My husband and I have never been one to rush our children to grow up. The magic of childhood, with the inherent lack of responsibility, the unbridled creativity (when not stifled by well-meaning educators), the un-jaded and excited welcoming of all that life has to offer, is so short-lived that we encouraged our children to retain their youthful perspective as long as possible. Not an easy task in this culture which for some reason encourages us to grow up as quickly as possible. I can’t quite figure it out. Who would want to take on responsibility before they have to? Who would want to give up unscheduled time to relax and dream?
Growing up today seems to be defined by an urgency to get into the job market and become a consumer. I watch the high school population press to dress like adults, rush to drive, work in order to be able to purchase material goods, and take on tasks that would be challenging at any age.
That is not to diminish the many great contributions being made to society and to the global community by teens; in fact I am in awe of what some young people are doing today. But the ones who do it out of passion, rather than to fulfill their community service requirement for college applications, are the ones who actually didn’t rush to grow up. They are the dreamers of what can be, not what is.
Talk to passionate dreamers and you will find people who don’t take “no” for an answer and who get “yes” simply by deigning to ask, like my co-author Caroline’s son, Chris, a college graduate who has been working on a global poverty project that is taking off like a rocket. [see more information below]. These are the kids who are not looking at life as something to be lived in linear fashion: attend college, graduate, get a job, make money, buy a house, marry, have kids, etc. Nothing wrong with that vision but those who are able to think out of the box are the ones who will change the world.
Changing the world requries imagination combined with the ability to co-create with ease. As Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” The best way to encourage inspiration is to allow the dreaming to happen. When our kids are over-scheduled and asked to deliver to high expectations in order to fulfill the linear life vision perpetuated by society, we risk losing potential dreamers who can bring new and creative perspectives to a world crying out for just that.
My daughter (who by the way would cringe knowing I’m writing about her) is attending a 5-week program in interdisciplinary arts, including dance, theater, African drumming, poetry, visual arts, song-writing, playwriting, photography and film, along with leadership training. The ultimate mission of the program is to create new advocates for the arts, much needed ambassadors for the dwindling funding of these programs.
In the application essay for the program, she wrote, “My theater teacher once told me that the reason musicals exist is because when someone can’t express their feelings through words, they sing and when singing still can’t fully express how they feel, they dance. For me, dancing truly is the ultimate form of self-expression and over the years it has helped me get through anything, even by choreographing pieces to that perfect song in my head.”
Creativity is healing on many levels, for the individual and for the world, and I am so pleased that my daughter has embraced her creative path at this critical time in her life.
So, my wish for my daughter is that she never stop dreaming and creating, never stop being silly and finding the humor in life, in fact never stop giggling (as Caroline and I are known to break into fits of), and never rush to become a “mature adult” with the inherent seriousness that growing up implies.