The idea for this piece came from a post that I recently read. Most people consider childhood to be the best time of their lives. I wish I could share that sentiment. While my childhood wasn’t particularly terrible, my feelings towards it can be best described as ambivalent.
When I started working, people asked me what I missed most about college. Without a thought, I’d say “vacations”. It’s the only thing that came to mind. I was a very lucky child. The first grandchild, a spoilt brat and the subject of undivided love till others came along. The first few years were spent without a care in the world. But that changed very soon with the burden of education. As a result, most of my years as a student were lost trying to meet high expectations. When school ended, there was college. Choosing to graduate in a field I wasn’t born for didn’t simplify matters. Exams were terrifying and the results even more so. I’ve lost count of the number of meltdowns over the years. So much so that my mother discouraged me from pursuing a master’s degree. So, yes, “vacations” was the most natural response.
That’s not saying that adulthood has been a walk in the park. Being “independent” isn’t all it’s made out to be. Career, money and relationships rule your life. The responsibilities don’t seem to end. Your words and actions are scrutinized and have serious repercussions. Sometimes, you just want to embrace asceticism and retire to the mountains. In these matters, childhood was not very taxing. Responsibilities were more personal than financial or social. People didn’t hold you accountable for what you said or did. The poor parents took the blame.
As a child, I was always riddled with insecurities and self-doubt. I never felt good enough. I was always conscious about what others thought about me. Following the crowd was the norm. Adulthood changed that. It provided a sense of freedom in making my own decisions. It made me financially self-reliant. It gave me an identity and self-confidence that was sorely lacking in my childhood. It enabled me to think for myself and form my own opinions. It brought me a seat at the table; it made sure that my viewpoint was heard and respected. I emerged out of the shadow of my parents.
However, there are some qualities in a child that I’ve lost and dearly miss. Innocence is the first. Unfortunately, I find it to be a casualty of our day and age. Children, today, grow up too fast. I will be the first to admit that I was a very stupid kid. But, looking back, that was not a bad thing. That is the only time of your life when no one is going to judge you for your stupidity. People will keep reminding you of it all your adult life. But the result will be more of a joke than a tragedy. The second is the wide-eyed curiosity. This is one that slowly fades over time. Things cease to amaze us. Maybe it’s the cynicism that comes with getting older. Maybe we just get jaded over time. Or, maybe, we are too worried about looking like fools when we ask too many questions. Third comes imagination. Maybe it’s just the engineer in me but I hold rationality responsible for its decline. When you try to find reason and logic in everything, it kills the imagination. Idealism is next. This one weathered quite a storm when the bubble of childhood burst. The harsh realities of life introduced practicality and the idealist in me decided to take off.
I will differ from popular opinion and say that childhood is overrated. When people rue their lost childhoods, it’s a case of the grass always being greener on the other side. When we’re children, we can’t wait to become adults. When we grow up, we cling to childhood. Maybe, it’s better to live in the moment and enjoy what the different phases of our life have to offer. The naivety that is part of childhood and the wisdom that comes with age and the understanding that life is not as simple as it once seemed are both worthwhile.
What are your thoughts?
4 thoughts on “Growing Up”
Nice thoughts. I am one who believes the present moment is made up of a myriad of elements. These include your future and your past. But that’s just looking at things from a linear perspective. Moments are multi-dimensional, so living in them is quite complicated and simple at the same time. Thanks for the thoughtful share!
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Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
You are right. Living in the moment sounds a lot simpler than it is. And, both the past and the future influence our present. I, only, think that we do ourselves a disservice when we refuse to let go of the past. There is no doubt that the past holds some incredible memories for us all. But there is no reason why, if we try, our present cannot be as beautiful.
“Maybe, it’s better to live in the moment and enjoy what the different phases of our life have to offer.” – (You) Amen…
I think we share some similar thought processes and experiences. I had a decent childhood, but being the first of two and the one “without problems” put a pressure on me (self-induced or not, I’m not sure) that made that time of my life not the best thing in the world for me. I would not likely change my childhood because it helped shape who I am now. I consider myself a pretty okay guy. I’m by no means perfect, and I still have self-doubt. I most certainly dislike some things about me, and I have always put pressure on myself to do better (whatever that means).
But living day-to-day (in the moment, if you will) seems to be one of the best ways to live. I have goals and still have “issues”, for sure. But I attempt a balance of doing what I can and what I want each day to achieve goals and enjoy myself. Life is best when the goals and the enjoyment overlap, but trying for a little of each everyday, AND accepting that not getting it all done (for reasons that are both my fault and blocks put up by ‘life’) is okay, is what keeps me… less unhappy? Good read 🙂
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Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I completely identify with the pressure of being the older child and everyone expecting you to be a role model for your younger sibling. I’ve had my share of struggles with it. But as you rightly said, our experiences, good or bad, define us. And, sometimes, less unhappy is not so bad after all.
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