Provided by Troy Headrick from Thinker Boy: Blog & Art
A little more than three years ago, I left my teaching job at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and moved back to the United States, the place where I was born. A clause in the contract I’d signed with AUC, way back when I was first hired, stipulated that the university would ship my belongings back to America once I’d left Egypt. So my Egyptian wife and I took advantage of that perk and sent a whole household of items, from east to west, across the cold Atlantic.
The other day I was out in my garage and noticed that I still had two boxes, dating back to my time in Egypt, which had never been opened. I figured they held books, so I tore into them, liberating their contents.
I had been right. They held books, dozens of them, and I looked longingly at their covers as I read their titles. One in particular—The Choice Is Always Ours: The Classic Anthology on the Spiritual Way—caught my eye, so opened it and perused its table of contents.
The next morning I started thinking about “choice” and “the spiritual way.” I felt like the book was speaking to me. It was reminding me that I needed to work on myself—that I wasn’t as spiritually healthy as I needed to be and that it was within my power to change myself for the better.
I live a lot in my head and I suppose you could call me a thinker. Most people with these same characteristics have a tendency to be what some might call “serious.” Such folks are very analytical and self-aware and tend to worry a lot. They hold themselves and others to very high standards. They see problems everywhere and frequently feel the need get involved, speak out, become politically active, intervene, right injustices, organize those around them, and such. These very serious people have a hard time turning their minds off at the end of the day. Sometimes, because their brains are so active, they have trouble sleeping soundly when a lot of the rest of the world is slumbering away.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being a thinker and with caring deeply about things. There is, however, a very fine line that separates the person who cares from the person who worries, and there is an equally fine line separating the worrier from the individual who obsesses.
The pressures of adulthood are partly responsible for turning so many of us into overly serious, neurotic basket cases. These pressures turn us inward, interfere with our abilities to feel joy and to have fun, cause stress and stress-related health problems, and prevent us from having fulfilling relationships. If we aren’t careful, they can also stunt our intellectual development by turning us into reactionaries.
The antidote is to become skilled at reconnecting with one’s inner child. Unfortunately, the world teaches us that a person moves out of childhood—and has to abandon all “childish” things, including playfulness—when one becomes an adult. Thus, the maturation process is thought to be linear and unidirectional—from childhood to adulthood. The healthiest, happiest, most creative people are able to return to the carefree state of childhood when the weight of the world gets too heavy. They don’t just cry, scowl, and fume; they laugh, smile, and let things go.
In what ways is being “too adult” unhealthy? How is such rigidity holding us back? How can we go about reconnecting with that playful part of ourselves that knows—very viscerally, very intuitively—how to live joyfully and fully?
These are important questions that require some thought and discussion.