like why are we nostalgic over an abstract feeling of “feeling like a kid again?”

What did it feel like to be a kid? And perhaps more interestingly to me — because we can kinda answer that question as we will below — WHY? What about being a kid cultivated those feelings that we now long (or at least can notice in particular situations, and if you are anything like me — you associate those feelings positively to some degree).

When I say things like “feeling like a kid again,” I really mean a sense of joy and presence. I mean a sense of authenticity that is so often lost in “modern” society’s day to day experiences. Maybe naivete is a word one would also use — though perhaps the older versions of ourselves are the naive ones, thinking we can outsmart biology by adding all these gadgets and gizmos to our lives hoping we can manufacture a sense of happiness and joy that was given to us, in our souls, from a very young age.

Perhaps we are blind to our own treasure. The treasure that we did not need to work for. The treasure we did not need to suffer for.

The treasure that was given to us when we were born and slowly taken out of us as we tried to, perhaps greedily, get more and more of it. This effort is not for nothing — there is of course *things* that happen as a result of escaping the child-like spirit, but are said things actually meaningful. Like do they actually matter? Maybe they matter a little, but in comparison?

What would you give to be young again? That is a question a lot of people answer…especially much closer to their death beds…with a clear point of view: “I would give everything. All my money. All my possessions. If I could just trade all of that for a few more years of youth, of child-like spirit and child-like health and child-like potential, I would trade it all.”

We cannot make all those trades today — for if we could, I think people would honestly opt-in more often than you would think.

But we can think about that child-like spirit.


What is the difference between now and then?

And perhaps you meet people. Old people. Who have maintained a child-like spirit.

Conversations with them come with a flavor of lightness and delight-ness that you do not find from the “boring old person world.” It is refreshing. It makes you think back to your youth — but why?/

And perhaps you watch movies. Or TV shows. Or you hear a joke. And it transports you back to that feeling. That feeling I keep mentioning but do not know the words to fully describe. I hope you get what I mean. I hope future me gets what I mean.

I mean the wide-eyed joy that comes with surprises. Or really good jokes. Moments where your biology takes over your cognitive mind. And what you are left with is PURE SPIRIT.

Kids do not have two voices. They have one. Their real one. And that is what they live with. They tell you what they think.

And then slowly…but often surely…they react to the systems they are a part of. And generally that means a series of positive and negative reinforcement that teaches them — explicitly or implicitly — to get what they want through MANIPULATION. We can call it different things: compliance, coordinating, sales…whatever you want to call it, there’s a thing that happens that you learn as a kid, a growing up kid, where you learn in order to get what you want, you often have to leave your child-like spirit in your locker and pursue a degree of “formality” that people say is necessary.

But that of course is not actually true. It is true for the social system you are a part of – a system that is extremely powerful, especially for the 7 year old to go up against alone – but it’s not impossibly powerful.

Kids in Kenya do not learn the same things. Eventually they do fall prey to a social system of sorts that may or may not have them maintain their child like spirit…but if you did not grow up in the system you grew up in, you would not have the views you have.

And so, I return to the prompt. Why? What has happened here that we all have lost our child like spirits and how do we bring those back?

That is a question I am interested in more deeply understanding — both for myself (in thinking through ways to apply it to my own life) and for society (is a world with more joy better, and if so, how do we get there?).

There is certain music that just makes you want to dance. Like a child. Your eyes open. Your body feels it. Your cognitive logic brain shuts down at least slightly. You drop your neuroticism. And then you shake about. It is goofy. You act silly. Like a kid.

That is a special thing. You must know what I am talking about.

You may stand there motionless – but what is going on in your brain is a dance battle. A battle between two mindsets: the “appropriate adult” and the youthful spirit.

The spirit, if you can still feel it, just wants to dance. Just wants to get out and shake about.

But the formal adult in your head will not have that. The logic brain will shut it down. They tell you to be embarrassed. Embarrassed from what? What do you have to lose?

The kid would say nothing.

You say everything.

So you sit there watching the dance floor. Doing nothing. Because you are not in touch with that child like spirit.

The child will roam around on the hike. You look at your phone every few minutes.

The child will say what they think. You hold it back because you do not want to hurt people’s feelings.

The child will tell people when they are upset. You hold it back because you are ashamed.

You can source a lot of these emotions to systems. Systems that conditioned you in a particular manner. If you do that, an exercise that I have done some of, the results become obvious.

Obviously you are now conditioned to abandon your child like spirit when you want things.

You were told to stop crying. To share. To follow the golden rule.

There are benefits to building a society that conforms.

But the child like spirit is powerful. It is an underdog. I mean it started as the favorite but then lost its spot. It lost to the logic brain. But it has been brewing and some people…later in their lives…re-find that spirit.

Maybe it only comes out for holidays. But it is there. And if you nourish it…and give it space and distance…and resources.

You will find yourself approaching more things with more default joy. More curiosity. More passion for the process and less concern about the outcomes.

More presence.

That way…well that way you can feel like a kid again.