What did you love doing when you were a kid? (The answer may tell you everything, or nothing)

kid

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One of my clearest memories from early childhood (I must have been about 6) was learning to write on my dad’s old typewriter that he used in college.

I remember painstakingly punching the letters, one little finger at a time, to compose one of my first stories — something about a mouse with no exposition or plot that ended on an awkward mid-sentence cliffhanger.

But damn, I was proud!

I forced my long-suffering mother to lay on my bed, with the lights out, while I stood wearing an old scarf over my head like a shawl (I think I was going for an old-timey granny aesthetic?), holding a lit candle and reading my story in a dramatic whisper (is it any wonder I ended up a theater nerd in high school?).

And when I was a pre-teen, sometimes I liked to sit on the toilet in my bathroom (where the acoustics were ideal, naturally) and pretend to give interviews to Seventeen about my latest accomplishments — winning that Oscar, writing that book, and my glamorous dating life, obviously.

So … is it a coincidence that I ended up becoming an adult who, you know, writes and speaks on a regular basis? Or was it bound to happen?

WE ALL HAD OUR “THING” AS KIDS

Kristen and I recently got the nicest email from someone who had stumbled upon an old blog of ours about how to survive a draining workplace. She told us that it made her realize that her toxic work environment was never going to make her happy, and that she didn’t want to waste valuable time anymore not doing what she loves.

She said that she’s had the desire to become an attorney ever since she was 14, and now at 39 she’s finally going to take the LSAT and apply to law school.

I’m super excited for her. I know that anyone who decides to follow through on a desire that’s been 25 years in the making is going to do amazing things.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to one of my clients, Kelly, about a similar situation.

She’s loved dance since she was a small kid — choreographing dance routines in her room was A Thing when she was growing up.

Now, after years of losing touch with what she loved in childhood, she’s decided to get back into dance by taking a dance instructor certification course.

And almost immediately after making that decision she started to wonder, “Should THIS be my thing? Should I turn this into my career?”

I totally understand that compulsion. Somewhere along the line, most of us who have struggled to figure out what to do with our lives have been asked, “Well, what did you love doing as a kid?”

But the thing is … that question, well meaning as it is, is sort of missing the deeper point.

THE WHOLE POINT IS JUST … JOY

Before I could even answer Kelly’s question, she answered it herself:

“Wait. Why am I rushing to turn this into a job? The whole reason I’m doing this is because it feels good. It makes me happy. Why can’t that be enough? At least for now?”

I couldn’t agree more.

Here’s the thing: Kids are the wisest people on the planet. Bar none.

Their wisdom is directly because they haven’t yet been sullied by the world — by other people’s opinions, by feeling the need to bend into different shapes in order to fit in, by the need to be “practical” and “realistic” and “successful.”

Kids are innocent. They have this beautiful, undiluted purity about them. They do almost everything for the intrinsic pleasure and enjoyment of it.

They inherently understand a truth that most adults have sadly lost touch with over the years:

The joy is the reward. It’s the whole point of why we do anything. Heck, it may be the whole point of why we’re here at all.

That’s why the things you loved as a kid really matter — because they’re the purest, most authentic expression of who you really are.

But like Kelly said, that doesn’t mean you should automatically jump to turning those things into your job.

WHEN DO I MAKE IT MY CAREER? AND WHEN DO I LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE?

There are a lot of different ways I could answer this question, and I don’t think I can fully do it justice in a few hundred words. That’s why we have two courses and 1-on-1 coaching — because these issues are a lot more complex and personal and deserve deeper attention.

But I do think there’s one major question you can ask yourself about this:

“Will pursuing this as a job ruin the intrinsic value of it?”

In other words, will it rob this thing of its inherent joy?

For Kelly, she’s going to try dancing for a while without complicating matters by adding money and structure to it. She wants to connect with it for what it is — something that feels good and makes her happy.

And if that’s as far as she (or you) EVER goes … that’s enough. Ultimately, the point of loving something isn’t to squeeze money or success out of it. Those things mean absolutely nothing if, at the foundation, there’s no joy.

And who’s to say that everything you love NEEDS to become a job, anyway? Why do we think that somehow makes it more legitimate? Who are we trying to impress? What are we trying to prove?

If joy is really the point, then we don’t need to prove anything. How it looks to other people doesn’t matter, so long as you’re happy and content.

But sometimes it IS perfectly OK to pursue what you loved as a kid as a career, in adulthood.

If you can do it in a way that doesn’t rob you of its joy; in a way that doesn’t feel laden with pressure; in a way that makes you feel MORE enlivened and excited … then by all means! Have at it.

WOULD YOU DO AN EXPERIMENT FOR ME?

Would you try to do something you once really loved as a kid, for no other reason than it might bring you joy?

You can write a story that no one need ever read. Same goes for painting, crafting, jump roping, dancing, climbing a tree, or even playing in the dirt.

Because here’s something that most kids know, but could rarely articulate:

When you get into a state of joy, you attract more joy into your life.

Give this a try, especially if you’ve been feeling stuck, confused, overwhelmed, or lost. The act of seeking things out solely for their intrinsic pleasure boosts your attitude. It makes the world seem a little more friendly and a lot less serious. And in that state, it’s easier for you to become a magnet for other things that might bring you joy.

In other words — stop acting so much like an adult, and you might just find happiness.

What about you? What brought you joy as a kid? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE THIS FREE E-BOOK…

(Almost) everything we know about finding your passion

Much Love,

Rachel (& Kristen)

10 Comments // ADD COMMENT

10 comments

  • jess

    I loved reading this! I actually took the PPVE last year at this time and it helped me launch my now active fashion blog and what is soon to be my personal styling business under the same name/brand (I’m a firestarter so working for someone else has been completely unfulfilling)! As a kid I LOVED my barbies, but I didn’t really play with them, I just used to dress them up in the most stylish outfits and then just sort of line them up in a row (haha, sounds super weird when I write it out that way). I was also obsessed with my sticker collection…the colors, shapes, sizes, textures of the different ones always made me so freaking happy! No wonder adult me is now obsessed with clothes, color, fabrication and helping women to discover her personal style. Thanks ladies for all you do and for inspiring me to embrace my childhood dreams 🙂

    • Rachel East

      Omg Jess, thank you so much for sharing this! I love that the PPVE helped inspire you to start your own business! And now it makes so much sense that the part you loved most about your Barbies was the fashion! 🙂

  • Brianne

    Good afternoon Rachel!!

    Loved this blog!! What brought me joy as a kid, was drawing (anything I felt like, or was attracted to, or what I thought was beautiful in my eyes), like portraits of people (particularly singers I loved to listen to, like Hilary Duff or JoJo – huuuge fan lol still am – who says you can’t be a kid at heart? Why the hell not!! Lol!) and people I loved like my family members and friends, drawings from out of a book I was reading and I would study the drawing/cartoons of the book and somehow would want to draw them… I remember drawing horses too, and bowls of fruit lol. I would look at these things and think “I really want to draw that”, and did. I LOVED it. I also liked making sure things were even in my drawings, proportionate, detailed. Ever since I was 4 years old up until middle school is when I loved drawing (pencil was my main form of medium). I want to say mid high school is when I began to not feel like drawing anymore. I just kept taking art cuz I was good at it, and my art teacher wanted me to.

    I also loved writing Band Fiction Fantasy stories in middle school (with My Chemical Romance and The Used – LOVED them and still do!!), that included comedy and romance. I also liked to sing songs of artists I loved at the time and there were a couple times I put on “concerts” with my friends for my Mom and cousins lol. After I was done performing and heard the support of them clapping and “whoo hooing” it felt so good! At a camp I went to with my brother and sister back in middle school, I joined a dance class and performed “Buttons” by The Pussycat Dolls lol! Right before performing though, fear crept in and the teacher asked, “okay – anybody that is opt to joining out of the performance, raise your hands!” I raised my hand lol, but she didn’t hear me! So I HAD to do it. I was soooo nervous, but I did it afraid, and by the end of it I was sooo proud of myself!

    So, ever since those memories I questioned – okay, am I meant to be a dancer and face my fears? Am I meant to be a singer and face my fear of stage fright? Am I meant to try theater and study all those lines, but what if I forget and mess up?! But I had no desire to go to a performing arts school, that was never really an aspiring dream of mine, I just loved to do those things as a kid I guess? But, the sad part is, I still question… I even wonder, why does anyone like to draw? Why did I love drawing portraits in particular?? What was it about drawing that brought me joy?? What is the psychology behind drawing (if that makes any sense lol)??

    So there it is! Some things I loved to do as a kid 🙂 And by the way – I STILL read Seventeen magazine! I don’t have any shame in that lol!

    • Rachel East

      I love that you’re asking these deep questions about, “Why do we love to draw?? What’s the psychology behind that?” Personally, though I don’t know the answers to those questions, I think art of any kind is part of the (very few) things that separate humans from almost all other creatures. We make art to celebrate life, to express ourselves, to give voice to things our soul wants to say (but often can’t say with regular words). It’s all an expression of joy, in some way or another. And if not joy (because I know people sometimes create art from their pain), then an expression of what our soul is longing to say.

  • abdurrahman

    i had lots of joy as a kid. i loved gaming. i loved remote control games. i loved robot toys. i liked detaching parts of games and exploring the parts and see how it was made and packed.since i was a very little kid i used to play challenging video games and ordinary games like football with my big brother also sometimes playing girls toys with my sister. exploring new places and abandoned neighborhoods with my friends of childhood. walking on low walls and drawing some imaginary monsters on paper trying to get creative at drawing monsters to be better than my friends. after watching movies i always dreamed of becoming an astronaut i still do but i don’t feel passionate right now because i haven’t tried floating yet.

    • Rachel East

      It sounds like you’ve always had a fascination with how things work! I wonder if there’s a part of you that really enjoys solving puzzles and understanding the inner workings of what makes something tick. And as for the astronaut dreams–I bet it would be so fun to find one of those zero-gravity places, or one of those wind tunnel places where you can practice flying. We have them here in the D.C. area. They’re called iFly. I bet they (or similar businesses) have places like that all over the world! It’d be a fun experience for the inner child in you. 🙂

  • Karisa Deculus

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor, specifically an OB/GYN or an astronaut! At the time I didn’t realize how much time that would take in school and after I started down the pre-med path I realized I didn’t want that. As for what I loved doing, I loved to read, spend time outside, be around animals, and watch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live or the weird British comedies that would show on public tv. I volunteer at an animal shelter so I get to be around animals still!

  • Deanna

    As a kid, I really enjoyed playing outdoors with friends and my siblings whether it was riding my bike, playing hiding seek, visiting the park, or digging up the dirt around my father’s garden. It was fun for me to also collect rocks and precious stones, I still do a little bit of that. I’d make up stories to play out with my Barbie dolls, draw in my drawing books, and paint too. I also enjoyed reading fiction, writing in my journal, and baking; all of which I continue to this day. Thanks for the post!

  • Victoria Caldwell

    Listening to this blog reminded me of good times. I thought about the times when things were simple and life had endless possibilities. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time creative writing and journaling, rock collecting, reading, listening to music and daydreaming. One of my major happy memories is spending time with my brother in his home studio listening and watching him and his friends make music. I loved to watch the whole process from writing lyrics to playing instruments. I love being around creative or philosophical people. I still journal in my spare time to deal with my emotions and I also still enjoy reading although my literary selections seem to be more selective as an adult.I particularly loved poetry and wrote a lot of it as a child. I self-published through White Hall Printing a collection of poetry in 2008. As a child, I read almost anything. I would read as I had an interest in a topic. Now, I struggle with time to do those things. I feel guilty taking time to do things since I am a caregiver for my elderly father and work two jobs. Strangely, I still have a rock collection but it has turned to collecting crystals. As for music, I still love it and listen to it almost every day unless I am in a horrible mood. What’s interesting about this post is you asked a question I am currently battling with. I am seeking a new career and have tried at least three jobs Lab Tech, Volunteer Coordinator, Certified Nurse Assistant and I have not found yet what I enjoy doing.I find myself asking if I should make my interests a profession or keep them separate? Anyway, great post.

  • Diana

    Almost every day I read your wonderful blog and articles; almost every day, I feel I can make it too, just like others who have made it with your help.
    But then, I remember I live in Italy…and no, here you can not just take your Firestarter spirit and turn your passion into a carrer; it would leae you broke, and living in financial insecurity.
    All wonderful, if you are living in USA /UK. Not for us living outside these countries. Bitter reality.