Grow Up, Damn It! (What I Wish I Hadn’t learnt About Growing Up)

Posted: June 23, 2015

From a child who views the world as a simple, happy place, to a grown-up who learns the unforgiving, competitive nature of the world, growing up isn’t easy.

Growing up is hard and we cannot avoid it.

As a child, the entire world revolves around you and your needs. Your eating, clothing, academic choices, personal choices. I am sure, just like me, most of you could not wait to grow up and start a life of your own. I remember my teenage years – golden rebel days when I thought everything was possible and certain – a great career, great friends and even greater love.

What a shame for this beautiful world to shatter my views one piece at a time and then all together – yes, that is growing up.

We have all been there – either someone has told us to ‘Grow Up’ in that patronizing tone they have – or (confession time) we have told someone to grow up! What is this growing up that we so pride ourselves on?

Well, here are the six things I learnt about growing up – here are the things I wish I had never learnt.

1. Big bad world

I learnt that the world was not my school, my home and neighbourhood. The world was competitive, unkind and selfish. People are programmed to run after the next best thing or achievement and most of them believe in “at any cost”. Those who manage to conquer their academic and professional dreams, often lose their self in a sea of arrogance and prejudice.

Friendships, love, marriage – everything is somehow dictated by what you have “achieved”. Those of us who manage to evade this badness around us – never go unaffected. We are either stumped bystanders to the unkindness of people or the receivers of it. The perfect world where ugliness was covered or hidden from us by our parents was a mirage. Here – we cannot hide or cover it – we deal with it – head on and alone. No surprises that most of us grow up with broken and imperfect personalities.

2. There is no safety net

My parents are and always will be – my world – my lifeline. A statement that is true for more selfish reasons than love. My parents were always there, irrespective of my actions. A little bruise while playing where I was not supposed to; a secret affair at young age that came out in the open; performing badly in an exam; behaving unkindly towards others – no matter how evil I was in certain circumstances – my parents were always there and I knew it.

Growing up taught me that there will be no other who will offer such a safety net – not friends, not my partner, not my kids. Hereon, I will not just be the little daughter, but a person of my own – accountable fully for my own actions and hopefully ready to bear the consequences. Relationships can fall. Apologies might not be sufficient and the people in the world around me will constantly change. There is no safety net anymore. It was and always will be just my parents as I will one day be for my kids.

3. You do not know yourself

I was the good child – listened to my parents, was kind and polite to elders and always smiled. In my head I was a perfect little girl, as in the eyes of my parents. Suddenly, I am thrown into a sea of disparate personalities with my home miles away and I am introduced to the never ending cycle of self-realization. I am not as perfect as I thought I was – I feel a myriad of emotions I dislike other people – anger, jealousy, detachment, unkindness. I will lose friends along the way – sometimes because l am dark, sometimes because they are dark.

Suddenly, I hate myself and it takes a lot of effort to accept my flaws and consciously control them. Suddenly, I also realize it is a process that never stops because every interaction with a new person brings out a side in one’s personality that one is not acquainted with. Suddenly, I am my own person with a strong personality and consciousness of my actions. Suddenly, I miss being the little girl who was happy in her world and never hurt anyone.

4. There is little patience and place for weakness

As a child, you are sad – you cry; you are happy – you laugh gleefully; you are sleepy – you sleep; you are hungry – you eat. Simple, isn’t it? The world hates simple and so do the people in it. So now, let us add the honest complexity we all deal with. If I am sad – I deal with it; I am happy  – I express, cautiously so as not to hurt anyone or sound arrogant; I am sleepy – I drink coffee; I am hungry – I consult my diet plan.

The world hates people who express themselves freely. It expects you to control and curb your emotions and that is seen as a sign of maturity (a synonym for growing up, coined by grown-ups to feel happy about themselves). Every minute of every day my emotions are stifled and controlled. What others see outside might not necessarily be what I feel inside.

Tornado, storm, destruction inside – you shall not cry. Why? Because crying is weak. Crying is being sensitive and crying is being immature. As a child, one cries, gets over with it, holds no grudges and moves on. One rarely loses people – because one holds no grudges. I am grown up now. The only word in my dictionary is ‘control’. To be seen as a respectable and mature woman, I need to control my tears, my anger, and my loud laughter. Yes, you are ready to be inducted into the society now.

5. Downtime

So much pressure. So much pretense. So much confusion. The world is chaotic and to make sense of it and myself – I need downtime. A child has limitless energy which once spent, the child recharges to be limitless the next day. As adults, the routine of the day is so tiresome and mentally strenuous that sleep is not enough. So we came up with the word – alone time/ downtime/ me-time.

In order to be well manufactured machines, that can endure wear and tear, it is absolutely essential that we take some downtime. It is impossible to live like a child again – after all you have big bad bills to pay in this big bad world – so you gotta play. Play you shall and you shall play well with the magic potion of downtime. I have recently heard that people have renamed downtime to ‘Netflix’ and “PlayStation’ – whatever works.

6. Love – umm….uhhhh….say that again?

Aaah…the love in the movies…..the purity, the innocence, the happiness. Aaah…the new love in our lives – the purity, the innocence, the happiness…..Urgh…the real love a year later – compromises, old, struggling. We have all been there. What started out as a great love story, turns hard and sometimes bitter. The strong ones, strive through and see it to the altar (the societal end), the weak ones move on to another ‘new love’.

In the process, we change, finesse and adapt the definition of love to (supposedly) be happier and independent. I don’t need flowers – that is childish. I don’t need romance – that is just cheesy. The definition of love – what it was in the teens and twenties and what it is as you grow up is vastly different. The definition has grown with you to include elements of self-preservation against hurt and a desperate urge to be ‘happy’.

Don’t get me wrong, many of us have the capacity to make the compromises and niche out a happy life for themselves. One is only left wondering if that happy life was not possible had anyone loved a little as in the movies, given a little unselfishly as in the books and believed a little as in fairy tales. Guess we won’t know – because we will inevitably grow up. Hard as it is for me to accept, this is something I shall be teaching my children – that fairy tales are what they sound – just tales.

Survive we must and to survive – toughen up we must. In the process, if we can all show a little selfless love, a little kindness, a non-prejudiced outlook, an arrogance-free conversation, a little empathy to the ones in need, an easy apology – we might just make the world a little more livable.

First published at the author’s blog

Children having fun image via Shutterstock

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