When you’re young, all you can think about is growing up. That next birthday, that next grade level. Getting bigger, getting to do more things. When you’re very young, you’re not self-aware enough to analyze your life or be able to imagine what a different kind of life is like, so I guess you could say they enjoy what they have, but they don’t appreciate it. A kindergartner can throw herself into a game of duck-duck-goose, or be swept up in a game of tag, but they can’t understand how much fun they’re having, or how great a feeling it is to be able to do that and think or worry about nothing else.
When you get a little older, you don’t even have that. You don’t want to play kiddy games or enjoy stuff you consider to be immature. You’re totally self-aware and completely unsatisfied. You want be twenty-one or older, able to drive and drink and be on your own and be the coolest dude or chick around. You want to be old enough that no one treats you like a kid or a nuisance, and you can’t believe how stupid everyone is for doing it anyway. You don’t realize how happy you could be, or the gifts you have right now, the relationships you can have with people and things you can do that you’ll never be able to do again.
You can’t appreciate your life as a kid. You don’t know how good you have it, and if someone told you, you wouldn’t believe them anyway. You get to be happier than you’ll ever be again in your life, and then when you get sad, it gets to be about trivial stuff that usually doesn’t end up mattering anyway. Schoolwork, teachers, having fights with your best friend since forever, or breaking up with the boy/girl you were going to love forever. Stuff people would kill to worry about later. Kids can’t appreciate how special that is because how could they?
If they could, they wouldn’t be children. If a child is wistful, nostalgic, and mature, he’s already grown up. It’s too late for him. It’s too late to go back, and even if he was in the body of his younger self again, he couldn’t enjoy it the way he did before.
Children don’t appreciate what they have, and that’s a good thing for what’s mentioned above, but also because that’s our job, because the appreciation makes our lives better. We get to be adults and experience all of those joys and sorrows that come along with being “grown up”. And we also get the memories of the childhood we want to remember, forgetting or ignoring the bad, so we get something that can be close to perfect. We get to appreciate the joy we felt as children as observers, so we can have both that pure feeling, and the deeper understanding.
I can’t go back in time and be seven again, but in my head the years melt away and it’s better than the past ever was.