No one ever fully grows up – in the sense that we all want children, no matter how old we are. In our younger years of discovering our interests and desires, we are often drawn to activities that help shape our identity. Novelty items like stuffed animals and Legos that we grow up playing with have become trendy and collectible these days, making them desirable for all ages.
Retailers come to us that way. Brands feature our favorite movie characters or make smart, eye-catching products that are simply irresistible. Everyone has something that catches their eye. For me, one toy I was particularly fond of growing up was ugly dolls. I took the ones I collected in my youth and hung them on my backpack and displayed them in my bedroom.
Ever since I was little, I’ve seen something in tiny, sturdy plush dolls that I’m still able to appreciate, as I continue to surround myself with them. When I see them they make me happy and that goes for many other items I’ve collected – I always had an eye for quirky trinkets and art growing up. The shopping I do now may not always be conventional at my age, but giving myself fun decorations and accessories has become a hobby that I enjoy.
For me, it doesn’t matter if something has no inherent purpose. Stuffed animals are made to sit on, be cute and be loved. Decorating for the different seasons, putting fall colors around my house, or putting up a Christmas tree with an assortment of ornaments is a tradition in my house, like many other Americans. It has become ingrained in our culture to adorn our living spaces and make them a special place that reflects a person’s interests and personality – as I explained in my recent column on what defines the house.
I feel like my experience living in Japan for three years has heightened my appreciation for the little things I surround myself with and how I now choose to live. Unlike the US these days, malls are popular destinations in Asia and normally very extravagant. The Aeon Mall I went to Okinawa with a huge aquarium at the entrance and stores with items that were the epitome of innovation to me. The stationery, toys and accessories on display in each pane were things I had never seen before, reinvigorating my passion for collecting. Every time I went to the mall, I picked out something new for my collection of things that some people would consider unnecessary, but that I really care about.
I was influenced by the scene of maximalism presented in Japanese fashion and design. stores like Don Quixote, Village Vanguard and Daiso in Japan are all examples of stores where trinkets, fun candy, and novelty household items are the focal point. Even the many functional items they sold like dishes or school supplies were extremely cute and ornate. Cartoon characters would be drawn on plates while notebooks and pencil cases lined the walls, with more designs available than even imaginable.
With the wide range of products out there, I don’t collect a single thing, but an assortment of things that satisfy my youthful desires. From Japan in particular, I have my treasured Line Friend and Sumikko Gurashi stuffed animals as well as Totoro products. Recently I’ve been collecting ceramic cats, adding to my cat themed kitchen and crystals to put in my bedroom. What I collect evolves according to my interests and what I find beautiful at a given moment.
Another way I’ve found to pursue my interests is second-hand shopping, which allows me to collect small decorative items without spending too much, as well as making my own jewelry. I started making the “kitchen sink” style necklace which features a mix of random beads that work together in a beautiful, fun and unique creation! I can express myself through this art form which requires me to put together beads of different colors and shapes that add meaning to each piece.
Creative expression is a means by which everyone is brought back to their child within, and it takes many different forms. For my brother, he really likes drawing and building Legos. My sister loves music and building new structures on Minecraft. My father is happy when he plays the video games of his youth like Galaga, where he is considered the best. My uncles often rejoice in the music that brings them back to fond memories of their past.
What I mean is that we all have certain agents or mechanisms that have piqued our interest since our formative years and elicit the joy of seeing them again now. Objects and activities from our past often convey nostalgic feelings in our current state.
With all the responsibility that comes with life, it is important to remember our desires that stem from youth and innocence. Fun rewards become necessary to stimulate us and motivate us to work hard. It’s okay to go back to the things that made us happy in our youth – in fact, we should do it more often, to renew the way we live now.
Ella Powell is a life columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be contacted at [email protected]