To jump start my early childhood education, my mother and father (on the rare occasion I wasn’t playing in the backyard, running around the house like a lunatic, or making my own home videos) educated me in one of the best ways possible– they lived and let me watch. Of course they put me through a fantastic education system and taught me as much themselves as they could, however they ultimately left it up to me to decide exactly what I wanted to do with my life. The best thing my parents did was allow me to make my own choices, make my own mistakes, but also be guided in the most nurturing, honest, and caring way possible.

It was not until I began my undergraduate education when I began to realize how much of a positive impact my childhood has had on me. As we digress from our childhood and onto adulthood, it seems almost impossible to determine whether or not we lose our innocence, or simply gain knowledge, experience, and responsibility. The older I became, the more and more responsibility I gained. Elementary school was a breeze from what I remember, and middle school seemed to be a bit more difficult– but bearable. Although I was properly guided by my parents throughout my life, entering high school is when I began to take charge of my life and decide whether or not I wanted to go to school every day, whether or not I wanted to dress up like the other girls or wear sweat pants instead– ultimately, I had the choice whether or not I wanted to be happy.

Aristotle says that the overall goal for all humanity is happiness. However, what constitutes happiness for each person is solely up to that individual. For me, looking back at my past and smiling is exactly what I do, and plan to continue to do for the rest of my life. The mistakes I’ve made, the chances I took, and the opportunities I’ve lost, I believe, have all led me to exactly where I am supposed to be right now– here– and here for me currently is babysitting, running on just about three hours of sleep.

Happiness for me is not about looking back at what I could’ve done differently, or what I could change if I had the chance– because I can’t change anything about my past, and neither can you reading this. In recent months, I’ve noticed an increase in my friends and even colleagues speaking about their childhoods. By the look on their face I can tell that they are not only feeling reminiscent, but also nostalgic. For some, that feeling is natural. However for others, in some cases, a line needs to be drawn.

It’s okay to feel reminiscent, however the next step is to accept where you were, where you are now, and where you are going. There is no reason that the loss of childhood innocence should hold you back. As humans grow, we learn more, not only through education but also through experience– sometimes trial and error. As we begin to grow older, each and every day we are faced with new scenarios, new people, new challenges, and new life lessons to name a few. It’s easy to believe that the more educated we become, the more innocence we lose– which may seem scary, however longing to be innocent again is nonsense!

When I was younger, I, like many other children at one time or another, wondered just where it is that babies come from. Without doing any research, or any questioning on the part of my parents, I assumed that babies suddenly appeared in your stomach when you fell in love. One day, I remember breaking down to my mom saying, “I don’t want to get pregnant! I don’t want to get pregnant!” And at the time, my mother comforted me, and told me that if I don’t ever want to, I don’t have to. This settled me down.

When I was exposed to a crowd of middle schooler’s with older siblings and friends who knew a wee bit more than I did, I found out the truth (SPOILER ALERT: It’s sex, if you were wondering. Babies are made from sex.) After understand just exactly what sex was, I was appalled, taken back, and disgusted at the least. However, my life went on.

Just because you now know how babies are made, and you don’t think it’s a phantom accident anymore doesn’t mean you innocence is completely taken away from you. Just because you know things you didn’t know before doesn’t mean that you are any less innocent than you were 10 years ago. Just because you are aware of the dirty, corrupt, secretive things in the world doesn’t make you corrupt yourself.

A huge part of life is living and learning, and many assume that our innocence is taken away from us with the more knowledge we gain. The innocence we experience as adults may be different than the innocence we experience as children, however a loss of adolescent innocence is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Aging is inevitable, and with this loss of innocence, this gain of responsibility is held to a much higher standard.

Entering college, I didn’t realize that although my mother and father are only thirty minutes, or even a phone call away, I would be living completely on my own. It’s no longer up to my mom what time she wants to cook dinner for me, it is now up to me. It’s not up to my mom to drive me to school or force me to go even when I don’t want to, it’s ultimately up to me if I want to roll out of bed or hide under the covers. The gain of responsibility may seem to come on strong at times, however the adjustment isn’t too bad.

Living and learning is all a part of life. To achieve overall happiness for yourself, you must first decide what constitute’s happiness to you. Thinking of your adult life and comparing it to your lost innocent self will only leave you in a state of not only nostalgia, but evidently unhappiness. Reminiscing is natural, and there is nothing wrong with it, however accepting the things you can not change will ultimately make the biggest difference.

The gain of responsibility we as humans experience entering adulthood is a gift, and a privilege to say the least. Everything in our lives have led us to the moment we are in now, and are evidently going to lead us on to the future. Dwelling on past events, friends, circumstances, and the like will only make us weaker. To become strong, we must move forward with what we have and work for what we don’t. Just because you are responsible now, doesn’t mean that your innocence is gone. After a long day of work, put on your PJ’s, kick back and throw on a Disney movie– and I guarantee, you can healthily find just the right amount of innocence you are looking for.