Don’t grow up: it’s a trap

January 30th, 2014

Ever seen the movie “Moonrise Kingdom”? If you haven’t, you should. On the surface, it’s a film about two unruly and socially awkward runaways who cause their parents some serious stress. However, a closer inspection reveals something quite different. These two children were willing to abandon everything they knew, forgo all the warm safeties of home, and ensure being grounded until college so that they could explore for the sake of exploration.

I remember that as a kid, my little brother and I would take part in a similar exploration (minus the running away part). Each day presented a new opportunity for us to conquer the imaginary invaders that would threaten the kingdom of our backyard.  Armed with plastic swords and eyepatches, we courageously battled. And as we rested between the waves of our fictional enemies’ attacks, I would daydream about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

In fact, it seemed to be everyone’s favorite question for me while growing up. Invariably my parents, extended family and teachers would all ask about what exciting plans I had for my future. My answers were about as consistent as Cleveland’s temperature. Whether I wanted to be an astronaut on Monday, a firefighter on Wednesday or the President on Friday, the only continuity that existed in my answers was my uncontainable enthusiasm for my future. I hoped for all things – a family to love, success in my career (whatever it turned out to be) and uninterrupted happiness. Childish as they might have been, my hopes for the future were big and bright. Back then, you couldn’t have convinced me that anything would stand between my dreams and me. I would have bet my lunch money that I would turn out to be the happiest, most accomplished person in the world.

But as you get older, things change. Plans fall through, people become jaded and the world becomes much smaller than you once thought it to be. The magic that once captivated my overactive imagination faded. This terrible phenomenon is commonly diagnosed as “growing up.” Over time, the world bends you and molds you to fit a prefabbed form. Instead of reaching for the unlikely dreams of becoming a firefighting president or the world’s youngest astronaut, I learned to pursue the more “mature” careers of lawyer and politician.

And when I think about it now, those crazy kids that ran away from home in “Moonrise Kingdom” had everything figured out – even if they didn’t realize it. They took the reigns and chose to control their own lives. They refused to give in to the diagnosis of “growing up.” They chased their dream to explore the world together.

The way I see it, you have to grow old. That’s just the way of the world. But nothing says that you have to “grow up.” If you’ve lost your fascination with everyday life, search for it again. I recently saw a quote on social media that really made me think. The line went “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who to be?” So take a second to think: Can you remember? Can you remember what your most ambitious dreams were before you learned the same automated responses I learned to give? If you can’t, don’t panic.

When I was younger, I wanted to do battle with the evils of the world, armed with my plastic sword and eyepatch. Now, armed with a tempered world view and five semesters of college experience, I’m recommitting myself to dreaming big. Don’t settle for what the world tells you to want or do. Remind yourself of what you knew when you were younger. Go on an adventure and find yourself as you truly are and not what you think you should be. Remain a kid at heart with a boundless hope for the future. The kid in you had the right idea.