“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” -Luke 18:17
In May, after a 146 year run, yes that’s right, 146 years, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus will close. I heard that news a couple of months ago and to be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in because of my fond memories of attending the circus as a child. I understand the reasons why they had to close but it made me start to think, have we forgotten how to have fun? We (and in this context I guess I mean we parents) have gotten so caught up in making sure our kids get the good grades, join all the clubs, excel at all sports, learn instruments, take extra tutoring sessions to (gasp, long inhale please) get better SAT scores, to get into better schools, to get the job to buy the house ,to well you get the point. Or do you?
What’s the point? I mean honestly, what is the Goddamn point? If we don’t make the national Honor Society, if we aren’t All-State at some sport, if we aren’t fluent in some language, how could we possibly survive in this world? Obviously I am being facetious but I think we need to really take a long look at what we are doing and creating. There is a reason why ivy league schools and college education in general cost what it does, simply because we are all willing to pay it. I could go on with all of this but the gist of it all is that it’s okay to let kids be kids. Why do we need to hold our kids to a standard that to an extent is unsustainable? You have a window to be a kid, to be care free, to have no responsibility. The summers I spent fishing and playing wiffle ball and goofing around with my brother and sister on the beach were priceless. I got summer jobs sure, I earned my keep, but I learned to enjoy life. I learned the important lessons, which, for a time, I feel as though I had gotten away from but seem to be coming full circle.
My parents thought it more important to learn the intangibles of respect, hard work, to learn to not only make a living, but make a life. If we can go back in time and remember what it was like to be a kid, I believe we can unlock the key to happiness and a life of satisfaction as an adult. We can appreciate all that life is, now here in front of us. We can forget the past and stop worrying about the future and live for today, how amazing would that be? What if we could go back in time and live, as we did as kids, in the moment. Remember when a summer day at the beach, the smell of suntan lotion and salt air seemed to last forever? Remember when a school summer vacation and the sounds of laughter, fireworks on the 4th of July and the sizzle of barbecues felt like it would never end? In looking through my journals and in notes and chats with some mentors/coaches I am reminded of some valuable lessons and observations.
First be like a child in curiosity. Ask the questions, if for no other reason to ask more questions. Think back to how many times you asked why to the point it was annoying, or maybe you have young children and you couldn’t stand the seemingly endless stream of whys and how comes? All they want to do is learn more, so why can’t we as adults do the same? Stop being so proud and dare to learn more by asking the tough questions. I would take it one step further , in that if you don’t like the answers, or you don’t feel as though your life is headed the way you wanted or planned, ask better questions.
Second, be childlike in your excitement. Have a zest for life! Wake up with an enthusiasm to attack the day and if you don’t go back to step one and ask yourself why am I not as excited as I should be about being alive today? Change your life. If you want things to change for you, you have to change. Do what you want to do and be used up at the end of your life, in the words of Neil Young,…”it’s better to burnout than to fade away.” Kick life’s ass instead of letting it kick yours. The excitement that we had for the last day of school, Christmas eve, our birthday parties, needs to be embraced, wrapped up and put a fire in our bellies so that we can be a beacon of hope, of inspiration, to have a passion for the gift of life that we have.
Third we need to have the faith of a child. That we will be okay. The belief that at our core we are good people, that we are loved, and that we can share our love with the world to make it a little better place. The faith that the sun will shine after the rain, that summer will return after the harsh winters of life, the sun will rise after the darkness of night. Have that deep faith that whatever you are struggling with shall pass and you will be stronger for it and you will live to fight another day.
Finally, have childlike trust. Have a trust in your instincts that whatever you are feeling is right and the reason you may not be living the life you want to live is not a reason at all, but an excuse. Trust in a higher power that you are cared for and there is a path for you. Know that there is a reason that you have been put here, that you have an energy signature within you that no one else has and that it is up to you to use that to its fullest extent. You were put here for a purpose and that we all spend our entire lives searching for that purpose, trust your inner voice that tells you when you have found it and go out and grab it.
I, as we all have, lived a life of highs and lows, but I want you to promise and say these words to yourself:
I know that no matter how hard I get hit and knocked down, I will remember these lessons and get back up again. That I will be relentless in my pursuit of what I want out of this life and relentless in the pursuit of living my dream. When things don’t look so bright and I think I have made a mistake, or I feel as though I can’t do something, and I start to dwell on what are temporary setbacks and shortcomings I will turn those feelings into an unstoppable, driving force. That set back is only a set up for a giant leap forward.
When Ringling Brothers finally turns those lights out for the last time and the clowns climb back into their tiny cars and they fold up all of the tents I will be reminded of what it was like to be a child, and I will begin again.