by James Robbins, Licensed Therapist in Dallas, TX
What would my 13 year-old self do?
I ask myself this from time to time. Not that my 13 year-old self had all the answers, but I like to check in.
As a therapist and life coach I’ve noticed something interesting: When my clients retire from their careers or step back from their parenting roles, they often return to activities from their childhood or adolescence. It’s as if “real life” temporarily interrupted a personal journey of some kind, one which is resumed after working through adult issues of responsibility, commitment, organization, consistency. After someone has “proved” himself in the adult world of career and/or parenting, he likely returns to the things that made him happy much earlier in life. But why wait for retirement? Why wait until the kids move out?
When I was 13, I loved to read, but things got in the way. Math homework. Football practice. Some day, I thought, I’ll be able to read as much as I want to . . . Now I’m in a place to honor that adolescent vision. If I want to read a book about pirates or robots – even when I’m “supposed” to be doing something adult like going to the dentist or estimating my quarterly taxes – I read a book about pirates or robots. I rebel in small ways, keeping the fire of my teenage self burning. This is one of the reasons adults resent teenagers: Teens are still in touch with their life passions in a simple, direct way. When you fundamentally lose touch with your adolescent self, you try to recreate your teen years with drugs and alcohol, with reckless sexual relationships and impulsive actions.
Adolescents don’t want to live a conventional life. They realize a conventional life produces conventional results. They see the adults around them as lost and unhappy, and they want to avoid taking the same tired path. We can learn something from teenagers. So as you go about your adult day, I challenge you to stop every now and then and ask yourself: What would my 13 year-old self do?