The Seven Year Old's Perfect Day
I'm changing it up this new-year, and inviting my seven year old self to join in on the celebrations.
"What are you new years resolutions?"
That used to be me, popping into your DM's like a fire-cracker, and daring you to tempt me with a dizzying display of your new-years resolution list, fully kitted with task prioritisation and plans for your quarterly follow-ups. You got that down? I expect it in my inbox by Monday.
Yep, nothing beats the thrill of a long and unrealistic list of New Years Goals.
Just the list though - let's be clear - I have absolutely no intention of seeing my goals through.
You see, this is because I am a notorious planner. I don't just state my goals; that would be missing the point. I marinate in my goals, I mull them over and I wring them dry - sapping every last drop of dopamine from them that my brain will allow. This means that I don't simply start the new year with a list of attainable goals. No, I start with a constitution, complete with colour-coding to prioritise my goals based on their plausibility and significance.
If you managed to get a hold of my lists from previous years, you might believe that you are reading the words of an established woman; she's a coder; a valedictorian; an athlete; and a social media influencer (oh, and did I mention... she speaks French!). The best part - I've enjoyed the dopaminergic surge from all these achievements... without having to complete a single one!
I know, I'm awesome.
When I phrase it as such, one might assume that it is healthy that I have officially stopped making new years resolutions... but I would argue that the opposite is true. For me, New Years Resolutions have always been harmless fun; a reason to fantasise about my wildest dreams, and to believe - if only for a few days - that all of my goals are within my reach.
So to say that it was a healthy choice to drop the annual New Years Dreaming and the over-shooting would be to ignore the purpose this annual planning served me... I didn't drop an unhealthy habit... I lost my zest.
I stopped dreaming.
Lately, I have come to notice that most of my days are shrouded in existential dread. The joy that I experience seems to comes through a sieve; it's obscured by city-smog and dissociative brain-fog that limits my capacity to fully feel. Before the stress of adult life my joy came easy, and would sprout in unusual places. I can imagine my memories and moments of joy as bright-yellow daises, peaking from the cracks of a long and winding footpath.
Lately, I don't see any daisies sprouting...
I so desperately want that joy back.
So, I'm gaining it back with two pronged approach. You can read about my first course of action here, but for now I'd like to pull your attention to an idea known as 'The Sever Year Old's Perfect Day.'
The Seven Year Old's Perfect Day
I want you to think back to when you were seven. What were your hobbies? What were your dreams? My bet is, your hobbies and dreams were a far cry from how you live now... yet, no matter how much these things no longer play a role in your life, you still feel a certain pull towards them. Perhaps you feel it in the form of a nostalgic spark or maybe it's a wistful smile.
Regardless of how it presents, there's a reason you feel that way.
During childhood the mind is focused on experiences. While you might still care about fitting in, you're more inclined to pursue your authentic interests without the fear of judgement that is the hallmark of adolescence or the fear of failure that colours our adulthood. As children we are sponges, soaking up experiences and moments of joy in what ever form they present.
People often ask the question, "If you could go back in time and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?" ... I propose a reversal of this question.
If your younger said could see you now, what would they say? I don't know about you, but seven year old me would not be pleased - and since she is the undisputed authority on authenticity and joy - I believe it is time to rectify that.
Step One - Brainstorming
You were prompted before to think about the hobbies you had when you were seven. For me my hobbies included the following;
- Drawing landscapes with water-colour pencils,
- Playing video-games such as Spyro the Dragon and Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone,
- Watching T.V shows such as The Big Knights and The Worst Witch,
- Writing stories about cats and mermaids,
- Designing jewellery for my stuffed toys.
Well. That's adorable.
After thinking back on your seven year old self, I want you to make a note of any other point in time in which you remembered experiencing authentic joy. I'm going with the arbitrary method of introspection, by choosing half-decade increments to reflect upon. Weather you want to go for a more intuitive approach or if you want to copy my arbitrary one is up to you. Whatever you choose, the next step is the same; write down your hobbies for each of these time points.
Twelve: Choreographing dance routines, watching T.V shows such as Avatar the Last Airbender, playing video games such as The Sims 2, reading fantasy novels such as Dragon Keeper and Eragon, watching too many Cheerleading and Zac Efron movies, and climbing trees.
Seventeen: Creating 'zen' spaces in my bedroom, listening to melancholic music, playing video-games such as Jak X, and Jurassic Park Operation Genesis, watching too many Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts movies, researching mysticism, recording my dreams, canoeing, and shopping with friends.
Twenty-Two: Playing video-games such as Destiny and Minecraft, watching T.V shows such as One Upon a Time, playing tennis with my brother, playing card-games such as Yu-Gi-Oh, having drinks with friends, patting the neighbourhood cats, and watching too many Rachel McAdam's movies.
Step Two - Highlighting
Now that you have a list of the things that made up your authentic self across your lifespan, I want you to read over the list and mull it over. Give every item the attention it deserves, and notice how each hobby makes you feel. Does it make you smile? Anything that you have a visceral reaction too, highlight. As an example, my first section would look like this;
Seven: drawing landscapes with water-colour pencils, playing video-games such as Spyro the Dragon and Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, watching T.V shows such as The Big Knights and The Worst Witch, writing stories about cats and mermaids, going to the beach, and designing jewellery for stuffed toys.
Step Three - Compiling
Compile your highlighted items into a list, or use them to create a 'bingo' sheet. As it turns out, my highlighted items are nearing thirty - this is great! It means I still feel a connection to my authentic self from many different points in my time. After mulling over my exhaustive list, I have highlighted 9 of the more active hobbies to demonstrate what a bingo sheet might look like...
If bingo sheets aren't really your thing you can try this method instead;
Over the coming year your bingo sheet/jar of hobbies will be the fairy-god mother you've always wished for.
Whenever the weight of your life becomes too much to handle; if you're feeling stressed, disconnected, dissociated, under-pressure, run-down, co-dependant, guilty... or just need a moment to rest...I want you to pull out that sheet, or reach a hand into your jar-of-tricks. That little square or piece of paper is your ticket to a moments reprieve.
The goal that I have set out for myself this year is nothing like the ones from New-Years Passed... but it's just as ambitious. I'm not writing a best-selling novel, I'm not learning sign language, or becoming an international chess player... I'm restoring my peace, so that I might plant new memories on my winding road, one daisy at a time.
Bonus Content: When I asked my partner what his perfect day looked like when he was seven, he had this to say;
"I liked to walk to shops with grandma... umm, I'd wake up and I liked hearing the birds. We'd go to the shops and she'd get me a small toy and a snack, and then I'd have a nap"