If your 5-year-old self was watching...
Would they be impressed? Decision-making, intuition, and wisdom from our inner munchkins.
In a case of worlds colliding, I had the opportunity to present HALF WILD to a collection of my coworkers in the Oracle for Startups book club. It was an honor to be given the time to share my creation with a group of inquisitive, professional, driven readers. (Amazon / Etsy)
I had major nerves. The night before, my subconscious threw a nightmare party, featuring a vignette in which I gave the presentation to a room full of incisively mean high school kids. The group was rowdy, uncooperative, and abusive. When they actually deigned to listen, they flung pointed insults about me and the quality of my book until I broke down and gave them all the finger.
The reality proved much kinder, thankfully. The Zoom session evolved into a civilized and soulful conversation about creativity, vulnerability, and decision-making.
I shared how HALF WILD was the product of years of traveling (and using other forms of distraction) to hide from the critical voice that got loud inside my head whenever I stayed put. I showed pictures of my trips to Lisbon, Mexico City, and Cartagena and shared how the smiling face with the stunning backdrop was also experiencing deep anxiety and a pervasive sense of loneliness. I offered how my travel career was beautiful but also illuminated how I was more often running from problems rather than running toward dreams. (Marco would chime in at this point and remind me it was “both and,” and he would be correct.)
During the Book Club session, an enormously kind and curious coworker referenced the chapter of the book in which I was pulled, serendipitously, to Asheville. He asked about the factors that went in to moving to a new city, almost sight unseen, and how that choice ultimately got made.
The question included an underlying assumption that I had made the “right choice” at the “right time.” In our world of data-driven decision making, it suggested that I had interpreted the data correctly and my current life is a direct result of some concise calculation. Then we spoke for several minutes about how the exact opposite was true.
Asheville made no sense. Moving in with a couple that I did not know, in a city I had only visited, during a global pandemic, was foolish at best. And yet, when the moment came to make the call, my mind was calm and my gut rumbled with a definitive “Do It.” Gut feelings and intuition got me here. Mental mathematics barely factored in.
Sometime around 2017, I saw a flyer for a class on reconnecting with your intuition, put on in a dusty historic building downtown Denver. As a typically heady person with chronically racing thoughts and a penchant for exhaustive and unhelpful pro/con lists, I figured it would serve me to diversify my decision-making portfolio.
I was surprised when we spent the first hour of the class talking about our childhood. The facilitator asked us to reflect on what we loved doing as kids. The idea was that our natural inclinations show up early, around age five, and then may either be supported or squashed as we go through the homogenization process of growing up. Harnessing intuition meant listening to inner voices that we may have silenced for being unserious or unpractical. To return to the things we loved before we were indoctrinated, therefore, would reconnect us with our unique brand of genius and help us move forward toward a life we’ve always wanted.
Wrestling with a career change? A child who loved LEGOs might explore architecture, engineering, data science. Sure, it’s a little reductive. But it’s an intriguing thought experiment at the very least. And it’s fun to reconnect with our child self, who never truly left. I loved wandering around outside. I loved cuddling with soft things. And I loved playing with words.
I think if 5-year-old Whitney saw my house, full of books and snacks and cuddly things, she would be stoked, because I give her a seat at the decision-making table.
How about you?
Who were you at five years old? And if that version of yourself was in charge, what would look different? Tell me about the memoir of your life that your inner child would write. I can’t wait to hear about it. 💖
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Have to think on this question but I wanted to let you know I just finished the book and really enjoyed it! I passed a copy onto my friend and a copy to my niece, a journalism major and great writer herself. I am hoping your book inspires her to write a book herself one day.