A few days ago, I was digging through the barn at my family farm and uncovered a blast from my young past, my first bicycle. I was 5 years old when I got this one, a tiny, yellow, German-made bike with tall handlebars and a banana seat.
I was very small for my age and it was difficult to find a bike that would fit me so my family found one originally designed for use on high wires in the circus, but modified into a road bike for kids. I spent hours on end pedaling around on my tiny, yellow speedster with its colorful spokes and spring-loaded luggage rack on the back.
I didn’t have many friends and spent a lot of time alone, so this bike was my buddy, my companion. Seeing it again this week reminded me of all the things we leave behind as we grow up.
I’m probably unusual in that for everything I’ve let go over the years there is a list of things I held onto. I think we all do that, but many of us aren’t aware of it and just figure we have “outgrown” everything. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve never lost my interest in music, science fiction, super heroes, and performing. Today I get paid to play music, act like a cowboy, even dress up like Indiana Jones. So I have managed to make my childhood pay off in some ways.
And for those who might see any of this negatively or as immaturely “childish,” I say they couldn’t be more incorrect. We need some childishness in our adult world. As kids, most of us were positive, light hearted and energetic. Growing up, we became jaded, cynical, and overwhelmed by our own responsibilities and the unfairness of the world. Why does anyone want to be that way?
Sure, being an adult has its perks. But you don’t have to “grow up” to be a responsible adult. In fact, I’ve learned that the more complex the mind of the person, the more important and essential is the simplicity of being able to play.
Upon rescuing my little yellow bike from the barn, I realized I still own every cycle I’ve had since – a total of four. I know a great many middle-aged people who haven’t even ridden a bicycle since they were in high school.
I can’t even comprehend something like that. It’s vital that I don’t lose everything about who I was as a kid because that’s how I got here, that’s how I became who I am. I think when we shut out that part of ourselves entirely, we lose something.
I’m not talking about being the spoiled brat who got his or her way by screaming or having a tantrum. I mean the child inside us that allows for discovery, the appreciation and experience of new things in a way only kids can. Each of us has that potential within ourselves to be a better adult because of the kid we once were.
Consider it this way. As kids, we didn’t need crutches like alcohol to tolerate people or situations. Most of us interacted without provocation and were blind to things like race or religious differences – we just were. Hate, anger, and bigotry are learned from our surroundings. As children, we’re open to more, we care more, we feel more, and none of that is bad.
Maturity is not about growing up but managing our emotions. While it might be immature to cry because you don’t like to be criticized, it’s not childish to have our feelings hurt by it. After all, we have a president who regularly says mean and provocative things about people but always lashes out, like a child, if the same is done to him. He may be grown up, but he’s still very immature.
My little yellow bike reminded me of how I got where I am today, scraped knees and all. Each of us has a symbol of that part of our lives that we still hang onto. Find yours and find yourself.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at deerinheadlines.com.