As I mentioned last week in the post "Wonderland's Wisdom: 5 Life Lessons from Alice's Adventures," I went to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland last Friday. Overall, I thought it was pretty great, but one part in particular really stuck out to me. In one scene, the Mad Hatter is talking to Alice and telling her that the last time she visited Wonderland (this film is based on her second trip down the rabbit hole), she was "much muchier" and this time around she seemed to have lost her "muchness." According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, muchness means "the quality or state of being in great quantity, extent, or degree." What the Mad Hatter was talking about, in his odd and slightly hysterical way, was that Alice had lost some of who she used to be. He was inferring that she had lost some of the true essence of herself as she'd grown older.
How many of us feel that we have lost some of ourselves as we've grown older? How many of us, as children, were afraid to grow up because we believed we would become less than we were? Afraid that we would become some sort of shadowed, boring, adult version of ourselves? And how many of us did just that? When I think back to who I was as a child, I see both the me and the not-me. I see myself as a different person and yet exactly the same. In some ways I still feel that wonderment and excitement of childhood, especially lately as I open myself up more to experiencing the world and have refused to stop shutting things out with my negativity. However, in other ways, I feel that I have aged well-beyond my twenty-six years (which, to be honest, is not an entirely new feeling for me; I have always felt much older than I really am). As a kid, I always wanted to grow-up because I felt much more comfortable in the world of adults -- and yet I don't feel as though I ever fully did grow up, though technically most would consider me of adult age. One of my favorite quotes, by Margaret Atwood, goes something like this: "Everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise." That's how I feel most of the time.
As I've gotten older (and have yet to have that full-blown I'm-an-adult feeling), I started thinking about who I considered an adult. First thing that came to mind, not surprisingly, was my parents. I once asked my mom when she finally felt like an adult and she told me it was when she had kids. I often wonder if one must be surrounded my non-adults to actually feel like an adult... and I wonder how this works when you surround yourself with those who don't behave like adults... and how does it work if you yourself are not behaving like an adult? We all know what it means in the technical sense to be an adult, but what I'm wondering is: what is it that we lose when we grow up? Like Alice, are we losing some of our essence -- some of our muchness -- as we get older?
I don't know about you, but I don't want to lose my muchness. Much like Alice did in the film, I feel indignant about the fact that I could lose some of what I was simply by growing older. (Is that, I wonder, what we really all fear as we age -- not the fact that we will grow old but the fact that we will grow up?). I understand that we must all age and that we actually gain a lot from age (I, for one, have learned so much already and I don't suppose I'm really all that old yet), but just because we grow older doesn't mean we have to lose site of who we used to be. After all, that childhood self is who we were born to be, quite literally.
Today I plan to take some time to figure out what really is my muchness and whether or not, as I've grown older, I've lost some of that essence of who I was as a child. Of course there are things we did as children that we wouldn't want to do as adults, but when you get down the essence of who you were -- the heart of what you thought you would be -- what do you come up with? What of that essence have you lost? As I think about this today, I'm going to contemplate the following questions...
6 Questions To Help You Reclaim Your Muchness
What did I like to do when I was younger? When you think about what you liked to do as a kid you may be surprised that you still like to do those things. Often the things we like as kids are the things we like our whole lives (I certainly know that's true for me when it comes to reading and writing!). Give some thought to this and you'll uncover a lot about the essence of who you are. What you liked to do then says a lot about the kind of person you were.
Why did I stop doing or continue to do those things? Some people continue to do the things they loved when they were kids. Some people even make careers out of those things (as I someday hope to do). But often times people stop doing the things they loved to do when they were kids. Think about what you did as a kid and whether or not you still do it (and why).
Who did I think I would be when I grew up? When you think about who you thought you would be, you'll learn about the things that were important to you as a kid. Of course, in some cases, you can't incorporate these things into your adult life all that easily. But, for example, if you wanted to be a professional basketball player, think about why you wanted to be that person. What did you think that grown-up would have?
How am I like that fictional version of myself? When you think back on that childhood ideal of who you were going to be, also take some time to consider how you might actually be like that person. You might not be exactly what you thought you would be, but you may be closer than you think. For example, I always thought I'd be a famous journalist of some sort (which I'm clearly not), but I do spend most of my time writing so I'm really not that far off.
What attitudes and beliefs did I hold as a kid? This is the most important question. Though it's essential to examine what you liked to do and who you thought you would be, the most important thing to consider is what your beliefs were as a child. What ideals were important to you. In Alice, the Mad Hatter thinks Alice has lost some of her bravery and gumption because she grew older. Consider how you may have acted as a child and then ponder...
How have my attitudes and beliefs changed? As we grow and learn, it's no surprise that some of our values will change. We understand that the world is a complex place and not everything falls neatly into a "good" or "bad" category. But think about how your beliefs may have changed since you were a kid. What attitudes did you have then that you may not have now? I know personally that I believed a lot more in my adult-self back then than I do now and that's something I certainly want to get back to.
It's normal not to be the same person we were in childhood, but is it necessary to lose the true essence of who we once were? I think not. When I saw that seen in Alice in Wonderland it really reminded me of how we change between the time we are born and the time we are adults. Change is good, but not all change is good. Just as the Mad Hatter claimed Alice had, many of us lose our "muchness." Maybe of us lose sight of what we're really meant to be. Give some thought to these questions this weekend and see if you can once again reclaim your muchness.