Stimulate Your Childish Enthusiasm

One day I would like to own a home in a foreign country. I would like to spend my weeks at a university teaching Arthurian myth and Celtic folklore to students who can’t quite put their finger on why I find the subject so fascinating. I’d explore the countryside, mingle with the locals, and develop a fondness for a particular library with old windows. I’d learn all the curse words in the mother tongue and then use them in the most ridiculous situations. I would attend cultural festivals where I’d have no idea what’s happening. I would leave my windows open at night so the smell of the earth could become part of my memory forever. I would sit on the floor and listen to the rain. I would pick wildflowers and tuck them behind my ear. I’d walk barefoot in the grass.

I don’t know if or when any of that will happen, and that’s part of what makes it so special, so exciting. Years ago I remember wanting my life to be similar to “Under the Tuscan Sun” with Diane Lane, save for the divorce that kicks everything off. She’s a writer, and she buys this run-down villa completely out of the blue and makes life work. Okay, so maybe I was primarily drawn to the idea of living in a foreign country on my own terms by my own means, but what part of that doesn’t appeal to you? Then I started paying more attention to the relationships that were explored in the film, particularly with Katherine’s character. She’s perfectly effervescent in a way that most would think she’s crazy, but she’s living fully, completely, and for the most part, quite happily. And what exactly is her secret?

“Never lose your childish enthusiasm, and things will come your way.” – Under the Tuscan Sun

Childish enthusiasm? Childish innocence? Isn’t that naiveté? Isn’t that really just a waste of time?

Well let me ask you something, is time spent being happy time wasted? Does being happy in an adult world mean you’re being childish? Of course not. Have you seen how excited children get about things that we often may find inconsequential? They’re exuberant! They’re full of wonder! They’re completely and incandescently happy! They have dreams, big and small, that manage to put a smile on someone’s face, maybe yours. It’s one of the reasons I love being a teacher, especially to the younger ones. They’re so full of ideas about the world that it’s completely natural for me to go along with them.

And perhaps I am a little bit afraid of showing my own enthusiasm for things, because as adults, we’re somehow brought up to see that as somewhat childish. But when did that avenue of “childish” develop a negative connotation? I really love some “crazy” things that place me in the “nerd” category. AWESOME! I love that I can relay line for line of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, that no one has ever beaten me at LotR trivial pursuit, that I’m a completionist when it comes to gaming, and that I practically hyperventilate when trying to share just how much I love Arthurian legends (seriously). I love that I enjoy rolling in fresh, green, grass, blowing the largest bubbles on the playground, getting excited to see any cute, furry animal, jumping into a kid’s ball pen, or even playing old-school games like freeze tag or twister.

Life is fun, and it’s sad when we are too concerned about negative things to remember just how enjoyable the overall picture can be. So if you want to call me naive, fine. I’ve told many people that I’m naive by choice, because I tend to be much happier that way. That doesn’t mean I’m any less responsible or aware than the next person, just that I choose to see things in a more positively engaging way.

So here’s my challenge to you:

  • Do something you loved to do when you were a child. Get excited about it.
  • Do something you’ve always wanted to do as a child. Get excited about it.
  • Make a “fool” out of yourself in that you’re doing something that makes you happy even if other people think it’s ridiculous. (Like a victory dance in the middle of the sidewalk or something.)
  • Take a walk and don’t have a plan of where you’ll go, decide on the moment which path you want to take. (Be street smart about it people.)
  • Look for amazing things you’ve never noticed before.
  • Smile while doing all of the above.
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