I was a really lucky kid. Not every child has the opportunity to trek through the snow of Antarctica, climb the trees of the Amazon forest, and discover an untainted Pacific island. Yep, I did it all. Armed with my maps from National Geographic Magazine, my neighborhood friends and I traveled great adventures through the woods that bordered our neighborhood. I practically grew up in those woods, exploring every inch of the 14 acre habitat. I would usually begin my journey in Pennsylvania and end up wherever my imagination took me. Equipped with a backpack full of crackers, juice, and maps, I knew I would never lose my way or go hungry. Sometimes while I traveled, I would come under enemy fire in the form of poison ivy, a warning to let me know I was out of my element to be exploring such untouched territory. However, poison ivy was the least of my concerns. My biggest concern was making sure I could hear my mother’s voice when she called me home for dinner. I was really living the life. I had no responsibilities, no stress, and no cares in the world. My childhood was perfect.
Looking back, I’m not really sure when my life started to become complicated. Maybe it was when computers, cell phones, and video games began to take over my imagination. It wasn’t until I came home from college this past summer when I was reminded of what my life used to be like. Instead of driving up my street and seeing thriving vegetation and brooks, I saw mounds of dirt, earthmovers, and stubs of what used to be my childhood. My woods had been sold to make way for million dollar houses. I felt many different emotions. I was angry to see thriving trees cut down, sad to see my childhood memories become new homes, and frustrated to think younger kids in my neighborhood would never be able to experience wandering through the woods.
When I think back to what made me who I am, it is the experiences I had as a child which shaped my life. My childhood was not about who had the latest video game, who had the smallest cell phone, or who got to shop at the trendiest store. It was about going home when the streetlight went on, sharing a box of popsicles with the neighborhood kids on a July day, and finding the sneakiest hiding spot for our flag in the game “Capture the Flag”. My hope is that kids today experience the same old-fashioned childhood I had and don’t think being a grown-up is all it is cracked up to be. I cannot help but look back on the days I spent wandering through the woods and think that those were some of the best and most carefree days of my life. My belief in the simplicity of my childhood shaped the core of my being and I am thankful for this belief every day.
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