The Pure Joy Of Staying Connected To Childhood Dreams

By the time I was in high school, I had come up with three dreams in life of “when I grow up, I want to be a…” That’s right. Three.

One of these dreams actually became a reality in my life, while another became a sport hobby and the third became… “I almost switched my major in college to do that”.

The one that became a reality was to be a drummer in a touring band. Not a bar band or a non touring local act (nothing wrong with those at all) but a band who played in front of thousands of people and traveled the country in a tour bus kind of band. I did that and it was fun and still is fun when I get to do it on occasion.

The other two dreams were a little more out there.

I really wanted to be a Killer Whale trainer at Sea World. ( I know, what?!?!) When I was a junior in college I found out what it would take. I was amazed that I already had a bulk of the qualifications and only needed to alter some classes for the college part of it, get re-certified in SCUBA and go through the training at Sea World. But… I didn’t. My love for music was greater and seemed more promising.

Don’t let me fool you though. Some days I wonder what would have happened had I packed it up and headed to Sea World.

My third dream was completely an impossible thought. Or so I thought.

You see, my all time favorite sport growing up was snow skiing. Yes, I grew up in Arkansas and no; there aren’t any ski slopes there. Thanks to my dad, we would travel to Colorado and New Mexico to ski any slope that was open. Usually just one week out of the year, sometimes two trips if we were lucky.

I freaking loved to ski more than you will ever know.

Once college got going I went a few more times and then when I graduated and co-founded Big Tent Revival, there was no way I would have the time or the money to go. So I didn’t.

In fact, as we traveled by plane in the band, I would avoid the magazine racks in the airport during winter and spring just so I wouldn’t see the Ski magazines. I knew it would be all I could do not to think about skiing knowing I couldn’t go… Well  then what was the point in torturing myself?

Growing up I had always wanted to live in Colorado. It’s a scene I would play over and over in my head as I rode the ski lift each year. “Can I imagine actually living here? I mean… unlimited access to the slopes!!” Then I would imagine myself as a ski instructor or more accurately, a ski bum working the lift, listening to Bob Marley just for the season lift ticket.

So here I am today, living in Colorado with a job, family and a season lift ticket. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago when I was skiing that I realized how much I had suppressed my love for skiing and how much fun I was actually having. I don’t have quite the daring spirit for tackling the hard slopes like I did in my teens, but my love for the sport is unmatched. Even for someone who loves triathlon as much as I do. I love skiing even more. Did I mention I got to meet Billy Kidd at an event last year in Boulder? I was star struck and I don’t get that way… ever. For some reason I felt the need to thank him for being such an inspiration to me even while growing up in Arkansas.

Skiing has reminded me that I’m never too old to still love my childhood dreams and to find ways to keep them alive in my life somehow, even if it’s only a fraction of what I wanted it to be as a kid.

So each time I go to the slopes now, I think back on all those trips with my family. All the fun times. All the familiar sights, smells, cold wind, warm sun and difficult to walk in ski boots.

I remember those times and think… “now I get to live out some of my childhood. I’m two hours to the nearest ski lift and I’m going to go for it when I can. Have ski lift pass… will ski.”

I’m that guy when people ask me, “so do you like to ski?” I usually respond with, “A little bit, I did it growing up.” I have no idea why I really respond this way instead of saying I love it so much! I feel like I’m just now allowing myself to dive back in and I don’t want people to REALLY know how much I love the sport. Almost as if I’ve really been holding back the excitement of it all and am afraid to let it out. I don’t want to scare anyone.

I know… it sounds crazy, but sometimes we all need a little something in our lives that gets us really excited. Something that gives us that fresh energy. Something we can do that is just for the sake of taking us back to center with a child-like excitement that can only be described as pure joy at it’s core. The kind of pure joy we can have as adults because now… we are mature enough to appreciate it and experience it in a way that we never could have imagined.

What is that for you?

What is it you wanted to do as a kid that you can do today ? You know… the one thing that would give you the biggest smile and make you incredibly excited to be alive?

P.S. Anytime I go to San Diego or Orlando, I try to carve out a little time to go say hi to Shamu. Just because…


The views expressed here are those of a personal nature and do not reflect the corporate view of my employer or anyone else who employee my services.
  • Erik Tyler

    Thanks for sharing that, Spence. I tell people often (particularly the many teens I mentor) that being an adult doesn’t mean letting go of the parts of your childhood self that you love! Being childlike isn’t the same as being childish (though I fear many adults confuse the two).

    I got an adult friend (an ER doctor, and all-too-serious fellow) to lie down with me on the sidewalk outside a popular restaurant, facing up at the stars, for one minute — just to remember what it felt like to be carefree and to “care less” about what other people thought. So there in his scrubs, he did it. I asked him while we were down there looking up into heaven, with patrons walking around us to enter the establishment, “So …? How do you feel?” “Stupid,” he replied, but then laughed. When we got up, he had a broad smile and hugged me. In those moments, something had changed.

    The alternative is to become comfortable with the smallness and staleness of living the same day over and over, doing something tolerable until we are old enough to stop doing it (and, often, too old and unimaginative to enjoy much thereafter).

    I love to play with kids and to ask them questions. They keep me remembering the joy and wonder that is STILL available to us all.

    • Spence Smith

      Thanks Erik. I think it’s so important to dive into the life of teens. Mentor them and show them some of the greater joys in life and let them experience them for themselves. There were several in my life growing up including my dad who did this for me.

      I love your story of getting your friend to lay down on the sidewalk to look at the stars… we do that often in our home:)

      thanks again for the comment!

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