If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that being an adult & living in the so-called “real world” sucks, I’d be a rich woman. And if I had a dollar for every time I read a Facebook status saying the exact same thing I’d be even richer. I’m not an idiot, nor am I incapable of empathy, so I can understand where some of these sentiments come from, yet I for one love being an adult. I’ve written about this topic before (see: https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2013/11/15/10-reasons-why-growing-up-doesnt-actually-suck/), but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately & thus feel compelled to revisit the subject.
Every time I hear people say they miss the innocent, carefree state of childhood, I always want to ask them what the hell they are talking about. Now I know I was in some ways a rather odd child, but whenever I hear people saying this stuff about how childhood was such an easy, worry-free time of life, I have to resist the urge to run away screaming. I don’t want to make my parents look bad because they were & are wonderful people who did a great job raising me. But for reasons that were largely out of their control, I just don’t remember my childhood being this endless cycle of happiness & rainbows & unicorns that so many other people seem to recall. I don’t want to sound like I’m having a pity party because trust me I am very aware of how blessed I am just to have been born in America & into a loving, stable family. I have plenty of good memories from childhood & adolescence, but that doesn’t mean my childhood was something I look back on with much nostalgia.
Perhaps I’m just being overly negative, but the greatest thing I remember from my childhood, certainly from about age eight upwards, was the overwhelming desire to grow up so that I could be respected & treated like the intelligent person I knew I was & so that I could escape a world to which I wasn’t too sure I really belonged. I don’t think I totally understood the latter part of this at the time, but looking back I can see the desire was there all along. Somewhere deep inside of me I knew that as an adult I’d have a level of confidence in myself that as a child & teen I could only dream of having. I yearned for the day when I’d be able to look in the mirror only once or twice before leaving the house, when I wouldn’t scrutinize every tiny aspect of my appearance out of fear that everyone else was certainly noticing all of my numerous (perceived) flaws. And I for one am happy to say that adulthood has not disappointed me in these regards.
You see, I was one of those weird kids who actually loved school, not for the social aspect like most kids do, but for the pure love of learning. Indeed, the social aspect of school was what gave me nightmares. Every summer I would go through such great anxiety as I worried about whether or not I’d get lucky enough to be in a class with anyone from my small group of friends (who of course were the other nerds like me). When I was that lucky, things were decent. When I wasn’t, I begged my mom to homeschool me. I was never strictly bullied but I was certainly made fun of enough to always remember that horrible feeling of knowing everyone’s laughing at you or being the last person picked in gym class too many times to count. Looking back on it, I’m incredibly glad that my mother didn’t listen to my pleadings because learning to be myself in a world where that wasn’t so easy was one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life, & even though it was miserable at the time, I’m so glad I learned it at a young age.
As far as the whole worry-free concept goes, I for one don’t ever remember such a stage in life, certainly not past about age seven or eight. Granted my worries back then were, in the grand scheme of things, fairly inconsequential. Things like passing tests, making sure I remembered my gym suit or lunch money, & finding someone to eat lunch with are clearly not life or death matters. HOWEVER, THEY FELT LIKE IT AT THE TIME. AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS. And that is what everyone seems to forget. Wearing the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, of which I apparently have never owned a pair, I suppose it’s easy to forget the way that every little drama you encountered as a child, & certainly as a teenager, seemed like the beginning or end of your whole life. But perception is your reality & at the end of the day that’s all that matters.
Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, & the older I get, the more I’m starting to realize that anxiety, especially social anxiety, has always been a part of my life. I think part of my anxiety stems from intrinsic factors (essentially my brain’s natural chemistry) & part of it stems from extrinsic factors (things such as not fitting in well at school). Thankfully my anxiety has never been totally crippling or so overwhelming that I’ve become a hermit or abandoned all semblance of a social life. But it’s something that I’m starting to realize has had a greater impact on my life than I might like to admit.
However, what I’m also starting to realize is that perhaps the greatest gift life could have given me was NOT having a “perfect” childhood. Why, you ask? Because it has allowed me to never for one second regret growing up & becoming the adult I always wanted to be. While so many others despise the responsibilities of adulthood, I cherish them because I know they are what allow me to enjoy the freedoms of adulthood, freedoms that I would not for one second trade for the so-called blissful innocence of childhood. Yes, there are days when I look at the world & seriously struggle not to become a hateful cynic. But there are many more days when I look at the world in awe & fascination & gratitude that I get to experience this beautiful journey of life. And to me being able to face all the hideousness of the world, all the cruelties & injustices that occur day after day after day on this planet, yet still being able to find the beauty & joy that life has to offer . . . Well, that, coupled with enjoying the freedoms of adulthood, is to me more magical than any kind of blissful ignorance or innocence that childhood could ever offer.
Cheers, & happy Friday, everyone!