Sunday, January 29, 2006

Should I stay or should I grow?

Nostalgia: that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when dwelling fondly in the past, usually accompanied with a goofball grin and a vacant stare. Memories are cobbled together, a patchwork of different ages: 3, 8, 11, 14 and so on, flitting around as the stupid grin stretches further across your face. It was a time that only remains in the mind. A time when life was less complicated and the problems of the world belonged to creatures known as grown-ups.

When does the point occur when you’re no longer a kid? Suddenly, you have crossed that threshold and you’re a grown up. It isn’t a moment you can pinpoint exactly, although adults will give you plenty of potential benchmarks to choose from: turning 18, graduating high school, getting your first car, turning 21, graduating university, getting your first apartment, etc. None of these fit snuggly and yet sure enough, seemingly from out of nowhere, the weight of the world is on your shoulders and the only escape is nostalgia.

Anything can trigger this wistful state. A movie, a song, a TV show, a photo, whatever sends you back to a place, a time, a feeling. Lately, it has been a DVD set of a childhood favorite, “The Adventures of Pete and Pete.” For my international readers who are clueless to what I am speaking of, the series focused on the misadventures of a pair of redheaded brothers. The show perfectly captures the magic of being a kid. It has the spirit and tone right. It is particularly good at plastering silly grins on my face. I’ve been watching it a lot lately, perhaps because I feel that piece of my life slipping further away.

I keep trying to avoid the inevitable. The most recent strategic move was grad school, but with each passing day there are fewer moves and checkmate to childhood seems imminent. The truth of the matter is I am an adult. No matter how I fight it. No matter how many adventures I share with my redheaded compatriots. After grad school there will be only one place to go: the real world with its real job, real problems and real adult life. What’s a guy perpetually stuck in daydream to do? Is it the beginning of the end?

No. There doesn’t have to be this great divide. Childhood isn’t a Technicolor Oz to a sepia-toned real world. Youth doesn’t have to be relegated to mere nostalgia. The weight of the world doesn’t have to come crushing down on my adult shoulders. It is a frightening, transitional time, but it is far from the end. I am not going to get trite and say it is a new beginning because it isn’t. The characters are just developing and the plot thickening.

Life would be pretty dull if we are all a bunch of stiff, so-called adults. Honestly, we can’t be mature all the time and who would want to be? Being an adult is all a show. We do our jobs, we pay the bills, but deep down we are all still just kids. Ultimately, this is the key of surviving adulthood. The minute that connection to youth is snapped then all really is lost. I will be an adult for all intensive social purposes, but a kid on the inside and occasionally I’ll let that kid out to play. Then again, perhaps this is all just the naïve ramblings of a nostalgic fool with a bad case of Peter Pan syndrome. Who knows?


Bibil said...

A great piece, as usual. And you're so right about it.

Eygló said...

I was always waiting for the point of turning into an adult, and guess what, it hasn't come yet. When thinking back, I don't feel that I've changed much the last ten years. Of course I have grown and I am more mature than when I was 15 (I hope), but I am still the same person. Adulthood is a myth and people who take it too seriously lead dull lives. I agree that it is important to remember the child within and fool around sometimes.