I never knew that a black dog plushie could make me feel so many things.
I was visiting my older sister this past weekend, hoping to catch up and unwind from quite the busy week. While we certainly did all those things and I returned to campus feeling grounded, I was hung up on one moment from the visit.
I had gone to my sister’s room to take a short nap, only to find another companion waiting for me on her bed: a black dog plushie. She later explained to me that she had bought it recently while shopping because something about it made her feel warm. As I wrapped my arms around the plushie—something I hadn’t done in at least eight years—I found myself sinking into a plethora of childhood memories, suddenly imprinted with the light, fairy-like shadow of my childhood persona.
You see, like many 5-year-olds, I had an obsession with stuffed animals. More than the comfort of something cute to squish, I hoarded stuffed animals for their imagination potential. From students to imaginary best friends to faithful citizens, the plushies were the primary actors of my creative expressions. It was my fluffy companions that gave me the confidence to extend my vision beyond the four corners of my room. I began to turn the sticks in my backyard into formidable props, the dirt into dangerous terrain, and the empty space in front of me into a crowd of cheering admirers. In short, I was a walking, talking weirdo.
As ridiculously extra as my child self was, I really do miss her. I miss that sprawling imagination and unshakable confidence. I miss the utter conviction with which I believed that I would eventually get my Hogwarts letter or have an equally serendipitous start to my own heroine’s journey. More than anything, I miss the large swaths of time I had to cultivate moments of bliss, where my every whim and fancy could be brought to life by my mind and a few inanimate accomplices.
Since hugging the emo dog plushie, I have made a commitment to create moments of sanctuary in my everyday life that allow my inner child to come to the surface. Some days, like this morning, I can only manage to do something small, like eating an orange (one of my favorite childhood fruits) with complete mindfulness. Other days, I find myself watching Disney movies, going to playgrounds, or simply watching the clouds move across the sky. In those moments, I feel her a little more, easing my burnout and reminding me to keep being, breathing, dreaming, hoping, and frolicking.
I hope you find your black dog plushie. If not, then let this article serve as one. Our inner children are perpetual reminders of who we are in our complete authenticity. In a world where our identities are growing ever complex and our future seems murkier still, this must not be taken for granted.
If no one has told you recently: do something for your inner child today. You never know what kind of adventure it may bring.
Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab/ Heights Editor