The Childlike Quality We Desperately Need As Adults

I have spent approximately 7 months outside of the university bubble since I graduated from university. In those 7 months, I have tried to convince myself that adulthood is not leading the life you want while your childhood spirit is held for ransom. Despite some of the ways life has unexpectedly hit me since being exposed into the real world, my inner flame of optimism continues to burn and I believe that a person’s inner child can thrive substantially in a world of adult responsibility. 
The creative adult child survived (4)

Seeing this quote pop up every so often never fails to resonate with me and other millennials. In fact, it is probably also tattooed on some millennials’ bodies because getting a tattoo is such a millennial thing to do (especially if the tattoo involves a feather of some sort). As a 20-something who is barely starting to learn how to walk in this journey of adulthood, the manners in which creativity has been sucked out of human experience, especially in the United States, is quite fresh to me. Hearing stories of schools banning arts and music classes in grade schools, being involved in the fight to keep band in my former school district, and experiencing firsthand the brunt of society not finding as much value in creative careers than the stable 9 to 5 “I’m-just-here-to-get-a-paycheck” jobs makes that quote even more real to me.

As I continued to reflect on the childhood experience and how that seems to differ from the prescribed, robotic adult experience that we are expected to live, I considered the idea of creativity. I thought to myself,What is it about creativity that causes us to thrive as individuals and as a civilization? I figured that there would be more than one answer to this question, but among the ideas that came to mind, the thought that creativity requires imagination stuck out most to me. And as with most thoughts that enter my brain, I quickly went down a mental rabbit hole which made me arrive to the concept of empathy. From there, I asked the following question on Twitter:

Several minutes went by and I received this insightful answer from one of my followers:

And my response to that:

There are common aspects to the lived human experience: joy, heartache, confusion, and so forth, but the numerous contexts of their occurrences vary from human to human. That is where imagination comes in, serving as a bridge to fill the gap as much as possible, allowing us to get as close as we possibly can to feeling someone else’s experience. I wish it was more commonplace for our imagination to be activated nearly every time we related with people. But for too often do we have moments were we dismiss valid experiences by saying “grow up” when doing the opposite could allow us to connect with others more genuinely. We confuse being childish with being childlike. We misconstrue an experience we don’t understand and take it as an indication of immaturity. We fall for the idea that age always correlates with maturity instead of Abraham Lincoln’s words which state that “it is the life in our years that count.” We forget our childhood selves, how getting lost in playing pretend showed how our imagination was more valuable than any toy we ever bought. We miss the connection between caring so deeply for our childhood imaginary friend and our inability to turn our eyes away from a fellow hurting child when we were pulled in the opposite direction by the hand of our parent or guardian; in both scenarios, you validated the life and the experiences of that person, both real and imagined, regardless of what others thought.

As adults, we could definitely use a little more empathy.

There is also something to be said about the healing capacity empathy espouses. It is beautiful how it can drive a person to create art of many kinds–from words and music to the visual arts and beyond, all of which potentially allows us to connect more with our humanity and the stories of others. That empathy can bring us to a place where we don’t think twice about rejoicing in the accomplishments of our peers and standing alongside them when they fall. Empathy is what encourages us to become difference makers with the purest of motives. We could become better co-workers, better bosses,  and better leaders in the areas of life where we have been given that title. In the end, we would shed this robotic caricature of adulthood that society has prescribed us to wear. If we are one of the lucky ones, we would not even wear that horrid costume in the first place.

It is easy to remember that without imagination, you cannot be creative. But without imagination, it is also much harder to empathize. And I can say without an ounce of a doubt that the imaginative adult is the child who has survived.

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Here was something that I came across in that past week that touched me deeply. Sum Of Us is “a new world-wide movement for a better global economy.” I heard of this organization one of my followers retweeted a story about a woman Rosa who works in the electronics factory for an internationally popular company called LG. Once I viewed her tragic story, I could not bare to ignore the call to action that the organization, Sum Of Us, had right next to the story. The least I can do is share Rosa’s story with you in hopes that you will also take up that call to action. Click here.

How else is empathy manifested in the childhood experience? What other ways can we use empathy to better connect with each other as adults?

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