At 10 years old you could probably find me sitting on my bed, mesmerized by the latest NSYNC album, while playing the tracks on loop and dancing in front of the mirror. At 15 years old, I’m already immersed in the high school scene, but I’ll be the first to admit that friends and I would go to the local elementary school playground from time to time and ride the swings. At 20 years old, I’m getting closer to graduating college and entering ‘the real world,’ and life keeps on happening. I’m now turning 22, and it’s safe to say that life isn’t as carefree as it once was.
Innocence does get lost along the way, which is a natural consequence of undergoing various experiences that are encountered along the journey — perhaps grief from an illness, family conflict, loss, or a broken heart, just to cite a few of life’s curveballs. Everyone has a story and everyone has a past. Not everyone, however, copes with life’s pain in the same fashion.
Some individuals try to face hardships head-on, allowing the anxiety to pass through their system. Some may seek out a therapist who may help shed light, bring clarity, and introduce healthy coping techniques.
Unfortunately, some individuals hurt themselves. Some turn to drugs and alcohol to escape reality, to escape the stressors and traumas that have become part of ‘growing up.’ According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, adolescents enter high school and may be faced with social and emotional challenges that put them at greater risk for drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
Instead of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms when suffering ensues, what if we try to recapture the innocence once more within ourselves and hold onto it?
There’s something to be said for nostalgic trips down memory lane, and there has to be a reason why many reminisce and refer to their youth as ‘the good old days.’ Well, we can’t literally travel back in time, but we can seek out the positive feelings we possessed during our innocence in order to counter life’s adversity.
Finding and retaining that childish innocence certainly allows me to stay grounded, and whether it’s singing and dancing in front of my mirror to 90’s music, laughing at myself when my quirky nature is exhibited full force (I’m pretty good at imitations), or happily floating in the ocean on a beautiful summer day, surrendering to and embracing that state of happiness allows innocence to shine through.
Holden Caulfield’s character in J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was frustrated that he couldn’t hold on to how things were. “Certain things they should stay the way they are,” he said. “You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.”
Is it really impossible, though? Not all of our innocence has to be lost within our being as we move onward in life. In fact, if we all find those moments when we can seize upon our innocence, maybe, just maybe, we can cope more effectively.