Why Childhood & Innocence are Overrated


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.

I've laughed at these memes too, but honestly I love being an adult & am puzzled as to why so many others don't.

I’ve laughed at these memes too, but honestly I love being an adult & am puzzled as to why so many others don’t.

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. childhood is overrated

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.

As a kid, I yearned to grow up, partly because I knew as an adult I'd be able to laugh at myself.  I'm so glad this turned out to be true.

As a kid, I yearned to grow up, partly because I knew as an adult I’d be able to laugh at myself. I’m so glad this turned out to be true.

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 ageRWE quote

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.perception reality

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.freedom albert camus

Cheers, & happy Friday, everyone!

Old at Heart


“You’re so mature.”  “You’re old at heart.”  “You’re only 18 [21, 23, insert current age]?!  You seem so much older.”  Between my mom, other family members, friends in college, & coworkers, these are all phrases I’ve heard quite consistently throughout my life.  The vast majority of the time they’ve been meant as compliments (I think), though as a teenager naturally I found such comments a bit upsetting because they seemed to highlight exactly how uncool I really was.  However, I also realized that the very things that made me uncool at the time were the exact things that would make me successful later in life.  (I suppose the ability to realize that really was a mark of maturity.)  Once I was in college such comments bothered me a bit less because once you’re out of high school being cool stops having so many rewards while being intelligent, well-read, & capable of carrying on conversations of actual depth become much more important characteristics, all of which I was (& am) proud to possess.

In any case, of late I’ve noticed a bevy of articles on Buzzfeed, Thought Catalog, & other such websites about the reality of adulthood after college, your early 20’s vs your late 20’s, & signs you’re nearing 30, etc, etc.  A former coworker of mine posted such an article on her Facebook yesterday: http://viralpoop.com/30-signs-youre-almost-30/.  Reading this article made me recall all the times I’ve been called “old at heart” & the mixed feelings these types of comments always create.  As I read the list of “30 signs you’re almost 30” I realized once again how many of these things are true for me & more importantly how many of them have been true for me for YEARS now.  Perhaps some of it has to do with being an introvert who has always preferred casual nights at home with friends to wild nights at loud bars & crowded clubs.  Or perhaps I really am just “old at heart.”

youths

Whatever the reason for this, I’ve decided to embrace it.  Being old at heart might mean I get invited to fewer bars, clubs, & parties, but it also means I have a solid group of close friends whom I can truly count on in good times & bad.  Being old at heart might make me boring in some people’s eyes, but it also means I have a good career & am financially savvy.  I might be out of touch with popular music, but if you want to veer off the beaten path, I’ll be happy to introduce you to a long list of lesser-known but extremely talented musicians & bands.  I might own the world’s oldest I-pod (I refuse to upgrade until it breaks because I see no need to replace something that works just fine), but I also own dozens of actual CDs which I am always happy to lend to friends so they can discover awesome new music.  Being old at heart means I am ghostly pale in the winter & have tan-lines in the summer, but my risk for melanoma will be a lot lower than all of my cohorts who zap their skin in tanning beds or forego sunscreen on a regular basis (not to mention when I do hit 30 I’ll probably look a lot younger than they will).  I will never wear skinny jeans & cannot stand almost every major fashion trend of the past few years, but the clothes I do buy are classics that will stand the test of time & can be worn for years to come.  (And if boot-cut/flare jeans aren’t classics, then I truly do not give a damn.  I’m rocking them anyway.)

tanning bed

I’ve often heard it said in life that the things we criticize about ourselves the most or  the things we feel most self-conscious about are exactly the things that make us fascinating, unique, & beautiful.  For example a friend of mine once told me that he had always felt self-conscious about his nose.  The ironic thing was that I had always thought his nose was exactly what made him uniquely attractive.  As another example, I’ve always been self-conscious about the fact that I’m eternally clumsy, always tripping or dropping something.  However, my coworkers affectionately call me “Clumsylina” & tell me how endearing my clumsiness is.  I also feel self-conscious about my hair at times.  I hate styling it (or having anyone else style it) because sitting in front of a mirror fretting over my appearance has always struck me as an absurd waste of time.  Therefore I sometimes worry that my hair looks unkempt & fear that I give off an “I don’t care” vibe when really I just hate fooling with it.  However, the reality is that I get more compliments on my hair than on anything else appearance-related.  (Apparently having naturally wavy/curly-ish hair is a blessing that I’m only just starting to appreciate.)  If you want an example in the media, consider Jess on Fox’s New Girl.  One of the most common descriptors for her character is quirky, thanks in part to her unique outfits, her naiveté, & her propensity for turning anything & everything into a song, & at times she is quite self-conscious about these things.  Yet it is exactly these quirks that Nick can’t resist & that attract audiences across the world to watch the show.

beauty in faults

The point of all this is that it’s often our quirks, even our supposed “faults,” that define us, that make us unique & exciting, & that attract others to us.  Perhaps being old at heart is my greatest quirk & instead of being embarrassed by it, it’s time to embrace it & realize that being old at heart doesn’t have to mean I’m boring.  It’s just who I am, & I like myself this way.  Therefore I am going to embrace it, & the next time someone calls me “old at heart” I will smile & thank them for the compliment with no second thoughts.  And if I do have second thoughts, I’ll remember this blog post & why I wrote it.

How about you?  What quirks about yourself make you self-conscious but make others love you?  Has anyone ever called you old at heart?  If so, how did it make you feel?

10 Reasons Why Growing Up Doesn’t Actually Suck


It doesn’t take a genius to realize that our modern society values youth very highly.  Turn on the TV or flip through any magazine & you will be greeted with a veritable host of ads showcasing products that proclaim they can “erase wrinkles,” “cover up greys,” or “give you the energy of youth,” etc, etc.  In the media we are constantly assaulted with pictures of young hot celebrities & on a more day-to-day level we inevitably hear people making comments about how much getting old & growing up sucks.  Since graduating from college I have even noticed a difference in the things I see on Facebook.  I now see a lot of statuses about how much “real life” sucks & there seems to be a ridiculous amount of nostalgia going around for the innocence & simplicity of childhood.  Now I for one spent a great deal of my childhood & adolescence pining for adulthood & the freedoms it would bring.  Perhaps in some ways it’s sad that I didn’t just enjoy my life to the fullest at those stages as I suppose most kids/teens do.  But I have to say that even though being an adult is hard, I for one am not disappointed at all.  I am happier now than I’ve ever been.  One of my greatest goals in life is to always retain the energy & vibrancy of youth while balancing this with the wisdom & serenity of getting older.  So today I thought I’d compile a list of reasons why growing up doesn’t actually suck.  In truth there are a lot of things I LOVE about getting older & I think our society could certainly use a reminder of these things from time to time, so here we go:

growing up

  1. Growing up means no longer having to obsess over every facet of your appearance.  I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but when I was a teenager I spent entirely too much time worrying about every tiny bit of my appearance.  If even one hair was out of line, I was sure I looked horrible & that everyone was secretly laughing at me.  Though I’ve never been the type to really follow fashion trends, I still felt the need to be as “in style” as possible.  Well, one of the great things about getting older is the ability to just not give a crap about such things.  And to know that you are better off because of it.  I don’t mean that I don’t care about looking my best; I certainly do.  But if I have a “bad hair day” or a day when my acne is acting up & making my face look like a teenager’s all over again, I have the maturity to know that this too shall pass.  I also know that if anyone thinks less of me for not wearing the trendiest clothes or not having perfect skin or anything superficial like that, then those people aren’t worth worrying about anyway.  I’m far from the confident person I hope to be someday but I’ve also come a long way from the girl I used to be, & I’m proud of that.
  2. Growing up means realizing that your mom was right when she said it was more important to be respected than to be liked.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m a born people-pleaser.  It just comes naturally to me to want to make others happy & to be well-liked by everyone.  But I have learned to temper that when necessary because I have discovered that it truly is impossible to please everyone all the time.  And that’s ok.  It’s just life.
  3. Stemming from the last point, getting older means having the courage to say no to people who are just trying to use you to their own advantage.  It means having enough self-respect to not waste your valuable time on people who don’t actually care about you.  Getting older means realizing that your worth is not diminished by those who do not recognize or appreciate you.  This gives you the confidence to say no to those who do not actually have your best interests at heart.
  4. Getting older means not having to panic every time something doesn’t go “your way.”  It means realizing that just because you’ve had a bad day or even a bad week, month, or year, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have a bad life.  And getting older means realizing that your attitude is the greatest determinant in your own happiness.  (This is both scary & enlightening.  I could write a whole blog post on this subject & I probably will soon.)
  5. Getting older means learning how to agree to disagree.  It means building friendships with people who are vastly different from you & instead of trying to “convert” them you are content to learn from each other & use your differences to build a stronger relationship.
  6. Getting older means independence.  Ah, what a glorious word!  This is what I longed for so much as a child.  I know most people end up regretting such longings because they say the price of freedom is too great.  But I disagree.  I think if you make good decisions in life, you will set yourself up for success & you’ll be able to reap the rewards of independence to the fullest.  I love that as an adult I can choose my career, my spouse, where I live, what house to buy, what to wear, who to be friends with, where to go to school, what to eat, basically everything!
  7. Growing up means realizing that there is no one right way for everyone in life.  There’s nothing more freeing than understanding that there is no exact prescription for success that every person must follow.  Growing up means having the freedom to make mistakes & learn from them.
  8. Growing up means realizing that sometimes life sucks.  It means looking evil in the face & realizing that this world is a cold & scary place.  (That wasn’t supposed to rhyme…)  I know this must seem like a bad thing.  And it’s this loss of innocence that so many people mourn so greatly.  But I’ve never understood why people celebrate innocence so much.  It’s nothing more than an illusion.  For of what value is happiness if it’s based on something that is fake?  To me that’s what “innocence” is.  It’s the happiness that comes from not realizing how bad the world can really be.  I think the happiness we can experience as adults is all the greater because we have had to see so many of the dark sides of life too.  Which is of greater value: the happiness of a child who does not yet understand the world or the happiness of an adult who has looked into the pit of hell, faced the monsters of the world, & come out alive?  Maybe I was a weird child (ok, who am I kidding, I was DEFINITELY a weird child for a number of reasons), but I don’t ever remember feeling the type of blissfully ignorant happiness that people always talk about children experiencing.  In any case, I believe the happiness & love we can experience as adults is all the greater because it’s a real choice.  We have chosen to seek joy even though we have seen that life is often cruel & unfair.  We have chosen to seek peace even though we know that life can be violent to even the meekest of us.  This thought process requires a bit of mental gymnastics at times but I truly believe I am happier now than I’ve ever been.  Yes, I have days when I look at the world & feel like there’s no hope.  But those days aren’t the norm & when they do happen I have the wisdom to know those feelings will pass.  Whew, that was a deep one.
  9. Growing up means realizing that the journey is as important as the destination.  It means understanding that life is short & we truly must live every day like it’s our last, as cliché as that may be.
  10. Getting older means realizing that just because your life isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t great.  It’s so easy to look in the mirror & think “I’d be so much prettier if my nose were just a little straighter” or “I’d be so much happier if I could afford that fancy car I’ve always wanted” or any number of such things.  It’s so easy to compare yourself to your friends, coworkers, or even celebrities & feel like your life just doesn’t measure up.  But growing up means realizing that everyone’s life isn’t measured against the same yardstick.  We all have our own meter for success & happiness & that’s the only one that really matters.

 As an addendum, if anyone wants to help me create better titles for my blog posts, that would be awesome.  I like to think I’m a pretty decent writer but when it comes to creating titles for papers, essays, poems, or blog posts, I’m always at a loss, as you can clearly see by the super clever title of this post.  😉