When I was young, I never understood what was so special about childhood. Everyone said that there was some magic that would never be recaptured. Everyone said to enjoy what I had. Everyone said I’d understand when I’m older.
For years I assumed it was some special privilege or freedom from responsibility. Not having the stress or strain to keep a roof over your head or pay bills. I suppose in some ways that’s true, but that isn’t the reality of what was lost. Even when young, I felt responsible and burdened with worry. I’m not the only one. Some of us were born to be filled with concern, others had troubles thrust upon them at a young age and had to stand up to the responsibility.
I guess some people really did skip and jump carefree as kids, and never really thought about tomorrow. That wasn’t me. It wasn’t us.
Perhaps those people were the ones who woke up as an adult and realised they’d lost their carefree selves and felt like that was the thing they wanted to make sure their own kids appreciated. Perhaps those are the people who drink, smoke, take drugs to try and recapture that state.
No. It wasn’t being carefree that we lost when we grew up. We lost a field of endless possibility.
When I stared upwards, as a kid, the world felt infinite. I worried, but I had a faith that I would pull myself up and out to somewhere better. I had ambitions and dreams, modest ones, but they filled me with hope.
As an adult, I feel each day the infinite field of possibilities drawing ever tighter. I count each loss and missed opportunity that slips through my fingertips. I look at a growing pile of small failures and know that I lost my chance to ever recapture them. There are dozens of tiny forks in the road that could have been my life that I didn’t have the strength, talent, skill or bravery to cross. Each fork in the road closes a door on thousands more opportunities and each decision makes my life a narrower path.
When I was young, every day opened some new door, some new possibility, some new hope.
Now, as the days tick into years, I feel doors closing, possibilities becoming impossible, and the heavy drag of being so far from where I’d hoped.
I can still close my eyes and be carefree. I can still laugh, indulge in childish frivolity, allow myself that naïve joy. But I can never, never make up for those thousands of losses, the millions of near misses, and I can never again feel that field of infinite possibility stretching out in front of me.
We grow old and we weave ourselves in to boxes. Only a few of us ever break free again.