By Colette Fitzpatrick
I often wonder how versions of me, from different periods of my life, would react to things and myself, as I am today. Teenage me was so strident, assured and judgemental that I regularly find myself doing or thinking or enjoying something that I know sixteen-year-old Colette would mightily disapprove of. The child version of me, however, is something that I have come to aim towards, that I regularly find myself thinking of as a purer version of myself, a Colette I am trying to find once more.
We get warped over time. We try to fit in, to adjust. We learn to socialise and compromise and exist in the real world. These things are important, of course. But the version of ourselves that hasn’t been dampened by reality, that hasn’t become disillusioned, that is bright and keen and so hopeful and idealistic is something to try and keep alive.
I try and remember who I was before I struggled to survive in secondary school, before I saw terrible things, before I got so caught up in expectations and socialised bullshit – in particular that about gender and a woman’s place in the world – because, while that child could not function as an adult, there was wisdom in how unjaded I was. There was wisdom in how simple my view of the world was. Children have a beautiful and unique perspective of the world and the more I listen to my inner child or try to learn from how I behaved as a kid, the better my life is…
Here are the life-altering lessons that I have been learning from my childhood self.
1. Friendship isn’t complicated
Or, rather, making new friends isn’t that complicated.
I’m still going through that awkward post-education stage of life where, without the institutions of education, making new friends is hard. Meeting new people is hard. But do you know what? I’ve realised that it isn’t actually that difficult. Be like a child and, if you think someone is cool, go up to them and ask them if they want to be friends.
Maybe don’t quite phrase it that way but, seriously, I’ve gone back to just simply asking someone I like or admire if they want to hang out some time and it’s worked!
Most of us are afraid to put ourselves out there or make the first move. And plenty of people think it might seem weird to ask a relative stranger to hang but I’ve turned three acquaintances into wonderful friends in the past year or so by being how I was as a kid; utterly unworried by the possibility of rejection, unafraid to make the first move and completely sincere.
2. Embrace the whimsy
Say I’m walking home from work, I’ve had a long day, I’m tired, chores await and it all will happen again tomorrow…it’s exhausting and draining, right? It’s a drag. So, I’ve started doing something: I pop on a fun song, I remember that I owe nothing to anyone, I remember this life is my own and I fucking skip home. And do you know what? I am filled with joy. I don’t care if I get weird looks. I skip home.
I’ve found that embracing the small moments, not holding myself back and allowing a little bit of whimsy into my life has made all the difference.
Chase bubbles and butterflies, pet every puppy you see (given you have the time and the owner’s consent), kiss good friends on the cheek when they are kind, buy yourself that sweet you haven’t had since childhood that you spot in the shop, watch one of the Muppets movies, hang out with a grandparent, cuddle with a parent, force your sibling to dance with you. Life is so damn short and most of the happiness in it is small. You can have lots of small happiness in life, just make room for it. Keep your eyes open for it.
3. Creativity and comfort are key (and pops of colour work)
This is a far more practical installation to this list but I’ve been also trying to take styling tips from me as a kid. I was fond of self-expression early and I was creative. And, as I was always climbing things and active, comfort was key.
I remember repurposing a cream Chinese-style dress from my toddler wardrobe as a vest that I wore open over things when I was around seven. This ability to reuse items in my wardrobe and breathe new life into them is something that fast-fashion fearing Colette is trying to embrace once more. I’m also trying to increasingly remember how to dress both cute and comfortably because that’s the dream, right?
The key thing I’ve learned from my childhood wardrobe? Combine overalls or layering dresses in neutral shades with bright tees for a pop of colour to make it look like you tried a lot harder than you did…
4. Don’t make shit too complicated
Humans are innately contradictory beings. I didn’t seem to have a problem with the contradictory nature of some of my personality traits as a child and that’s something that I wish I could emulate more now.
Take gender expressions, for example. I was obsessed with pink and princesses as a kid but I was also a tomboy caked in muck and climbing things and that was fine. There wasn’t an issue. So why should I have tortured myself about liking things that were girly when I was a teenager? Why was I so ashamed of liking pink? How utterly stupid is that? I’m still unpacking all of that garbage. I’m still reminding myself that liking “girly” things is fine and not unworthy.
5. Always, always be kind
This one is something I’m still working on. While, of course, I’ve learned that sometimes you need to say, “Fuck politeness,” that sometimes you need to put yourself first, that you need to make sure you are safe; I am ashamed that I hesitate to be kind in the way I was as a child.
I believed in the goodness bolstered in the movies and books I devoured as a child and I wanted to emulate that. And I still do, but sometimes I hesitate to help or reach out or do something because my adult brain goes down a rabbit hole of rationalising and justifying and panicking. I am trying to be as effortlessly good and kind as I was as a child. To be the first to reach out my hand, to put others to the forefront of my mind and to do things that I know are right, even if I am uncomfortable, to fight for things. It’s easier said than done but it is worth trying because the world would be very different if we all tried to be a little kinder.
Listening to my inner-child more often has changed my life and I’m still on a journey to remember who I was before the world messed me up. Because, as it turns out, I really like that kid.