When I was younger, I thought I was a witch, and I casted spells on mean kids. This is how I got into poetry.

I read books on how to be a kid detective (I made my own periscope made out of mirrors and a milk carton), found ways to watch Seinfeld past bedtime, and picked out interesting things to melt. I mixed lotions and called them my “potions” to protect myself from bullies.

I know. I was kind of weird. I promise I turned out okay.

This past weekend, I decided to do a check in with the kid-version of myself to see if I was still pursuing the things that excite me.

As I thought back to these childhood memories, I vividly remembered that I wrote poetry and loved to paint. I thought deeply about why those activities felt so good, and how long it had been since I pursued them… a long time. I asked R what he loved as a child, “Gardening. Eating fresh vegetables in our garden. Reading… I loved reading outside.” I listened and paused.

Are we still pursuing childhood dreams? Are they even relevant anymore?

I made a second list, this time on my ideal life. The things on that list still had strong parallels to things I loved as a child. And it made sense– I thought of all the times I went to art museums to get away.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston

I thought about how I used to love creating, but I put more time into pursuing “hard skills” like learning excel, how to use APA, and manage a budget (all important things, of course). But if not now, then when would I make time to paint?

One of the only things that increases in value over time is investment in myself– my professional development, education, spirit/soul nurturing, or taking time off– as Stefan Sagmeister says in this TED TalkViraj Patel writes about the need to recognize the unique challenges that “staff who are the only” face, and as someone who is an “only” in most spaces, I can say that it definitely takes a toll on the spirit.

I’ve been in this rut of pursuing the things that will be good for my career, and while those things are absolutely vital to my retention and development, I was craving something new. For me, it was painting. So I got up, took my paints out, and just went at it.

It felt familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. I experimented with salt in the paint and varying brushes. I loved this so much, I thought I’d share it with all of you to maybe spark your own childlike creativity. I love lists, but I also recognize that not everyone is a list-person. Try a drawing, journal entry, talking with a sibling/childhood friend, or looking through old photos to get your juices flowing.

How I Reignited Childlike Creativity: 

1. What did you love as a kid? Make a list, a drawing, a thought cloud, anything–  of things you loved as a kid; the things that excited you. I thought back to all the times I could hear myself giggling, and wrote down those moments.

2. Take a look at it. Do you still do any of these things? Would these activities still make you feel joy? How can you incorporate them into life or work now? If it’s a connection to nature, perhaps it’s as simple as going to a park to do work.

3. What excites you today? What’s your vision of  things that excite you for this week? This year? Maybe even excitement you have for the far future (if you get real daydreamy like me). One of my favorite lists I make every few months is “Stuff I’m really into right now.”

4. Put them together. Does anything match up from childhood interests and current excitements? What’s a new interest you now have as an adult? What has changed?

Luckily, I’ve stopped melting household items, but hopefully this will ignite some new ideas for you.