August is my birthday month and many times I find myself returning to my childhood. I have very fond memories of my childhood both at home and in the boarding school I attended for fourteen years!
On the 12th of August, I was reunited with one of my childhood friends whom I had not seen for the last forty years! I was in economic exile for almost 25 years while she stayed on but moved to USA almost seven years ago. We met over a dinner of local dishes at one of our classmates’ home in Kampala. The three of us had been classmates since Junior school and at Makerere University, the only university then, we were separated by the different courses that we studied. Two of us were in the same hall of residence but met occasionally amongst the hustle and bustle of my busy medical school schedules.
The three of us, now respected senior citizens, had the evening to ourselves. We hugged, embraced, cried tears of joy, inspected each other from head to toe, sang a few of the popular tunes of our time and tried to make sense of what happened to us during those turbulent years.
The smell of roasting chicken and beef filled the air and whetted our appetites as we talked thirteen to the dozen and peeled away the forty years that had separated us as we followed our hearts and dreams.
The inner child in each one of us was awakened to full innate capacity for spontaneity, playfulness and creativity.
For those hours we just lived in the moment, savouring it without wasting energy to grieve for order or meaning.
We were transported back to the age of twelve when we met in that boarding school: young , naïve , inexperienced very much open to imagination and new ideas. We could easily get ourselves in trouble and lied to cover our skins.
As we made choices whether to start with tea, juice or wine and which Luwombos to mix or not, we made the decisions that pleased us.
We took many photographs to capture the moments.
“There is a child in each one of us who comes out in front of the person we are most comfortable with.’’- Uknown
My Ugandan-American friend and I, had from senior one to senior six belonged to a Novel reading syndicate. We borrowed books from the big library, from friends in upper classes and had to pass them on to another member in not more than four days. With the school’s tight schedule that included sports , country dancing and club activities after classes, we had to find time to read and enjoy these books. We hid ourselves in the dormitory’s pantry after the official ten O ‘clock lights out. I lost count of the number of times we were punished for this by our headmistress. After punishing us for a number of times, she took us to task to find out what we did consistently after lights out.
We looked into her eyes and said, “We read novels and exchange them.’’
She shook her head in utter disbelief but from then on, she made the punishment lighter like picking litter from the tuck shop area. It could take fifteen minutes at the most and she would allow us to run back to join the morning class lessons.
Thanks to her for unintendedly growing our reading culture.
Through books we would be transported to different countries of the world!
We became top students in literature and the English language, we became story tellers.
We wrote a nativity play with a local touch and some other plays.
Life was sweet
The three of us were in the same stream class; motivating each other and competing with each other in a healthy manner. We played tricks on the young missionary teachers from Britain.
One trick the three of us remembered vividly was when the new geography teacher tried to count us and many of us cried out, “ please, stop otherwise many of us will die. In Africa, we don’t count children; even our parents don’t know how many we are in the family!’’
The teacher’s face flushed red and she run out of the classroom to the headmistress’ office.
That evening as we enjoyed the delicious local dishes, we once again looked upon life as a game and we played it for the fun of it while we caught up on each other’s life.
In the Forty years, life had endowed us with many good things but it had also thrown curveballs at us. Through these experiences, we had learned many lessons and grown; becoming stronger and better people.
“ View life as a continuous learning experience.’’ – Denis Waitley
We were most grateful for being alive and about; we had lost colleagues in the civil strife of 70s, to HIV/AIDS and to the recent unprecedented COVID – 19 Respiratory disease.
We took comfort in recognising that though our faces had grown wrinkles, our spirits have remained vibrant for we have continued to look for beauty in everything around us.
“Once you stop learning, you start dying.’’- Albert Einstein
We could have gone on reminiscing but each one of us lived in a different part of the city
Filled with good food, good memories and ‘feel good hormones’ we retired close to midnight.
Like the joker in a deck of cards, the inner child in each one of us had shown up unexpectedly, wanting to play and take risks.
In the company of childhood friends who knew each other well, we had let each other be and appreciated each other for whom we were- having long given up living life in terms of achievements, goals, making a difference but instead enjoying living life for its own sake, day by day.
Yes, the child like learner/ dreamer still allows us to dream as we recreate ourselves and find new identities like- being a published writer.
The following day, still buoyed by the inner child’s energy, I decided to read more about the psychology of patterns of behaviour in human beings, inherited from our earliest human ancestors. They include: the innocent, the orphan, the warrior, the caregiver, the lover, the creator, the ruler, the magician, the sage and the Inner child. They influence our behaviour and guide us through life.
It helped me to understand fully why the inner child in each one of us had opened us up for greater joy.
The kid or inner child within each one of us is the individual’s childlike aspect. It includes what a person learned as a child before puberty. Our behaviour as adults is born out of our childhood experiences.
The psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) first came up with this term of “ the inner child’’.
The inner child is part of each one’s subconscious. It holds emotions, memories and beliefs from the past and hopes and dreams for the future. He/she is always alive at all stages of our lives, keeping the spark in our lives.
It endows us with wonder and optimism and simple joy.
It is full of adventure, lives for the fun of it- without the inner child in each one of us, there is no capacity to enjoy life for its own sake.
When the inner child predominates, you tend to explore the world around you. You are motivated by curiosity. You play life as a game without concern about tomorrow, no concern about what the neighbours will say, no concern about traditions and rules. It is called the ‘ be here now’- always in the moment.
The inner child can lend you strength like finding drama in a negative situation. Regaining your youthful feelings of wonder, optimism and simple joy, your confidence and wellbeing are boosted.
Unresolved trend of childhood makes us frozen at the time and age it occurred.
The Analytical Psychologists ‘advice on how to embrace your inner child:
- Live in the moment
- Be more honest
- Do not stop questioning things
- Take a risk
- Trust more
- Go out to play- life is a game, played to have fun and pleasure
- Stop worrying about what others think about you.
- Be more creative and innovative.
Without the inner child in each one of us, there is no capacity to enjoy life for its own sake.
Between 3-25 years of age, our inner child is highly active- curiosity motivates us to explore and experiment with life. We want mostly to be free with little interest in being responsible.
28-50- Adult responsibility years. The inner child tends to be overshadowed by the responsibilities. We pay great attention to advice and etiquette and stop taking pleasure in the little things that life has to offer. We get wrapped up in achieving our dreams, goals. We are concerned about what others think about us.
The joker shows up occasionally to keep a spark in our lives more so if you are with people that let you be and appreciate you for who you are. On your own, you can tune out the noise of daily life by spending time in nature or journaling to release your emotions. He/she can also show up in our worst moments like the loss of a loved one- you can still find laughter as the inner child reminds us that life is sweet despite the losses.
Middle Age – During this time, you reclaim your power to create a new deeper more enthusiastic sense of self. You change the beliefs about yourself and recreate your life. You give up what no longer serves your growth and add only what really fits who you are. The inner child shows up often and you feel alive , invigorated. Without her/him you feel repressed, uptight, tired, bored , depressed and lacking in curiosity.
Old Age – 60+
During this period, the inner child is very alive and well. Most decisions are now based on the pleasure principle. Do things if it feels good, do not do it if it feels bad. Once again you have a zest for life, for sensuous delights, ideas and experiences even spiritual bliss. The inner child’s hunger for experience and pleasure motivates us. No longer caught up in people’s expectations- free and unafraid.
Little wonder for me that I picked up Creative Writing seven years ago to awaken this creative part of myself which was lying idle inside me. It is my inner child expressing herself.
No wonder I felt young, happy, contented and grateful in the company of my three school friends.
The poem : When I am An Old Woman I shall Wear Purple by Jenny Joseph (1932-2018) brings out this desire to have fun and freedom in old age. The writer now in her late twenties and expected to live a life of sobriety portrays the kind of life she would want to live in old age – getting away with all the mischief. She would not want to take any more personal responsibility and would be delighted to break the rules, violating the social norms in humorous ways to pay for the sobriety of her youth!
Are you aware that once you stop taking risks you stop learning and growing?
Are you ready to reconnect with your inner child to keep learning, growing, joyfully to thrive in a fast-changing world?