Sunday, October 17, 2010

Getting In Touch With My Inner Child...Sort Of

This week has been pretty stressful and hectic for both myself and my boyfriend.  Between midterms, homework, financial struggles, and family problems, we needed to unwind.  We indulged in a typical Thursday Night karaoke ritual at a suburban T.G.I. Friday's and unwound in a a very adult fashion-- with alcohol and nicotine.  (Life lesson: if you've already ingested an entire margarita shaker, you should not order an Ultimate Mudslide after midnight just because the KJ has one and it looks really delicious.  Tequila + Mudslide = Friday morning headache)

I can't speak for Justin, but my Friday, I wasn't feeling any less stressed.  I was thinking about homework and speeches and all the materials I needed to read.  I was suffering a serious case of adult-itis.  Rather than focusing on the work I would be facing in the coming school week, I should have been thinking about the weekend activities Justin and I had planned.

One of the things I love about Justin is that he is kind of a dork.  By that I mean he enjoys activities that are goofy, silly, and a bit cliched.  In other words, he likes to do things that allow us to stop taking life so seriously and just enjoy the moment.  Naturally, visiting a pumpkin patch sounded like an excellently goofy way to forget my troubles (come on get happyyyyyy) and enjoy a beautiful, autumnal day with my boyfriend.

This Saturday was by far one of the best days I have had in a long time.  Why?  Because I got in touch with my inner child.  Sort of.  You see, Actual Little Kaitlin would not have enjoyed a trip to Goebbert's.  She was a thoroughly nervous creature.  Her parents took her to Goebbert's once; she wanted nothing to with the corn mazes.  Based on a home video of ALK in the parking lot of the Brookfield Zoo (chanting "We has to go home, mommy!"), I can only imagine the terror she would have been seized with when encountering the three animal tents.  Actual Little Kaitlin would have spent too much time worrying about every little detail to enjoy herself, too afraid to engage in the activities around her.

I feel like my experience at the farm made up for my anxiety-ridden childhood.  There were moments I felt pure joy and simple pleasure in little things.  I can only imagine this is what I imagine the children around me must have felt.  I ran around the farm, announcing to Justin all the things I wanted to do.  Everything around me was exciting and new.  I was not overcome by my typical crowd-anxiety.  (There were other people there?  YOU'RE KIDDING ME.)  I felt like I was getting a second chance at my childhood and it was wonderful.

Reflecting on the day, I have identified three behaviors that allowed me to embrace my true inner child and live without worry.

1. Remembering that happiness and fun are my right just as much as anyone else's.  Shying away from life and hugging the walls are not an option.

I tried to come up with some connection between Point #1 and this photo of pigs, but I give up

As a child, I didn't assert myself and probably missed out on a lot of opportunities for fun because of it.  I abandoned this attitude the moment I heard that there was going to be a PIG RACE.  If you've read my post about my love for baby pigs, you can imagine the excitement that was coursing through my veins.  With twenty minutes before the next pig race, I dragged Justin to the track, where a large crowd had already gathered.  It seemed that I wouldn't be getting a close view of the pigs, but I was not about to accept this.  I circled the track and eventually elbowed my way to a track-side position.  (Yeah, I stood nice and wide so small children couldn't crowd me.)  My mildly aggressive attitude allowed me to get close enough to touch the piggies.  In true child-like form, I crouched down to the pigs' level and squealed and clapped with excitement as the sweet, pink babies ran past me in competition for a delicious Oreo cookie.  My happiness was immeasurable.

I also applied this "go for it" attitude in the petting zoo area.

And I said, "Hey, Llama, how about a little somethin', ya know, fer de effort?"
Very Little Kaitlin would never have gone into these tents.  Animals were scary and unpredictable to me.  By the time I was about 10 years old,  realized that animals weren't scary; they were actually pretty cool.  I would have absolutely loved to feed them and connect with them.  Unfortunately, I would have been too shy or confused by the social rules of a petting zoo to just walk up and feed the animals; I would have patiently waited for my turn while other children walked in front of me with no regard for order (savages!).  On this trip, I was hesitant at first.  Then I remembered that I was three feet taller than the ill-behaved children and very adept at slithering my way into tight spaces.  I marched up to every animal, dangling carrot sticks in the air.  I seized each moment and had some tender times with some tender animals.

2. Don't think.  Just do.

When a flat wooden cutout of Winnie The Pooh makes a move, you just go with it.
I spend far too much time thinking about things, over analyzing them and imagining every possible outcome of my decisions.  Naturally, this leads to neurosis and a lack of risk-taking and reckless abandon.  Granted, there aren't too many opportunities for risky behavior at a family-oriented farm, but there are MORE than enough opportunities to look ridiculous.  The trick is to think like a kid (not Actual Little Kaitlin) and stop caring.  Don't think about the germs and grime on the animals, just pet them.  Don't question your volume levels at the pig race, just cheer.  Don't look around to see if anyone is watching, go ahead and pose for a photo with inanimate objects.  Most importantly, if you're standing behind a wooden cutout with a facehole, don't ask what's on the front.  Just put your face in the hole and make a ridiculous face.

See, it totally works out!
3. Laugh like no one is watching.

This is the most important thing that I took from my day at the farm.  I get so caught up in worrying about how I am perceived.  I want to be liked, respected, viewed as someone with intelligence and class.  Living up to these adult expectations becomes exhausting.  But on Saturday afternoon, I didn't care.  I didn't care if a parent looked at me funny for getting right up to the fences.  I didn't care who heard me literally squeal at the baby pigs.  I didn't care if anyone judged me for waiting in a line to participate in a child's activity.  I just didn't care about anything other than being present in my surroundings.  It was so freeing to live in the moment and not once retreat into my own head.  Thinking with the simplicity of a child brought out the life in me.  I mean, look at these happy faces:

That is pure laughter.  Laughter that would not have happened if we thought like adults.  By embracing our inner child, we shed the worries of our normal lives and were able to laugh like children.  In the future, I'm definitely going to embrace opportunities to apply these types of thinking and discover the child I never got to be.





    I haven't been to a pumpkin patch yet this year!!! Goebbert's is one of my favorites :-)!

  2. I LOVE PIGS. so much.
    i had a pet pig when i was little.
    he lived in the house and was my best friend. :)
    my husband and i are planning on getting one someday soon.

    also, i just wanted to tell you that i read your "coming out" post, and it really inspired me.
    i wanted to do one myself after reading it today, but i think i might be a little late. haha.
    i'm trying to think of a good way to start a post about what i want to share, though! :)