Self of the past: When I was your age, I wanted to be an actress. I wanted it so much that I even auditioned for a performing arts program without my parents’ permission and made it. There, I honed all my skills as an entertainer; I even got to perform a small role in a play in front of my peers. My teachers said I had talent, and I believed them. I wasn’t only going to be an actress; I was going to be a star.
But that’s not my goal anymore. I can’t be an actress or a fireman or a circus clown. I have to worry about the logistics of my future: earning a decent income and supporting a family. There are too many complications stopping me from pursuing the whimsical aspirations of my youth. In fact, there are too many complications stopping me from pursuing anything of my youth. On some days, I don’t have time to go outside and ride my bike; I have too much reading to do for my lit class. I can’t spend my summers wanting to go to the pool everyday; I have to work and save money. I don’t know if you understand the reasoning behind all of this, but one day, you will understand it all too well.
Occasionally, I feel like I’ve been living longer than my two decades. Whenever I see high school students horsing around, I think to myself, “Those darn kids,” missing the complete irony that I was their age a mere few years ago. I feel so old when I stress out about all the responsibilities I have; sometimes, I believe that the weight of the world is crushing me. I’m only 19, but sometimes on those days, I feel like I’m 90.
But yesterday, I didn’t feel so old. Yesterday, I got a happy meal for dinner, and it was in the same colorful cardboard box with the golden arch handles that I used to get as a kid. It sparked a conversation about those days when McDonald’s toys were actually appealing to children, like Beanie Babies and Halloween buckets. Afterward, I went to go see a movie. I almost didn’t because I knew I had a pile of work to do (including this column), but I pushed that nagging thought to the back of my mind and enjoyed the film. And later, I went outside and played whiffle ball in the dark. If you were walking around on West at the time, you might have heard shouts of encouragement and peals of laughter coming from our direction. Yesterday, I didn’t feel so old.
Self of the present:
Yes, it’s important to plan for the future, but don’t get so caught up in it that you forget the simple joy of existing. Cracking open a book for fun while listening to the soft patter of rain; climbing a tree and ignoring the sting of scratches and splinters; spending Saturday morning watching cartoons in your pajamas while eating Coco Puffs. Cliché as it may sound, the little things in life really are what makes it worth living.
I will always remember this one poster I saw in a classroom that read, “Growing older is mandatory. Growing up is optional.” At the time, I thought it was just a cute saying; but as life goes on, I see the pertinence of that statement more and more. Who ever said that the activities we enjoyed doing, or the things we used as children are only for children? If you want to put on your red Mickey Mouse raincoat and go play in the rain, scratch that itch. If you want to color in your Disney Princess coloring book or buy that plastic blue piggy bank, feel free to do so. Don’t concern yourself with the protocols of society or the opinions of others. Simple pleasures won’t prevent you from becoming the next president or the next Agatha Christie. Sometimes, the innocence of a child can open your eyes to the important things.
Self of the future:
Remember the past, live in the present, plan for the future and never forget to do one without the others. No regrets.
Jina Jang is a Trinity sophomore.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.