Adulthood Syndrome

“I think… that I would rather recollect a life mis-spent on fragile things than spent avoiding moral debt.”

― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

You open the door to your bedroom. It’s the weekend before your high school life begins, and your mom has appointed you to organize your things. You’re big now, and it’s your responsibility to clean your own room. She may give you other duties, but your room is the priority. The good news is that she’s willing to not go through your stuff.

You may still have toys around. You may be meticulous, try and think what things you wouldn’t want be caught dead with; a toy car or a Barbie whose arm has mysteriously gone missing. Stuffed animals? Girls with stuffed animals can be thought of as cute. Or way too innocent. Which image do you want to pass to whomever visits you? It’s something that concerns you now, image. After all, you’re not a child anymore.

Maybe you’ll go for a different wardrobe, too. Maybe your clothes will be more loose, or maybe a bit more tight. Maybe you’ll wear more colors, or maybe you’ll go for all black. You may even wear the T-shirt of your favorite band and hope that someone will be wearing one as well. No matter what, you want your own little circle. You want to date, maybe. You wonder what personality might attract people, if you should be nice or aggressive or loud or quiet. You wonder if you should tell them that you still watch Disney movies with your little brother on weekends. Or that you cried at Lion King. Maybe. They’re nostalgic movies now, even if you’re only 14. It reminds you of when you were little. But you’ll wait and see, first, to see if anyone else brings them up. You don’t want to blow your cover.

Your attempts at talking to people may fail. Try as you might, some groups are too closed, so you shut yourself up from everyone. You think that they are ridiculous, that girls giggle too much, that boys chase after balls like it’s the kindergarten lunch break. They all need to grow up. You have real concerns. Because your parents don’t understand you, and those kids wouldn’t get it. You feel alone in a crowd full of people.

You’re 18. College has only just started, yet you already have work coming out of your nostrils. You turn on the TV by mere chance, but there is your favorite movie. You used to watch it when your mom would sit beside you with her arm around your shoulders. You realize that there isn’t anything about the movie that you don’t like. You miss those days, like you miss your favorite book, the one your aunt gave you without much of a thought, and you read it over and over, until you locked it away with your toys. You wonder if you’ll ever have time to read it again, to see if it’s as good as you remember. Maybe you’ll cry at the end.

When you were 14 you wanted to be a grown up, but now you have to think about how you’re going to keep your grades up and your scholarship intact. You curse out loud because you also need some extra money, so you’ll need a part-time job soon. Not to mention an internship. You crash on your bed, after sleep has been optional for two days as you tried to finish that report due on Monday. You miss talking to your online friends and wasting time away.

Wake up, you’re late for work. You fell asleep on your work desk again, but at least you’re almost done with those reports. Your students have really grown throughout the semester, and although this wasn’t the profession you had in mind, you’re content with your job. Maybe after lecture on Saturday you’ll have time to reply to your role-playing partner. It’s silly but it’s fun, and it reminds you of when you wanted to be a writer. You’re grown up now, but is it too late to dream?

What is the formula to properly “grow up”? Do you have to let go of things you like doing? Should you throw away presents from your parents, and try to make people forget that old childhood nickname? Do you become more grown-up just by facing your responsibilities head-on? At one point, you can’t tell everyone you’re going to be an astronaut anymore, not when you have exams to be doing, classes to take and bills to pay. But which are the things that demean our status as “adults”? Do we have to draw a line in our hobbies, what’s acceptable and what is not acceptable for adults to like?

The line between “growing out of things” and “growing up”, where do we draw it? Is our imagination and inspiration limited to escapism? You look at the sky and you see the stars, and where once you saw magic there is only the knowledge from your science books. Are “reality” and “imagination” mutually exclusive thoughts? As adults, should we keep most of interests to anonymous people who live on the other side of the planet only? Does it make us better people? What does it change? Oh, our images, of course. Because your boss might judge you if you still read and enjoy Harry Potter. And yet you still blast all those 90’s hits during weekends, don’t you?

Don’t worry. I won’t confiscate your adult pass, if you still care about that.

After all, doesn’t it make you feel good, at the end of the day?

“He stared up at the stars: and it seemed to him then that they were dancers, stately and graceful, performing a dance almost infinite in its complexity. He imagined he could see the very faces of the stars; pale, they were, and smiling gently, as if they had spent so much time above the world, watching the scrambling and the joy and the pain of the people below them, that they could not help being amused every time another little human believed itself the center of its world, as each of us does.”

― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

33 Comments

Filed under Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, Editorials

33 responses to “Adulthood Syndrome

  1. R1CK_D0M

    I’m sorry, that last screenshot I could only picture that star wars scene in the carbon freezing chamber, just reversed.

    otherwise, great stuff

  2. Make your choices, and stick to them. If you regret doing something, then rectify it. If you can’t, they learn to live with it. Life will serve you a big old crap sandwhich on a few days out of the year. You will be having thirds. Use less prejudice and more scrutiny. Start putting money away right now. You will be proven wrong on some things. It’s much easier to get over than being right all the time.

    Plan for the future, the parent you will be relying on in 15 years is going to be your own self. Learn to listen. You’ll be surprised how many people these days don’t have the basics of that down. Sit down, shut up and listen.

    And the best advice I can give anyone on growing up in this world. Where there is smoke there is fire. Unless it’s dry ice.

    • Oh, forgot to say. The things you like are just window dressing. That’s the fun stuff you earn. Never be ashamed of it. Unless you’re paying for shame, and if that’s the case, best of luck.

      • Wonderful words, every single one of them.

        Your interests and hobbies do not define you, they are merely pieces that make the whole you. Unless you’re doing someone wrong, then you have nothing to be ashamed of.

        And being proven wrong is just a way of learning, and learning is one of the best things in our lives.

        • Sometimes I think learning is the only thing in life. I enjoy those times.

          • Never too late and never too old to learn : )

          • “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
            – T.H. White, The Once and Future King

  3. This is one fine piece of emotive writing :) Although I wasn’t of the kids that went rebellious through adolescense (pretty abnormal, right?), this post really touched me. I may haven’t given up on things I like, like cartoons and anime – and my dolls are on a shelf on display; I just don’t care to play with them anymore-,but I had given up my childhood for a long time due to my upbringing. I can especially relate with the last part of the job. I feel I ended up doing sth not really suited to me, even though it was a dream I had as a child. Does becoming an adult mean you have to hide even more things important to you- do you have to forget about your morals, and sacrifice your integrity? I don’t know… I just feel at loss.

    • Not caring to play with them anymore answers one of the questions proposed; you grew out of it :) being an adult might mean having to work, but if it clashes with your integrity, it’s not too late to try again. After all, we are not necessarily obliged to know what we want to be right off the bat. Adults can find themselves all over again, as well.

  4. Growing up has less to do with having to give up ones hobbies or things that one enjoys and more of taking responsibility for your actions and getting shit done. Incidentally, that’s what companies are looking for when they want someone with work experience: they’re looking for examples of instances when you were able to take responsibility and get things done.

    All this coming from someone who has long left undergrad but still enjoys anime, video games, and all that jazz.

    • About companies, while I agree, there are still those who will look for certain profiles, as if what you do in your free time will invariably affect your competence, or your language on Facebook to personal friends reflects what you’ll say at work, or is that a misconception of mine?

      What you like or not is judged by your peers, but as you said, it has little to do with your maturity, and certainly liking things considered “adult” will not grant you that status.

  5. People have already said it, but growing up means taking responsibility for your actions. Consequently, that means you have to either adapt your lifestyle to reality or leave it behind. It’s not meant to be cynical, but in the long run being too idealistic will likely hurt you more than it helps you. Having dreams and aspirations is essential to a fulfilling life, but remember that the world will not hand them to you on a silver platter.

    Don’t trivialize your image either. You might claim to be a certain person, but at the end of the day, your actions portray who you are to the rest of humanity. If you want to make connections with people you have to consider what you do and how you do it. Don’t let that unduly restrict you, but ignoring it is naive.

    • Expectation/Reality; like when you expect that, let’s say, teaching is ideally all about students being eager to learn when it’s not really like that. However that doesn’t mean conforming with a set system (staying in our example, conforming to teach as all other teachers teach, especially the old and jaded ones), but combining the ideals you believe in with a system you can work and agree with. Sticking to your integrity, I’d say.

      Basically living true to yourself, in resume? :)

      Your actions absolutely help determining the image people have of you. When I spoke of image, I meant the manipulation some people might try to make of their own images. One can try to create pass an image of intellectuality by talking about all the Russian books they’ve read, but they can’t respect or accept other people’s opinions, which is ignorance. In the theme of the post, you may try to preserve your image by hiding (or emphasizing) certain points of your interests, but in the end, people will see you by other things, such as, like you said, your actions.

  6. Stef

    That’s it, you managed to make me cry.

  7. Something of a clichéd quote for the topic, but relevant at least in some fashion:

    “Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” – C. S. Lewis

    Of course, it’s the last sentence there that’s important.

    • That’s a fantastic quote! The fantasy authors know this best :)

    • Tzu

      “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

      I really like that quote, and I think most people really go trough a stage in which they just don’t know what is “childish” and “must be left behind” like in chunni, just to realize as they grow old that those childish things are what make life most enjoyable. A vast part of the anime community was moved by that series because thats what we are, a bunch of adults that realized we are not going to stop watching chinese cartoons just because we are too old for them. I can remember when I got my first job, I would never had dreamed to tell my boss I watched anime all the time, even my computer wallpaper had to be “decent”; but in the end I grew up of that useless fear and I am really glad I did, now I can proudly show off a great anime wallpaper, or quote series when having “serious” discussions with my co-workers. Realizing that is really growing up in my opinion.

  8. Great write-up; I found that episode very emotionally turbulent. I sympathise with both sides – Yuuta trying to do the right thing and help Rikka adjust to a wider world where she can make more friends and maybe be happier (I certainly was once I stopped being the weird kid all the time), and Rikka/Dekomori wanting to have their special fantasies, games, and a sense of fun in their lives (I still role-play and read fantasy, dammit!).

    Extra points for Neil Gaiman quotes. If anyone knows how to nurture a childish sense of wonder while still being a competent adult, it must be him.

    • I was very saddened by how crestfallen Rikka looked, and then simply burst out crying with Deko. Both sides are completely understandable, and the ending left me hoping that they could find the middleground and just “be what makes you happiest” in the final episodes :) (I still haven’t finished it!)

      Neil is the Master of Dreams and Wonders and he was the first one I thought about when it came to this subject. Gotta love him.

  9. CPAnime

    Great post. Everyone’s comments and your post have hit the nail on the head. There is no reason to give up your whole identity one day, but instead to find the happy medium. Obviously, for the people who watch anime, this means watching anime in moderation and having it as a lower priority than everything else.

  10. MAGICAL☆BIRDY

    Are you saying that I can enjoy things without feeling ashamed of myself?

    ;.;

  11. It’s funny because I just have a conversation with a friend last night about what’s really an adult and the difference between “growing” and “force yourself to grow”. Thank you for the article, I hope it’ll help this guy to understand this :p

  12. LIKE LIKE LIKE. This blog needed something like this after all the gloominess of the other Chuunibyou article. Eloquently spoken and passionately put forward, well done~

    Just a few snippets I’ll give my 2 cents on~

    > As adults, should we keep most of interests to anonymous people who live on the other side of the planet only? Does it make us better people?
    There’s a difference between hiding interests from someone because you’re scared it’ll damage your so-called “image” and hiding it because they’re just plain not interested in it. For anime, both those reasons can apply – the former obviously, because people think “cartoons are childish”; but also the latter, because it’s such a niche subculture. I think most anime fans get to know of it not through a social network (eg in the way you’d hear of fairy tales at nursery or learn about the latest must-see film through your colleagues), but rather online. So because you have this one hobby that your IRL friends don’t care much about you end up spending loads of time discussing it online, and end up spending loads of time on your computer – and that’s not even counting the hours you spend watching it! I think there’s a lot to be said in how anime is a hobby that doesn’t, shall we say, lend itself towards “normal” adult behaviour of getting out, socialising, spending time “constructively”, etc etc. This is not to say the two are mutually exclusive, but perhaps may explain why anime fans who are above a certain age end up being the most die-hard and interesting of them all!

    >Is our imagination and inspiration limited to escapism? You look at the sky and you see the stars, and where once you saw magic there is only the knowledge from your science books. Are “reality” and “imagination” mutually exclusive thoughts?
    While there may be many things about the world that we DO know, there will be many more things about it that we DON’T. Every single piece of logic we come up with will have a fair degree of uncertainty attached to it and it is vital anyone who starts thinking about this world become aware of this fact. Taking this to the extreme, perhaps we may even proclaim the reality we know is unreal, and merely a reality of our own imagination (take that, Matrix~). Which probably reinforces your point that we don’t ever stop learning new things, because there will always be something about this reality that we don’t yet know. Those who believe they know everything there is to know about reality are deluded themselves.

    • I understand and agree with your point about why one doesn’t naturally approach people and ask, “Hey, do you like One Piece?” However, the point I tried to make was more that you can like One Piece without feeling guilty or ashamed, that there’s no problem about it. If I may use myself as an example, I don’t announce that I enjoy anime/manga randomly at people, but if someone asks me if I do, or see one of my belongings with an anime illustration, I wouldn’t deny it :) Something more like that, not keeping it a secret, because there’s nothing wrong with it, but that doesn’t mean announcing it. You don’t have to hide your power level, just keep it low ;)

      My example about the stars was also an extreme; if someone can’t dream anymore, or if they believe there isn’t anything else to learn, it’s absolute ignorance. What is science if not wonder about the unknown?

      • Ah, in no way was I disagreeing with anything you said; merely trying to make connections to other aspects of the issue. Though I suppose that trying to do that by framing it as being the answer to what was clearly a rhetorical question wasn’t quite the best way – I apologise ^^;

        If I may be allowed to try this again: I think there is much to be said in the way people practice “childish” interests while juggling “adult” responsibilities. See, the_patches spoke somewhere on this blog about the merits of characters who inhabit their gender, but are not defined by it. Similarly, when people are able to inhabit a “childish” hobby, but not let whatever reason the prevailing community/society-at-large/etc has chosen to use as justification for labelling said hobby “childish” define their love for it, interesting things tend to happen! Two reasons: first because their willingness to see past what everyone else sees come across and tends to result in paradigm shifts of some form; second because their relatively more mature outlook sometimes wins them supporters, and in some cases even invents whole communities based on this new perspective. To some extent this blog is an example of the latter – it having come from a single person who dared to broach the subject to another seemingly random person online, after all!

        Relating this back to One Piece fanship: yes, if you do end up asking every single person on the street about it, then proceed to talk their ears off about it even when they reply in the negative, you’d probably come across a little self-obsessed! But if you’re a bit more “adult” in the way you broach the subject – maybe, if you thought it was something they would be interested in because they like pirates/comedy/whatever else its about, then maybe, just maybe! – you’d have made a fellow fan~

        tl;dr: Be an adult, yes; but do be creative with your adulthood, and never, EVER, let it get in the way of being yourself!! I wish you all that and more this 2013~ ;)

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