Updated: Aug 30, 2019
One of the first questions we are all asked in kindergarten, or at some point during our elementary school education, is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our answers to this question change over the years, as our activities surrounding it shift from colored paper covered in stickers and glitter to 5-page essays on our goals and self-beliefs. To have aspirations in life to help others, make a living from doing what you love, or be able to provide for yourself and your family is hardly a bad thing to ask young children and students to dream about and plan for. However, it does place a great deal of importance on the physical and material parts of life.
We rarely ask 6-year-olds what they want to be when they grow up and expect something other than the standard “firefighter” or “ballet dancer.” We don’t expect that what someone wants most in life is to be “kind” or “content.” We focus on what we can achieve, place value on the dollar signs earned from being a surgeon or a lawyer and prioritize success over contentment.
Life is about the small things - the things that cannot be seen, but rather felt. Like the feeling of warmth inside your chest when someone tells you that they love you or are proud of you. Like the tears cried when you can feel things finally falling into place, or the group hugs or hand squeezes given by people you love or strangers who see that you need love at that moment. Like the hoarse voice you get from screaming at the top of your lungs after a rollercoaster or a concert or driving in the car with your best friends listening to songs you were obsessed with when you were 13 years old.
It’s like the way that ice-cold water tastes after being outside in the heat all day or the way that coffee makes you perk up when it’s 5 in the morning and you really need energy. Life is about the sound of rain when you’re in bed and warm in your covers, good hair days, knowing all the words to a song and singing along, people that make you laugh until you literally cry and eating at your favorite restaurant and trying something new. Life is about the way certain people and buildings and clothes smell, and how they evoke different emotions in you. It’s about 2XL t-shirts and running shorts and natural hair, feeling completely relaxed on a night in June. It’s about reading something that moves you, finding your purpose, and cuddling on the couch.
Crossing things off of your to-do list, being productive and successful are worthy goals. But so is learning something just because you are interested in it, not because you are required to read it for a class. So is doing a hobby just because you like it, and even though you are awful at painting or playing the piano and will never become world-renowned, you genuinely enjoy it. So is looking for all of the little things in life and making them big things, feeling emotions that lead to action, and wanting to succeed and achieve something more.