Kids are fascinated by everything. They want to touch things; they ask questions that adults are afraid to and say things aloud that would get a grown-up in big trouble. They have an endless thirst for knowing how stuff works. You can see this right away if you throw an iPad in front of a baby. He or she immediately knows how to work the thing, touching it and maneuvering icons around in such a confusing manner that when you get your device back it is so jacked up and you have no clue what they did or how to fix it.
Young children are characterized by deep curiosity—they want to figure things out. That’s what makes them happy. They love figuring out how things work or playing make believe. It gives them joy. We all start that way. The thing is, at a certain point children become teenagers and become know-it-alls, and we start talking back to our parents and we move out of the house and think we have all of life’s answers. By then we settle into our routines and land a secure job and a boy/girlfriend and we coast from day-to-day. And even if we don’t become boring and spend time sitting around watching daytime soaps, eating popcorn in our pajamas on Saturday night, the truth is that once we’re all grown up, we’re not nearly as curious about stuff as we used to be. We get bored. Not boring—bored. But where does all of that innocent curiosity go? Are we too busy with bills, children, and office drama to focus on figuring stuff out, on asking big, deep questions, and on taking ourselves on vast exploratory journeys?
I think this is partially why we have mid-life crises as we close in on our 40s. It’s not because we’re afraid of getting older, because 40-year-olds are hot, and it’s not because we’re probably going to die in the next 40 years. We have mid-life crises because we reach 40 and realize that we haven’t done shit. We haven’t done any exploration. We haven’t asked any big questions or tried to teach ourselves something brand new, like we did when we were kids. We don’t play make believe anymore, like we did when we were kids. We get to 40 and wonder how we made it to the midpoint of our lives without putting ourselves out there. We wake up and realize we’re bored.
Ages 0-22 are about figuring stuff out and making dumb mistakes; 22-30 is for finding your career and settling down with someone; 30-40 is for starting a family and saving for your retirement. And then bam: 40 hits and you are just like, “What is my life?”
The thing that separates the young at heart from the other people in their age bracket is that the young at heart haven’t let go of their sense of discovery and creativity. They don’t presume to have all the answers, and instead have embarked on a lifelong journey of trying new stuff.
Lately I’ve become obsessed with DJing as a creative form, partially because I love electronic dance music. What can I say, I’m a raver. But I’ve never actually tried my hand at the form. Do I really want to leave this world knowing that I really wanted to be a DJ and never tried it out? That’s why I’m planning to join one of those DJ schools so I can learn how to DJ as well as make my own electronic dance music. It doesn’t mean that I’m about to drop everything and become the next biggest DJ in the world, but what it does allow is the chance for me to learn something new, to figure out a new piece of technology, to make mistakes and to build a brand new skill.
We should never stop learning and we should make time out of our busy lives to tend to the flame of curiosity. If you’re not feeding your own curiosities, then what are you doing with your life? Learn a new language and then spend some time in the country where it’s spoken. Teach yourself how to write a short story and then write several. Find a new culinary interest and cook big meals for all your favorite people. Become passionate about something and dedicate your brainpower to refining that knowledge. We tell ourselves that knowledge is power. But that’s only the beginning. The pursuit of knowledge and ideas is the key to youth.
-Follow Madison Moore on Twitter @popgazm