This episode is about remembering that we were once carefree children that seem to get lost as we grow up. How can we bring more of who we were as children into our adulthood?
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Lately, I have been wondering about what happens to us as we transitioned from childhood to adulthood, specifically - exactly when and where did we lose our sense of adventure?
Our sense of creativity? Our sense of freedom? And for some people, their sense of humor?
Why does it seem some of the character traits we have in childhood disappear as we get older? When exactly do we give up on our dreams?
Why does it seem that for so many people, gaining the responsibilities, we acquire as adults have to equal losing something?
A few Februarys ago, my father, brother, and I spent time in South Africa. Before we even left for the trip my brother knew visiting a place where you can ride an ostrich was on our itinerary. He already decided he was going to do it.
I was surprised by this – but at the same time, I wasn’t.
I think of my brother as well put together, intelligent, and very careful about the way he speaks. Specifically, in the way he phrases things. He wants to be precise; he doesn’t want to be misunderstood, and he doesn’t want people to misinterpret what he means. Especially if something being misinterpreted could hurt that person’s feelings.
These are good character traits in my eyes.
Always being aware of how the things you do and say affect another person is admirable. But the point I’m trying to make is as the man he is today, he is not the type of person I would expect to want to get on the back of an ostrich and have a crazy ride around a fenced-in pen entirely at the mercy of an ostrich he never met before.
However, he is the same person who in college jumped on a homecoming float– very Ferris Beuhler like – and proceeded to ride on the float for the remainder of the parade in character suited to the design of the float. How he happened to be wearing an outfit suitable for this float is a story for another day. But it was college, and it was homecoming, so it really isn’t that surprising.
Because I knew this version of my brother him wanting to ride an ostrich wasn’t completely surprising. I think I thought that version of him didn’t really exist anymore. At any rate, he was determined, excited, and I, for one, could not wait to see this.
The opportunity to ride ostriches wasn’t until well into our trip. Finally, the day was here.
We arrived at the ostrich village? Ostrich land? Ostrich sanctuary? I am not sure what the place is called.
Riding the ostrich was not first on the agenda. First, we were able to feed them and learn about ostrich life. Then, we took a little tour of the establishment. Eventually, they took us to the place where you could ride them.
They were only letting a few people ride, And John was ready. He was ready to go no matter what it meant, no matter what it looked like, no matter what happened. He knew he wanted the experience and that is all that mattered.
In this moment, he didn’t care if he looked silly or if he fell or was thrown. It seemed those things never crossed his mind.
They crossed mine – not the looking silly part, I don’t care much about that – but the falling and getting throw part – that crossed my mind. All he knew was he wanted to ride an ostrich.
I learned a long time ago not to pass up opportunities because you never know when or if they would ever present themselves again… But I knew I was going to be fine passing this one up. There would be no regret.
Ostriches are huge and strong, and very tall, my brother is also tall. But Ostriches are much taller.
John climbed up some steps attached to a wooden frame that was holding the ostrich still and climb on top of it. Once everyone was ready, the ostrich is released and runs around this fenced-in area with two handlers running behind. Maybe they’re supposed to catch my brother if he falls? Doubtful they’d be able to. It’s all happening so fast.
Ultimately, they are there to control the ostrich, which they do from time to time. It is incredible the handlers can keep up with the random pattern they run in. Clearly, this is not the ostriches or the handler’s first day.
Ostriches are big, and strong, and quite aggressive, Earlier in the day, in another part of the park where you can feed the ostriches, the workers will tell you to watch out for your jewelry and, believe it or not – your cell phones.
The ostriches will rip them out of your hands, and they will eat them. They will swallow your cell phone right in front of you, and you can watch it go down their throat. The smaller flip phones from back in the day were probably easier for them to swallow…
But they have stones in their stomachs that help them digest food and cell phones (apparently), really anything. There’s a place in the gift shop that displays random things they’ve pulled out of ostrich’s stomachs (well, actually I suppose they were removed from … well, you know what I mean). There’s grit – rocks and other material in their stomachs that help them break down the stuff they ingest.
Ostriches actually need to eat rocks and stones to ensure their digestive tract works properly. I’m not kidding. Look it up. This helps them digest food, cell phones, jewelry, and maybe even small children if you’re not careful. who really knows where ostriches draw the line?
Okay, back to my brother, When we left him (in my attempt to give you a little ostrich education) He was being jacked around the field with two guys running behind him in a crazy, haphazard, random pattern. By the way – Ostrich Racing is a sport in South Africa and some parts of the United States.
Ostriches are fast and determined. I thought my brother would fall off at any moment, but he held on to the wings.
They hold onto the wings as the rider rides bareback.
No saddle, no harness. Just a little pad of some sort – I am not sure what that is for. Nevertheless, John was a worthy rider.
At one point, I stopped taking pictures and just sat back and enjoyed the scene unfolding before me.
And that’s when I saw it.
I quickly sat up straight
Suddenly before my eyes, I saw him, my young childhood companion, my brother’s face as the child he was – right there on this grown man’s face.
Free of everything.
and pure happiness.
In that moment, I was moved, and I held on to it.
I really let myself feel it.
I was transported, just for a moment back a lifetime ago, to our childhood.
The feeling washed over me, my brother, my partner, and me as children – just being.
Children without a care in the world.
There are six children in my family. Three sets of two – about a year or so apart within the sets. And about five years between each of the pairs. We call our counterpart our “partner.”
John and I spent our early childhood in New York with Sunday family dinners as part of our life. Sadly, part of our culture that doesn’t seem to exist anymore – at least not like it used to. It seems a lifetime ago since we were those children. They seemed like two other people, as I was observing their lives in my mind’s eye.
Everything seemed easier then. The world and endless opportunities in front of these children. But sitting in this ostrich land - for that swift, few fleeting moments, I was back there, in our childhood, Although it was long ago, I could still feel it.
After the trip, I put John and his ostrich pictures in one of our family chats or on social media, somewhere. I think it was to wish him a happy birthday. But Two of our Aunts texted me separately and said they could see his childhood self in the images.
I’m so glad they saw it too.
It reawakened in me the reality that we have different versions of ourselves and very few people see us for who we really are… yet we allow the opinions and behaviors of others to cause us to question who we are.
Even to the point of altering who we become, walking away from the dreams of those children we once were to become adults those children might not even recognize.
I’m glad this adventure gave me a quick visit with our childhood selves. The whole experience caused me to think about how important it is to be reminded from time to time that we were all children once.
that’s ultimately why I wanted to share this story. Well, first, because it is an awesome story and I also wanted to let you know that riding ostriches is a thing.
But the more important point is …
when I think back to when I was a child and what I thought it was going to be like to be a grown-up. When I think about What I wanted to be when I grew up and what I wanted to accomplish.
It’s interesting how different life unfolded.
Trying to pinpoint where exactly life took a different path is unimportant. What’s more important is recognizing that we lose our childhood innocence, our wonder, and openness as we grow up. People, circumstances judgment of ourselves and from others causes us to close off parts of who we are, who we used to be.
Maybe at this point who we really are gets locked inside us.
Slowly we lose the child in us. Responsibility for jobs, family, and other adult things cause time to be stolen from us.
Time we would rather be spending doing other things if given the choice. We become so used to the flow of everyday life that we’ve forgotten what it’s like not to have responsibilities.
But why does having responsibilities seem to also change who we are and what we wanted out of life? Why does responsibility seem to carry more weight than being who we want to be and getting what we want out of life?
Can’t the two co-exist?
Part of my positive intelligence coaching training was to pull out a childhood picture of ourselves. I urge you to do the same. Look in that child’s eyes, what do you see? What promises did you make to that child? Have you kept them? If not, that’s okay, there is still time… start today.
Even if it's baby steps.
Look at the picture, would that child be proud of the adult you have become? Would that child recognize you?
Curiosity, adventure, and determination are three of the strongest traits of children. How strong are they in you?
Think about what you used to love to do and find a way to make it part of your life again. Or bring something new into your life. Who did you believe you could become? What have you always wanted to do?
Do it now.
More and more people are unhappy in their jobs, relationships, or they have guilt or shame regarding who they have become.
Others have stressors that are wearing on them.
Some stressors we can change, some we need to endure until they have run their course.
None of these things are meant to derail our lives. We are not meant to be unhappy and we are not meant to carry guilt and shame.
We are meant to learn and grow as we move through our lives… like we did as children.
We need to recognize what we have allowed to take over and derail us and make a plan to eliminate the roadblocks that have taken over that child’s adulthood.
And what is the plan while you are enduring something out of your control?
How do you prevent it from negatively consume you? nothing should ever consume us.
And like with Children, we need to play. Regardless of the reason, too many of us are not remembering to slow down and play. At least for a few minutes. Connect with the people in your life.
Make it happen.
Allow yourself to disconnect from responsibility. Reintroduce yourself to how that feels. In those moments, when we are just playing, that’s where freedom lives. There is no stress in that moment. Don’t let the children we used to disappear forever.
Find them again.
Bravo to all you adults who have maintained playtime –
but I bet even you would like more of it or would like to do it better, truly let go in those moments and just be. And for all of those who have forgotten how to play – go find it again.
In my practice, I work with more and more adults who have found themselves in jobs or relationships, well, actually, found themselves in lives that don’t represent the hopes and dreams they had as a child.
I know we need to grow up, and I know a lot of our dreams as children cannot be fulfilled, I mean how many princesses, cowboys, and astronauts can we have?
That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the things that happen to us that cause us to be jaded. And when whatever it is that happened, why do we allow it to get us jaded? Why can’t we just let people and circumstances teach us lessons, let them help us be more aware, or pay closer attention?
That’s what we learn as children, right? “when at first you don’t succeed, try-try again”.
But somewhere in adulthood, it became about giving up and walking away. Where exactly in our lives does this is mind shift start to happen?
We seem to lose the openness, curiosity, a sense of adventure and we lose the non-judgmental part we had as children?
And I’m wondering if we can find a way to stop this from happening.
If more adults let go of the mindset that we cannot accomplish our dream, or we don’t deserve it or aren’t good enough – whatever you are telling yourself – If more of us can shift that mindset and go after the life we want. I think the trick lies and seeing everything as an opportunity and everything as a lesson. We have to understand that when we let go of our dreams because we believe the negative thoughts in our head and the negative comments of others, it only hurts us.
We live with the consequences of the things we believe and the life we create as a result. We can’t protect ourselves from those consequences. No matter what. But we can change them. So stop holding yourself back.
Believing in yourself and re-engaging in the curiosity, adventure, and determination you used to have as a child. Maybe it’s a little scary. But at least it’s real. I have come to realize that living a life with responsibility taken precedent over going for what you want is actually scarier.
It leads to regret. Regret that you knew you could’ve done better, regret that you know what you want and aren’t going for it.
So let’s re-engage with ourselves. Look at your childhood picture, who do you see looking back at you?
Do you reflect that child at all anymore?
Make that child new promises and keep them. Make an effort each day to do something with the specific intention of giving that child the life it deserves.
And it doesn’t need to be as extreme as riding on an ostrich!
One final point please also remember that the people in our lives were also children once, perhaps this can help you see them differently as an adult. If you are interacting with someone who isn’t very pleasant, instead of letting their behavior upset you, you might want to pause for a moment and be sad for whatever happened to that little boy or girl to make them this unpleasant as an adult.
Maybe someone caused them to lose faith in themselves or lose faith in the world, perhaps they just chose to lose faith all by themselves.
Bitter unhappy adults are not easy to be around but remembering that they were once small children who got hurt or lost hope somewhere along the way might make it easier to let their behavior not affect you. – because it is not about you.
Ask the people you love more about who they were as children, what they wanted to be, what were their hopes and dreams…? Did they come true? Why not? We need to work together with the people in our lives to make things happen so the little child in all of us can feel alive again.
My name is Wendy Pilcher and I thank you for listening to this episode of Identify and Conquer. You can see pictures of my brother riding the Ostrich in my show notes for this episode on my website at identifyandconquer.com.
If you are feeling stuck and can’t find your way back to the life you imagined for yourself – or if you don’t even know what that looks like.
Go to my community at changingmybrain.com and participate in the conversation. You can also see various opportunities to work with me listed there, you can support this show by buying me a coffee, that link is located in my show notes.