I want to go back to my childhood, a time when I would look up at the Carolina blue sky and wholeheartedly believe that one day I would climb a mountain or a skyscraper, or jump onto a fluffy cloud and sink into its incomparable softness as I close my eyes for a celestial nap. I can’t pinpoint the exact age when I realized that the closest I’d ever get to dozing off on a cloud would be in the mall at Brookstone, where shoppers can be found on the Tempur-Pedic mattresses in a narcoleptic state, eyes droopy and drool slightly strewing out of the corner of their mouths.

When I was little, I also believed that there existed a magical land inside of the small closet my father kept locked at all times. Maybe he stored power tools in there, or maybe it was just a space where the boiler was hidden. To this day it remains locked, and whenever I pass the hallway closet, I am transported to the past. I can clearly envision the magical place in that closet. It had grass and a swing set and a slide, and the two kids from Candy Land board game were there to meet me as soon as I found a way in. Maybe I’d been watching too much of the Alice in Wonderland program aired on Disney Channel in the mid-’90s, and maybe I longed for what I didn’t have growing up in a concrete jungle: a backyard with monkey bars that I’d inevitably fall off of, plunging safely into the brown mulch beneath me, and vibrant flowers that would greet me as I got up and shook the mulch from my shoes.

So I never had a bright pink Barbie Jeep…it’s time to move on from the past, but I still keep in touch (through my mind’s pretend Styrofoam cups attached to string) with the seven-year old-Kristen. Childhood fostered the growth of my imagination. Though I barely fit into the yellow plastic playhouse with blue shutters and the Pepto-Bismol pink door (who hired that Architect? what gaudy taste!) that we kept in my playroom in our upstairs apartment, and though I’m too big (too big in weight, I swear my leg could fit the length of the Children’s Place pajama pant if it were a bigger size, and I’m pretty darn short) to fit into the warm feety pajamas that I wore when I was six, I refuse to outgrow my young spirit, regardless of how my body changes as the years go by (Is that a shadow or dimple on my thigh?)

Physical aging happens, and you can’t truly buy youth— not the valuable kind at least, in which can only come from within. No matter how tough life gets, don’t let it get so serious that you forget to laugh and play! Cultivate your imagination the way you did when you were a kid: get dirty, lose those inhibitions and create something with your hands. We were so hands-on back then. I remember getting screamed at for rubbing Purple Jelly into my mother’s brand new white carpet. I was merely expressing myself artistically, but she didn’t view it that way. And when I was three, I ran naked from the bathtub and took all of the Aunt Jemima pancake mix and poured it all over myself and the kitchen. Fine, white powder fell everywhere, draping the kitchen appliances in a snowy landscape. I think it’s important to be silly and spontaneous. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t get out of the shower and start making snow angels in a pile of pancake mix scattered on the floor unless you were seriously inebriated, but it can be a truly liberating feeling to try something silly for no reason, to try something new and unusual.

Here’s what I’m asking you to do: step outside your comfort zone the way kids do – they have no walls up, they can’t even spell “inhibition” and the word doesn’t even exist as a concept in their brain. They just do things, they wonder and they create from their limitless imaginary power. Evoke the past and hold on to that feeling of flying on top of someone’s feet, with their legs in the air and with your stomach is on their feet and they move you back and forth while you repeatedly shout, “Super Man!”

-Kristen Cubero