“As a 12-year-old, I’ve spent most of my life on screen, school and home, which sure can be fun. But I also struggle with depression, and sometimes I feel like I haven’t done enough ‘kid’ things. When I grow up, will I feel like I wasted my childhood?
The ability to project oneself into the future, to think of the present as a phase in a very long life, is a sign of unusual maturity—though this discernment often comes with its own burdens. You are looking for a way to “live intentionally”. That phrase, as you may already know, comes from the opening line of Henry David Thoreau walden, a literary experiment that was similarly motivated by a skepticism of modern technologies and a fear of future regrets. While you may be trying to anticipate the disappointments of your adult self, Thoreau was looking even further into the future. He went into the woods because he feared that, on his deathbed, he would find that he “did not live.”
It seems to me that you are burdened with common misconceptions about the purpose of childhood. On the one hand, youth in the 21st century is often seen as a means to an end: a time to develop the skills and personal qualities that will allow you to excel as an adult, postponing your immediate desires for something else. is required to do. Future Ideal – Scholastic success, rentability, financial stability. On the other hand, childhood is often said to be a unique period of freedom (as I’m sure many adults in your life remind you), perhaps the only years when you can indulge in fun, creativity, and personal enjoyment without surroundings. There are worries and responsibilities that adulthood brings. While this second thought seems to grant license for aimless exploration, I can understand that you find it equally stressful as a mandate to prepare for the future. I don’t think you are alone in this. In a way, the injunction against wasting childhood is related to the same futuristic logic that treats the early years as an investment. Letting “kid things” become just another checklist to tackle, in other words, is a way of ensuring that you become a well-rounded adult who has happy memories of the past and is free of regrets. Are.
Adding to the stress and confusion of childhood is the fact that digital technologies have insidiously blurred the distinction between work and play. When you spend your free time gaming, reading and posting on the same devices you use to complete homework assignments, it’s easy to get confused about whether you’re having fun or just completing duties Are. And when you realize that all the adults in your life similarly spend most of their work and leisure time staring at screens, it’s tempting to conclude that your own adulthood will be a slightly upgraded continuation of your current existence: image quality. Will be faster, processing speed will be faster, but the basic structure of your days will remain the same.
The thing is, projecting yourself into the future is always a treacherous gamble. Our perceptions of what life will be like 10 or 20 years from now are inescapably limited by the circumstances of the present. If you’ve ever watched sci-fi movies from several decades ago, you’ve probably noticed that even the most visionary directors’ imaginations have strange anachronisms. Stanley Kubrick, in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), envisioned a bold future of commercial space travel and sentient robots, but, apparently, couldn’t wrap his mind around the prospect of a world without pay phones (his space stations are full of them). 2015 Nationals, as imagined back to the future (1989), have access to flying hoverboards and high-def video walls but still use fax machines to transmit highly sensitive information.
Given the pace of technological development, it is quite possible that your adulthood will be radically different from your present life. Maybe the screen will be replaced with a retinal implant and you’ll spend your days immersed in a metaverse that feels quainter than the clicking and scrolling memories of your childhood. Or maybe AI has automated most businesses and created enormous wealth, such that you would be free to spend your infinite free time gardening, traveling and attending philosophy lectures.
I don’t say this to create more anxiety about the future, the way forward. Quite the opposite. In my view, the uncertainty about what adult life will be like gives you an unusual measure of freedom. If childhood cannot be seen as a kiln of future ambitions (or a time to frantically collect rose buds for fond memories), then it must be seen, in some fundamental way, as an end in itself. can be seen. Instead of trying to make your future self take away the things you may have done as a child, perhaps you should focus on how you feel about those things. When you think of activities that are usually grouped under the heading of “kid things”—going to the zoo, catching fireflies, creating your own graphic novels, just to name a few possibilities—what of them someone excites you? When you think about a time when you were most happy and content, or felt life especially meaningful, do they share something in common? More importantly, when you spend all day staring at a screen, how do you feel afterwards? If you suspect that your depression is linked to the technologies you use, that’s reason enough to think about how you can restructure your life.
There may be something to experiment with spending more time outside, but reducing your use of technology can’t make up for infatuation with nature. The tendency to associate childhood activities with wilderness activities (climbing trees, building forts, swimming) dates back to the Romantic tradition, which idealized both nature and youth as sites of innocence and spontaneity. And it is only in times of technological change that we want to see nature as a realm of immutable purity.
Thoreau’s time in the jungle taught him just the opposite. The natural world itself is full of change: seasons come and go, birds migrate from north to south and back again. While these situations do not preclude the possibility of planning for the future, they also show how futile it is to live in the service of your future. Thoreau wrote in his journal in 1859 that in a world of constant flux, we must “allow the seasons to rule us.” A life of intention can only be lived in the present, giving energy to things that have value in the here and now. Given that he put it better than I did, I’ll leave you with his words: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, discover your infinity in every moment… do what makes you You love…let nothing come between you and yourself.” Light.”