Turning thirty-eight has got me thinking about my younger self, but not in the way you think. I don’t wish I was closer to thirty than forty. I really don’t want to revisit my twenties. No, I want to go further back -- to a time when I was a shame free and unrestrained five-year-old.
I have this memory of crouching over our dining room table with my siblings. We had tiled the table in sheets of paper, securing them with scotch tape. On top of our giant sized paper, Frankensteined together, we drew roads, houses, buildings, and parks. We took our map into the third dimension by cutting tiny paper trees and stop signs, and by folding and taping a flap, we erected them in parways and at intersections. The experience of creating with abandon, with limitless possibilities, was indeed thrilling for my little creative brain and tiny hands. Our creativity was fueled by each other’s ideas and agreement that we could built it, our own world. It seemed like we were getting away with something. I was grateful that our Mom didn’t interrupt our game. She wasn’t upset with the scraps of paper littering the floor. I felt on top of our little paper world.
This sense of creative power is something that I have worked my whole life to return to. I want to hold on to myself at age four or five - full of curiosity, possibility, play, and wonder. I do not know much about early childhood development, but this seems to me to be the age where our sense of self and personality are fully rooted. We haven’t been negatively impacted by the socializing forces of school. We haven’t been taught to doubt, to fit in, or to be normal. All of which curb creativity.
We all have this fearlessly creative five-year-old in us. We can find her again. It’s my life’s goal to get her back. I’m confident that play and creativity are part of the process of finding her. Also, I need to let go of fear of judgement and cut away any attempt of “fitting in”. These limiting ideas should litter the floor like the rain of paper scraps.
Yes, my five-year-old self still exists, and she is probably cutting paper trees, or getting lost listening to records in the corner of the dining room, or she is feebly sewing pink gingham pillows for her Barbie dolls, making enormous stitches with black thread.
Can you remember when you were five? What did you like to do most?
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.