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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's a small world after all: How the world expands as we age

The whole world in his hands
One of life's biggest paradoxes is that the world enlarges as we grow up. It's not that it physically expands, it's just that our perception of it does. Case in point: looking at a map of Australia, you think it's this tiny continent. Then you get there and try to drive from Sydney in southeast Australia to the Great Barrier Reef in northeast Australia. After several days of non-stop driving on the wrong side of the road without any sign of colorful little fishies and brilliant coral displays, you realize Australia is bigger than it's boomerang-shaped self looks to be on a map. This happened to me when I was 14. If I ever go back, I will fly to northeast Australia to experience the Great Barrier Reef since I never made it as a kid. We way underestimated the size of that world.

But that's nothing. We live in tiny Wilson, Wyoming. When I grew up, I remember the sign that read Wilson: population 100. Nowadays, it's a whopping 250 on that sign. The closest town to Wilson is Teton Village, basically a ski resort with a post office. The next closest town is Jackson, known by many as Jackson Hole, though that term technically encompasses the whole valley. We love to go to Teton Village on our bikes in the summer because 1) We have a bike path that leads there basically from our house and 2) They have a fountain/patio area with a stream running through it that our kids love to play at.

But Teton Village is something else entirely to our daughter: the edge of the world. We found this out today as we drove past the road leading to Teton Village.

"Look!" my 3-year-old daughter said excitedly. "I saw the way to Teton Village!"

I acknowledged her astuteness since she repeated the mantra until I did. When I did, it got cuter.

"I saw the way to Teton Village!" she said. "It's over there on the other side of the world!"

We laughed and she covered her adorable little face sheepishly. I didn't even bother to correct her, because to her, that's as far as we go in that direction, generally. So it's the edge of the world. That creek they love to play in at Teton Village might as well flow off a sharp edge and fall past a turtle holding the world on its back.

I don't know whether or not it's a good thing that I know a bit more than my daughter about how expansive the world is. On one hand, I have loads of amazing experiences getting to know the world I live in. On the other hand, the world no longer fits in the palm of my hands or revolves around me. If only I could remember what it's like to see the world as my daughter sees it - a small and friendly place where almost everyone loves me. How much would be different if everyone could see the world that way?

Go on. See the world like a child sees it.