Being an adult has many advantages. But it’s also no day at the beach.
There are responsibilities that weigh every adult down: financial, personal, professional.
It’s easy to get stuck trying to navigate the bullshit of adult life.
I’ll be the first to admit that there have been times when the cynicism and sadness wear me down to a heap on the floor.
Sometimes it seems like being an adult is just alternating between deep boredom or extreme stress.
I know that for me, these periods of peak depression are the time when simple memories of home and childhood come up the most vividly.
The smell of supper on the stove and mom reading me a bedtime story.
The wind whispering through the pines as I drift off to sleep after a day of playing tag and street hockey.
Saying hello to a girl I had a crush on at school and feeling buzzed for days.
At certain times the nostalgia becomes almost overwhelming and I wonder: why do I miss my childhood so much?
When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up and get out into the big shiny world. It looked amazing in the movies…
But now that I’m here I have to say that the past is looking a lot better than it ever did while it was happening.
So what’s the deal?
Why do I miss my childhood so much? Here are 13 reasons.
1) Adulting is hard
As I said at the beginning of this article, being an adult isn’t always a piece of cake.
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It can be confusing and overwhelming, especially when you factor in taxes, relationships, job responsibilities, and even the ever-present fear of mortality.
After all, we can start to wonder: what’s the point of life when it can be so easily taken away?
The practicalities of adult life can add up into a true headache.
Broken cars, health issues, applying for and keeping a job, and balancing time with friends and family as your responsibilities increase are just a few of the ways in which being an adult takes a toll on you.
Thankfully, internet access and the wide variety of classes you can take gives us “modern” adults an edge over our forebears.
But the truth is that no matter how much you upgrade your skills, there are still times when you just wish you were back being 15 and chowing down on chicken nuggets that your dad whipped up after an epic water fight with your buddies.
2) Childhood relationships are so much simpler
One of the toughest parts of being an adult is relationships.
I’m talking about the full gamut: friendships, romantic relationships, family relationships, work, and school relationships — all of it.
Many people have difficult childhoods but the relationships in them are at least usually fairly straightforward.
Some are quite positive, some are quite negative. Either way, you’re a kid: you either like someone or you dislike them, you don’t generally get wrapped up in heavy analysis and inner conflict.
You meet someone you like and you make friends. Bingo.
But when you’re an adult, relationships are rarely simple. Even when you’re deeply attached to someone, you can get too busy to see them or clash over having different values or priorities.
It’s not always about just “having fun”. Adult relationships are hard.
And when you’re enmeshed in the difficulty of adult connections, you can sometimes long for the simpler days of childhood when you’d skip stones at the river with your friend or ride bikes until your legs felt like they would fall off.
Those were some good days, for sure.
But adult relationships can also be good. Join groups that share your interests, put time and energy into romantic relationships, and do your best to find true love and intimacy the right way.
It will be worth it.
3) Community and family tends to split up as you age
Despite how hard it can be, childhood is a time of community.
At the very least, childhood involves having a school group, one or two parents (or foster parents), and various sports teams and interest groups.
Even if you didn’t join scouts or compete on the swim team, chances are your childhood involved some kind of group.
Even homeschooled kids I know had close ties with other homeschooled kids that blossomed into lifelong friendships in some cases.
In many ways, my life has been a process of togetherness disintegrating and then my ongoing attempts to put the pieces back together in one way or another.
My parents splitting up as a young kid, my best friends moving away, going to a faraway city for university, and so on…
The ability to travel and move has given me amazing opportunities, but it’s also led to a lot of disintegration and a strong desire to find a place that still feels like home.
Sometimes we miss that childhood feeling of belonging and simplicity.
But the truth is that as adults, it’s our job to recreate that for a new generation. Nobody else is going to do it for us.
4) If your childhood was cut short, it makes you miss what you never had even more
Sudden loss of a family member, serious illness, divorce, abuse, and many other experiences can cut your childhood short.
And sometimes that just makes you long even more for what you never had.
As the band the Bravery sing in their 2008 hit “Time Won’t Let Me Go”:
I am so homesick now for
Someone that I never knew
I am so homesick for
Someplace I will never be
Time won’t let me go
Time won’t let me go
If I could do it all again
I’d go back and change everything
But time won’t let me go
Sometimes the mistreatment, tragedy, and pain we experienced as kids cuts short the fun and carefree times we should have had.
Now as an adult, you may feel that you miss those old days because you want to go back and have a real childhood this time.
It’s not possible to time travel — as far as I know — but you can find ways to nourish your inner child and travel some of those roads that were blocked for you as a youngster.
The good news is that you can rediscover a sense of play even as an adult.
Liz Tung notes:
“My parents ticked off other behaviors they remembered: my fondness for doing impersonations; my habit of performing at the dinner table; dressing up our cat in costume jewelry.”
“When I reflected on what that imaginative play might look like in adult life, it occurred to me that that kind of storytelling wasn’t so far off from my job as a reporter. The difference is, instead of inventing characters, I’m interviewing them. And instead of performing at the dinner table, I record their stories.”
5) The love and wonder has faded
When you’re little, the world is a big place full of magic and incredible revelations. New facts and experiences lurk under every rock and forest glade.
I still remember the butterflies in my stomach when me and my sister would turn over rocks on the beach and watch crabs run out.
I remember the feeling of wind through my hair onboard a boat, the excitement of jumping in a cold river, the happiness from an ice cream cone.
Now my curiosity about exploring and learning has become a little bit jaded. I know there are still tons of to learn and see but that childlike wonder and openness are sealed off.
Reconnecting with that sense of childlike awe and excitement is possible.
Although you won’t ever be a kid again — unless your name is Benjamin Button and you’re a movie character — you can find ways to get into flow the right way and find activities that bring out your inner awestruck kiddo.
It could be hiking and meditating on a mountain or learning to play the balalaika.
Let the experience wash over you and cherish that inner sensation of wonder.
6) You feel like a number
When you begin to feel like a number, your sense of self-worth and joy in life can suffer a major hit. It’s then that you begin to miss childhood.
Because when you were a kid, you mattered. At least to your parents, and friends, and schoolmates.
You may not have been famous, but you had good pogs to trade and could hit a home run.
Now you’re just Joe Public shuffling papers at some shithole job and shoveling food down your mouth hole at the end of another forgettable day (I hope this isn’t your situation, but it illustrates the point I’m trying to make…)
When you only feel like you’re living to work, resentment and exhaustion build up.
Where are the joy and the meaningful experiences that make life worthwhile in the first place?
You want to laugh or cry, to do anything other than the nothing that it feels like you’re doing. And then you think of a pool party when you were ten and start to cry.
This is not how life was ever supposed to be. And it’s time to make some big changes.
7) Your life is boring
Let’s just cut to the chase here:
Sometimes we miss childhood because our adult lives have become boring.
We feel like we’re starring in a remake of James Bond, but instead of being called “Tomorrow Never Dies” it’s called “Tomorrow Never Lives” and it’s just us in our living room wondering what’s on TV after work.
There’s a tendency of many of us to settle into a routine.
Same shit, different day.
Routines can be good and it’s very important to build healthy habits but if you get stuck in a rut, you can start feeling like you’re wasting your life.
Childhood was a time when you could go camping and catch lightning bugs, have crazy pillow fights and build forts at your friends’ place or shoot a winning basket and get a smile from that one cute girl or guy you were all about.
Now you’re stuck in a role and everything feels faded and boring. You need to break the tired old routine.
Rekindle relationships with family and old friends and try to find at least one thing that gets your blood pumping.
It doesn’t have to be bungee jumping, maybe it’s slam poetry at the pub on Friday night or starting a side business making colorful bracelets and jewelry.
Just do something to get your groove back.
8) Unresolved trauma and experiences are keeping you in the past
Childhood is a time when we’re in the early stages of growth and that’s why every cut hurts ten times more.
Abuse, bullying, neglect, and more can leave scars that don’t fade even over a lifetime.
In some cases, we miss childhood because we’re still emotionally living in childhood.
Although our minds and focus may have moved on completely from the day our dad left or the day that we were raped at 7 years old, our inner instincts and respiratory system have not.
That fear, anguish, and rage are still churning inside us without any way out.
One of the greatest tragedies of life is that the trauma we’ve experienced tends to keep being an issue for us in various situations until we fully face and process it.
That doesn’t mean “getting over it” or pushing down the difficult emotions.
In many ways, it means learning to coexist with that pain and trauma in a way that’s powerful and active.
It means finding ways to turn anger into your ally, and learning to channel suffering and bitterness in ways that are effective.
It’s not about “thinking positive” or other harmful nonsense that’s led astray millions in the self-help industry.
It’s about taking advantage of the enormous potential and power you have within you to own the pain and injustice you’ve suffered and use it as rocket fuel for your dreams and helping others who’ve been through similar struggles.
9) You miss old friends who have drifted away
Childhood friends don’t always go the distance but they’re the ones who share some of our most special times.
Milestone birthdays, first kisses, tears, and scrapes: all of it happens in our tight-knit groups growing up.
For me, I had an easy time making friends growing up, but by high school, it became more difficult and I lost some interest in it.
As I grew older, I began to miss friends who’d drifted away, moved, or changed in significant ways and hopped into new friend circles.
Now that I’m officially an adult (just got my certificate last week, in fact), I find those old childhood friends are harder and harder to stay in touch with as they also grapple with the responsibilities and time commitments of starting families and maintaining busy careers.
Sometimes what we miss most about childhood are the friends we shared our early years with.
In a touching article, Laura Devries recounts:
“They knew you, and you knew them, and it just… clicked. You swore you would be BFF’s forever, maybe even got one of those adorable half-heart necklaces, but somehow along the journey your paths drifted. You wonder what happened; but you know what happened.
Life happened. They went one way, you went another. Leaving a sadness in your heart, you may or may not have been aware of at the time, because life simply went on.”
“We have all had these friendships. And maybe not just one. At various stages in our lives we have those special friendships that go that ‘next level.’ Whether it was your childhood friends, high school friends, college friends…
There is something about the bond of growing through a time of transition with someone that creates an unshakable foundation.
And it is not until you find yourself lost in the throes of adulting, longing for connection, that true-authentic-next-level connection that you reminisce and reflect on how special those bonds truly were,”
…What she said.
10) You miss the inner peace of childhood
I realize that childhood wasn’t necessarily a time of peace for everyone.
Like I wrote, it can be a tumultuous period of deep trauma in many cases.
But childhood does have a simpler style to it: you’re you and setting out in the world and no matter how good or bad it is, there isn’t the same level of overthinking and existential dread that adult life can bring.
When you’re a child, you tackle things head-on and experience viscerally without the buffers of cynicism and jaded resignation that so many of us adopt in adulthood.
Childhood might have been hectic, but it was also direct. You experienced joy and pain spontaneously without all the labels and stories that we create in adult life.
In other words, childhood might have been good or bad, but either way it was less full of mindf*cking bullshit.
And you miss that. Fair enough.
11) Adulthood has left you spiritually broken
I promised I wouldn’t get all heavy on this post, but here I go.
Some people miss childhood because being an adult has left them spiritually broken.
Yes, I did say that…Maybe it comes off a bit too dramatic, but I really don’t think so.
There are some things in life and growing up that makes even getting up for a new day an accomplishment in and of itself.
There’s a very intense quote from the American writer Ernest Hemingway that exemplifies the outlook of a spiritually broken adult human:
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
Maybe Hemingway was right but focusing on this kind of outlook leads to bitterness that corrodes you from the inside, ending with an elephant gun of one kind or another.
If this is you then you are spiritually broken. Which is not something to be ashamed of. At all.
In fact refusing to ever let life truly break you can be a major impediment to growth.
The good news is that being broken is the first step to starting over and becoming a truly authentic and self-actualized individual.
12) The freedom of childhood has been replaced by the limits of adulthood
All of us had different childhoods. Some were stricter, some were more open.
But even kids who grow up in strict religious or military families have more freedom than adults who are saddled with all sorts of responsibilities and life stresses.
At least in most cases.
As Chuck Wicks sings in “Man of the House” about a kid whose dad is away at war, not every boy has a childhood free of duty.
Oh he’s only ten
Just comin’ of age
He ought to be out playin’ ball
And video games
Or on a bike just ridin’ around
But it’s hard to be a kid
When you’re the man of the house
For some kids, childhood requires taking responsibility from the very start.
But for many others, it’s a time of relying on adults and guidance from parents and mentors during hard times.
When you’re an adult there’s often nowhere to turn for a backup plan. The buck stops with you and like it or not, that’s just how life works.
The secret to this predicament is to find the noble and energizing aspect of service and duty.
Instead of feeling constrained by the demands of adult life, let them strengthen you like weight training at the gym.
Savor those who rely on you and need you to keep your head up.
13) You’re disappointed in the person you’ve become
Sometimes we can miss childhood because we’re disappointed in the person we’ve become.
If you’re not measuring up to who you wanted to be, then childhood can look a lot better in comparison.
It was a time when you had more guidance, things to rely on, and reassurance.
Now you’re flying solo or depending more on yourself and sometimes you feel like shit about the person you’ve become.
This can actually be a good thing, though.
Kara Cutruzzula nails it:
“Disappointment can act like a radar system, pinpointing exactly where you are—and where you want to be. The thing about being disappointed is that it reveals what you actually care about.
While you might feel like shying away from it if things aren’t turning out your way, listen to your instincts. You’re disappointed because you care, and that passion is what will keep you moving forward.”
Why do I miss childhood so much?
I hope that this list has helped you answer the question of why do I miss childhood so much?
I know that in my case I tend to miss childhood when I don’t know where to go in my adult life.
Other times, it’s just simple nostalgia. I miss some amazing days and family members and friends who have passed away.
When it comes to asking why you miss your childhood so much there can be many reasons including the fact that your childhood was, simply, awesome.
Or it could be various of the 13 reasons I wrote about.
How many apply to you? What do you miss most about childhood?