Of all the things we lose as we grow up, the one I miss the most is this:
Growing up is one long process of defining yourself, making choices about life and lifestyle and putting people and experiences and options into little hypothetical boxes and stacking them neatly into little piles marked acceptable and unacceptable. And the problem is, we start doing it without thinking. Some choices we make preclude others, and before you know it, you've started putting things into the unacceptable box without even really considering why.
You don't do that as much when you're a kid. It's something that happens as you get older. I mean, think about it... A toddler thinks nothing about putting dirt in their mouth. An 8 year old would say, “Ick” but probably want to know why you wanted to put dirt in your mouth (they're still collecting data.) A teenager probably wouldn't consider it.
It's that willingness to go along with what's happening and see if it's fun that I miss. When I was a kid, everything became a theatrical experience. One night in the early 80's, my life went from watching tv to sitting with my brother and some friends in a camper shell behind our home, faces illuminated by a flashlight as my brother dramatically read from the inner cover of the new Styx album, to a group of kids riding bikes down the streets of my neighborhood at night bellowing, “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto! Domo! (Domo...)” over and over, and all in the span of less than an hour.
None of us even knew who Styx was. I still don't know where my brother got that album from, or why he dragged us together and made a big deal about it. I don't think *he* even knew why it seemed like a good thing to do. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we went along with it, and it was fun. And different.
And maybe even life changing. Something about the absurd theatricality of the night, the confusion about what was going on and why we were doing it, the feelings of involvement and belonging that came along with riding with a group of friends through the streets singing an insipid pop song, the unexpected elation of the experience changed me. It helped set my path to play role-playing games, to study theatre, to write and perform for a living. It remains burned into my memory three decades later.
For most of us, that's simply something that simply won't happen anymore. We have learned to reflexively, emphatically, and authoritatively say “No” to a new experience, simply because it's not something we would normally do. It is outside the boundaries of who we think we are, or should be.
I'm not talking about something like eating poop, either, or committing a crime, or cheating on your significant other. I'm talking about going fishing. Going to a football game. Going to an amateur wrestling show. Going to an art exhibit. Going to a play or a wine tasting or a beer tasting. Trying a different type of food. Reading a different type of book. Taking a walk. Playing a game. Whatever. Instead of dismissing something out of hand, even just considering it might do us more good than we can imagine. It can change our lives. It did when we were kids.
I'm going to try and say yes a little more often. I think I'd like that back in my life again. I want to know what the adult equivalent of going from zero to “Mr. Roboto” crusader in sixty minutes is. I'll let you know in an hour.