“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