Life Lessons I Learned From The Feral Children Living In The Woods Behind My Home
As a trendsetter, you grow accustomed to learning new things in surprising places. I wouldn’t be the daring style icon I am today if I weren’t ready to adopt fashion ideas from, say, nature, or unexpected encounters with people below my income bracket, or even the various diverse cultures that my ancestors helped to oppress. However, one place I didn’t expect to learn anything from was the loosely-structured clans of feral children living in the woods behind my home.
Now, when I say these illiterate, nutrient-deprived, mostly nonverbal children teach me, I don’t mean they sit me down at a desk and lecture. Rather, I mean I’ve absorbed so much wisdom merely by being around them.
Here are just a few of the important life lessons I’ve learned from these feral eight-year-olds:
Try new things
I’ll admit it, I’m a picky eater. I like the organic muesli brands I like, and most of the time I don’t see any reason to change that. These kids, though! I was struck by their willingness to try anything. Literally, anything. I once watched one of them try to eat a discarded soccer ball she found in a ravine. If she can do that, I can definitely start swapping out my morning quinoa with a nice fonio porridge.
Act with compassion
Some might think that a child growing up alone in the woods would be unable to express emotions or care for others, but the feral children I met behind my house were universally warm, emotive creatures. They were as quick to groom or nuzzle one other as they were to bash each other’s brains out over a handful of acorns (which admittedly happened often).
Leaf, as I call the child I formed the strongest bond with, was particularly empathic and caring. I once saw him come across a little baby bird with a broken wing. Some people might have turned away, too squeamish to help. Not Leaf. As I watched, he gently scooped up the suffering creature and swiftly put it out of its misery. (Never one to let anything go to waste, he then devoured it on the spot.) Sweet, sweet Leaf.
Live in the present
We as a species are prone to getting wrapped up in our worries and anxieties. We spend too much time regretting the past or worrying about the future. But the feral children living in my woods never think about yesterday or tomorrow! (Honestly, they may not even have a concept of tomorrow. It’s hard to tell sometimes.) They live wholly and joyously in the present, focusing only on hunger, cold, rain, thirst, and danger—raw, visceral concerns that exist only in the here and now.
Life is too short to savor your meals! We should all be wolfing them down while crouched in a defensive posture, alert to anyone who might be trying to steal our precious calories!
If you’ve ever seen a feral child face off with a rival kid or a particularly aggressive crow over the same piece of roadkill, you know that the first thing they do is bare their cavity-ridden baby teeth in an adorable smile. It’s a surprisingly effective method of conflict resolution.
Sadly, my time with these wise forest children came to an end when the woods were cut down to make way for a cute little gated neighborhood with a community tennis court. I don’t know what those kids are up to these days. I like to think they stuck around to enjoy the benefits of gentrification, like affordable luxury townhouses and increased quality of life for all people equally.
However, I encourage all of you to go out and find your own clan of wildlings from which to learn valuable lessons. If you keep an open mind you’ll find yourself coming away with a lot more than just scratch marks and rabies.
Katie Goldin’s Golden Rules
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