I recently came across a study that said our personalities are pretty much set for life by the time we’re in first grade. “We remain recognizably the same person,” wrote the study author, Christopher Nave. “This speaks to the importance of understanding personality because it does follow us wherever we go across time and contexts.” I love this idea: Our personalities, dutifully trotting along behind as we move through decades and apartments, lovers and jobs.
Not only are our personalities set—things like how quiet we are, or how outgoing, how orderly we like our physical surroundings, how verbal or spatially inclined we are—so too, are our interests. Think back to what you loved to do as a child: maybe it was play chef, and today, you still love to try new restaurants, sample new foods when you travel, and enjoy cooking at home. Perhaps you were a bookworm as a kid, and still are an insatiable reader with a three-foot stack of books next to the bed. Other passions, however, tend to fade away because they suffer the dreaded “less practical” problem. What I am to do with my inexplicable love of plastic play food? Well, I can collect it, I suppose. But you see what I mean. Some things just don’t translate as well to the world of Grown Up.
For this journaling exercise, let’s rediscover something you used to be passionate about as a child.
Exercise 1. Think back to a time when you had a collection.
- What was the collection of?
- Where did you keep it?
- How large was it?
- How long did it take to acquire this collection?
- Where is it now?
- Why was this collection so important/What did it represent?
- What part of you is still affected by this collection?
- Is there a piece of this collection you’d like to resurrect and bring into your current life in some way, and if so, how?
Exercise 2. What did you used to love to do more than anything else?
- What was this activity? (Riding a horse? Visiting a candy store?)
- Picture yourself partaking in this activity and describe it in detail.
- How do you feel after seeing yourself doing this?
- Is there anything about this cherished activity that you’d like to bring back into your adult life, and if so, what?
Exercise 3. Is there anything you loved but stopped doing because of X reason?
- What was this activity? (Ballet? Climbing a tree? Playing the trumpet?)
- Why did you stop?
- How did that make you feel?
- Is there anything about this activity that you would like to try again, or some aspect of it that you would like to invite back into your life?
These journaling exercises are tapping into the passions of your first grade self, but remember, that self still resides within you. You can honor that self by threading some of your old interests—no matter how zany they may seem at first to you—into your current adult world.