When we were children, the world was a wonderful, magical place. A simple cardboard box was a spaceship hurtling through the cosmos. The living room couch was the only harbor in a sea of boiling lava. A winter scarf was a wedding veil suited for a princess bride.
Where does the magic and wonder go when we grow up? When does a cardboard box change back into a cardboard box? When do we stop jumping on the couch and start lounging on it? When do our raging rivers of creativity slow to a trickle? And why?
Yes, we grow up. We take on responsibilities, pursue careers. We have families, hobbies, bills, and goals. And sometimes, somewhere in all of that, our wonder gets stuffed into a mental corner, as forgotten as our imaginary fairy tale wedding.
But is that where it should stay?
Though it may seem that childlike wonder serves no purpose in our busy, adult lives, what if the opposite were true? What if Wonder is the catalyst that brings out our most powerful qualities, which in turn can fuel our passion and ignite our creativity? What if Wonder is the key to a living a life we can truly enjoy, to taking care of ourselves and feeding our souls?
Perhaps you’ve lost touch with your own ability to wonder; it’s gone unused for so long you’re not sure how to jumpstart it again. Or if you even should. After all, you’re a grown up now, not some wide-eyed Peter Pan or Wendy. You hardly have time to eat a decent meal, let alone try to reimagine your life through the prism of pure wonder.
The good news is, it’s never too late to harness your wonder and redirect it from Living Room Hot Lava to feeding your passion and pursuing your destiny. Because sometimes, let’s be honest, we don’t know what our passion even is. Or sometimes things like anxiety, depression or just plain fear impede our ability to focus on what we actually want in life.
If this sounds familiar, below is a list of ways that can help you rediscover your wonder and help determine your true life’s passion.
- Harness your inner rock star and take guitar, drum or singing lessons (or the accordion if Weird Al Yankovic is your muse).
- Be a local tourist — check out an art exhibit, farmers market, festival, cafe, or street art. Don’t forget to wear black socks with sandals to play up the tourist role!
- Pick out a magazine you’ve never read, but that sparks your interest. You can find one in person, but online offers even more possibilities.
- Check out a smaller venue for some live music. If you’re feeling extra inspired, get off your duff and dance (maybe even on a table!).
- Start writing. You can find online writing prompts, or write your personal memoirs, a journal, poetry, fiction, a gratitude or prayer list, whatever works for you. Just get writing and creating.
- Find an online recipe with good reviews and make something new for dinner. Bring leftovers to a neighbor who may not have time to cook for him or herself. Bonus points if it includes an ingredient or two you’ve never used before!
- Browse in an antique store and pick up something reminding you of being young again (or makes you feel old when you remember using a dial telephone!). Better yet, turn something old into something new again.
- Plant flowers or a garden. Or if your thumb isn’t so green, create a rock or zen garden.
- Start planning and saving for your dream vacation. Create a budget, get travel brochures, look online at hotels, attractions, start learning the language, cook some local dishes and count down the days until it’s time to GO!
- Join your partner in pursuit of one of his or her hobbies, even if it’s just once. You may discover an appreciation for their love of boating, dance, football or carpentry. And even if you still don’t get their obsession with Tai Chi, they’ll love you for trying!
- Find a karaoke bar and belt out your favorite tunes for an audience. Even if you sound more like Rosanne than Beyonce, a well-picked song will bring down the house.
- Go to the nearest park or trail and get grounded in nature.
- Grab some magazines, scissors, glue and a blank notebook or art journal. Snip and glue and create a collage. Collaging is such a free and easy way to create and express yourself visually. Look for colors, textures, words, and images and bring them together in new ways.
Maybe these ideas don’t spark the fire within, but what have you wanted to do or would have thought “I will try that someday.” Don’t put it off, now is the time to do it.
Most of all explore, use your imagination and be spontaneous just like you did in your childhood. When I remind myself to connect and rediscover my wonder with creative self-care, a favorite quote of mine by Mary Lou Cook comes back to me:
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.”
If that isn’t the definition of a wondrous childhood, I don’t know what is.
Angela Swanson is driven to be the voice for those who may not be empowered to speak for themselves, raising awareness of mental health issues, and challenging public opinions. She knows what it means to be in pain, to overcome, to be human, thus shaping her ideas of reform, recovery and allowed her to be a disability and mental health advocate.