As children, we are told stories of wonder and delight, of dazzling princesses and dashing princes, of fairy godmothers and evil queens. Yet for some reason I, and others, couldn’t wait to leave that wonderland our imaginations were allowed to romp freely in. When we’re young, “growing up” sounds exciting: it means pursuing your career as a princess or an astronaut and promises the chance to stay up past bedtime. The world beyond childhood is the happily ever after we can’t wait to reach.
Then I actually got to high school, and it proved to be a rude awakening, both for my childhood expectations and my older self at 5:30 in the morning. I can surely say growing up wasn’t being whisked away in a horse and carriage to the kingdom of expansive possibility I imagined. Quite the opposite. High school felt constraining to me, like packing the bustle of Grand Central Station into a single train car. The older I got, the more I wanted to backtrack. Sleeping Beauty was living my dream life, and I started secretly hoping Neverland was a possible spot for a one-way field trip. Too late, I realized the only guaranteed trip of that nature is our childhood. While we can’t restart the process we can always rewind to review the moments and lessons that matter. My core classes taught me a lot and earned me my diploma, but the simple morals I learned as a child are of equal significance and will stay with me as I embark on my next adventure. Along for the ride are a few old but very dear friends of mine, recalled to recite the advice we initially didn’t understand or may have forgotten.
This first quote comes from Lumiere, who once told us, in a suave French accent, “You don’t have time to be timid. You must be bold and daring.” Now all my fellow introverts out there must be thinking this is cheap coming from a fiery candlestick. I shied away from this quote at first, but then I thought of it in a different light and an idea sparked. Being bold isn’t only for extroverts and being daring doesn’t equate to being reckless. This quote advises you to make known the parts of yourself you may have concealed like the Beast in the West Wing, ashamed your true self may make you an outcast. You cannot allow your passions to be snuffed out by what other people think or say. I spent most of high school being timid and figured I might as well keep up the act until college: coming out of my shell in senior year would be too out of character. I’ve since learned you can’t wait for a big break to make changes in your life – if you do not create opportunities for yourself they may never arrive. Being bold does not mean you have to take on the lead role, it just means you should choose and commit to the role you want for yourself, not the one others may cast you in.
The Genie from Aladdin once said, “Today’s special moments are tomorrow’s memories;”and as he has been around for eons, I trust his concept of time. When I was held captive by piles of work, tired and anxious, high school seemed pretty full of stressful moments while being devoid of special ones. Yet scarcely two weeks after graduation, I am already nostalgic for the walks to class with friends that I will never have again. Perhaps I didn’t value those moments at the time because they were ordinary: “special” was an adjective reserved for experiences that were more exciting and glamorous. In hindsight I’ve realized the moments I had with my friends in high school may not have looked like the luxurious lives of celebrities on Instagram, but that doesn’t make them any less significant or remarkable. Experiences have value because of how they make us feel, not how flawless they appear to be. People are not stagnant like the material objects we value, so we should appreciate the people around us while they are present in our lives. In high school, I always naïvely considered the friends I had to be the ones that would always be there, forgetting that we were only allotted a certain amount of time together before we moved away and moved on. Making plans with your friends can be stressful now, but imagine what it will be like when you’re spread across the states. It won’t be until you’re catching up on your family and friends’ lives via Facebook that you realize you should’ve put your phone down and treasured the time you had in person. Everyone is looking for a happily ever after-but when day-dreaming about what we don’t have, we often overlook the things that we do.
Just as we are not supposed to live life within the confines of a screen, we are not meant to live it within the 8.5” by 11” confines of a prim and proper résumé. Although Winnie the Pooh doesn’t have much experience with résumé-building, or know the sting of college rejections, his words are soothing to those who do: “Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.” I first heard this quote in my more carefree days, and it has only become more applicable as time took ahold of my life. Growing up has felt like watching your favorite cartoon morph into harsh, realistic shapes, and suddenly you too have to materialize and leave the animated world of childhood, where everything was charming and welcoming. We are entering the real world of sharp edges and fine lines in which we have to sand ourselves down and spruce ourselves up to fit each of the expectations that are given to us. But when you spend your life only valuing the façade of yourself found on a résumé, you often forget to have a life beyond those few thin sheets of paper. People often neglect the things that make them happy because there doesn’t seem to be anything worthy of extracting from them for an essay or an application, forgetting that the things we love make this trek worthwhile. For all the writing techniques, chemical formulas, and elaborate equations we learned in high school, there is no way to engineer magic or the write the spells that made everything work out wonderfully the way they did in fairy tales. You have to accept that the path of your life is mapped out as you go, not planned out before the journey. The only thing that’s certain is the nature of the terrain: ahead is a winding road of curves and roadblocks, of tough climbs that eventually reach high points. Along the way you may learn that society’s conception of what makes a person happy may differ from your own, and the affluence and glory you thought you wanted may give way to a desire for a simpler, yet fulfilled life.
Now I’m certain that dancing candle sticks, ancient genies, and talking bears would not contest as reputable sources were this a school assignment, but no matter their origin, these lessons have value. While the use of this last source in a formal paper would also not fly, the speaker certainly does: Peter Pan jolted our imaginations when he told us, “Think of all the joy you’ll find, when you leave the world behind and bid your cares goodbye. You can fly.” All the responsibilities we are assuming is quite grounding, but we cannot let the worry of debt and the next four years worth of dinners burden us completely. We can now actively pursue our own dreams, and whether you’ve had the same dream since you were five, fifteen, or are still figuring it out, that is a liberating concept. There will, undoubtedly, be turbulence, but keeping in touch with your inner child will always keep you optimistic that clearer skies are ahead. Find a balance: don’t do things just for a résumé but also refrain from activities that could end up on your record. The fantasy of childhood is coming to a close, we can’t go through life believing there’s going to be fairy godmothers to transform us or singing animals to do our chores (although apparently some people think dogs have the intellectual capacity to attend graduation). (Pet)tiness and puns aside, don’t forget to seize the moments that matter to you. It doesn’t matter if your magic reaches millions or enchants just a few: be sure to cast your spell on this world.
Singh is a contributor for The Millennial Times.