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It sits like a monument in front of my elementary school and directly across the street from my high school. It was once brilliant, daring, and magical, but then became just conspicuous, simple, and even juvenile. This tangle of iron bars which somehow coalesces together into circumferential shape is where I had once swung with glee from bar to bar as an expression of my little self, where everyone was my friend and no one my judge. Prior to college, I’d seen the dome pretty much every school day of my life. But it was only upon my first trip back home from college that the sight of the dome plainly panged me.
I often get scared by realizations and reminders that I am “growing up.” Sure, college is exciting and aspirational, but at what price? Harvard debutante or not, I find myself still yearning to cling on to my childhood innocence, even as it stealthily slips through my fingertips. Perhaps I am just a bit more nostalgic than most. I do tend to tear up on the first and last day of just about anything and typically get a most robust lump in the back of my throat whenever saying goodbye for however briefly. But when the reminiscing ends, I think that I am not so peculiar. And I think that you, too, may miss something about your prior little self.
The essential question for all of us then becomes whether or not we can recapture any of that which we cherished so much from our childhood, but somehow relinquished. As I see toddlers play, I wonder if we can ever again lose ourselves in pure fun without the worry of competing responsibilities even if just for the moment. As I relish their hysterical laughter, shudder at their unbridled anguish, and marvel at the most impressive rapidity with which these emotions so easily interdigitate, I wonder how good it may feel if we can ever again be so bold as to unleash our genuine emotion for all to see. And most importantly, as I hear the fantastical dreams of little boys who want to be in the major leagues and little girls who plan to be movie stars (and vice versa), I wonder if we, too, can still dream so big.
I would like to suggest that by doing what we love, by making sure to constantly seek out pleasure and truth, we may indeed be able to realize and maintain seemingly child-like states of freedom and enjoyment. The approach to achieve such bliss will surely not be the same for everyone, but for all, the prerequisites are trifold. First, we must never stop engaging in at least some activity purely for the derivation of pleasure; the activity must be one that is not graded, judged, or evaluated by anyone, including yourself. Second, the activity must provide genuine satisfaction. Third, it must be something that can be worked into your regular schedule. For some, it may be an afternoon run. For others, it may be found in music, art, dance, or writing.
My brief visit home, one which was filled with tokens and reminders of my childhood world, came to an end just last week. As I departed for my Amtrak train back to Cambridge, I passed by my old elementary school with all its cherished memories once more, recognizing what joy it brought to me in times gone by, but also well aware that I have outgrown that time and place.
And so I continued further along on my journey, recognizing that I need not relinquish my childhood innocence, naivete, or glee while traveling forward. Everything about this recent journey — the independence of traveling alone, the continued growth offered by yet another college semester, and the opportunities for self-discovery and exploration that I knew I was riding towards — reminds me of my entry into the less familiar world of adulthood. Yet I know that I need not fear this new world, which promises to become its own unique, more expansive version of my sweeping childhood dome.
Gemma J. Schneider ’23, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Canaday.
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