Sometimes certain students complain about the work they have to do in class. They'll say stuff like, "Why do we have to learn how to write papers? It's not like we're going to spend THAT much time writing after we graduate," or "Why do we have to read this? This is so BORING!" or "Why do the authors keep going on and on about stuff like the class hierarchy and gender roles? Why can't they write about stuff that actually matters?"
The mature adult in me responds by saying, "This stuff DOES matter. If you'll just stop and listen, I'll show you why," and "Believe me, you WILL spend time writing after you graduate, no matter what job you have," and "It's not so boring if you look at it from this perspective. Let me explain how..."
The kid in me wants to say, "You know what's boring? Hearing the same complaints every day," and "You're right. Let's just end class early so that I can drown my sorrows in M&Ms and Coca-Cola," or "You know what matters to me right now? The question of what breakup song Taylor Swift is going to write about her latest ex-boyfriend." (I wish I could say I was kidding about that one. I'm totally going to download that song.)
When I see the pastry section at Whole Foods, the mature adult in me thinks, Don't look at it don't look at it don't look at it or you WILL buy something delicious. Then you will cry silently to yourself as you spend hours at the gym burning it off while trying not to glare at the skinny girls in sports bras and tight pants who can run much faster than you can, which is good, because they better START running if they complain to you about how fat they think they are.
The kid in me thinks, Yum! Cupcakes, cookies, and croissants! I must buy something, and the more chocolate it has on it, the better.
On the rare occasions I have extra free time, the adult in me usually thinks, Okay, I'm going to use this free time to catch up on the articles I need to read for my dissertation, and then I'm going to work on my lesson plans for next week. Either that or I'm going to clean out my apartment, so that I'll stop feeling like Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comic strips, the one who always walked around in a cloud of dust and dirt.
The kid in me thinks, Yay! Free day! I want to go to the Art Institute and see which people actually understand what the paintings mean and which ones are just pretending to understand them by stroking their chins and looking really serious! Or maybe I'll go to the movies, eat as much popcorn as I want, and "accidentally" step on the feet of people who talk on their cell phones during the movie. If that isn't enough to make them be quiet, I'll borrow the salt shaker from the concession stand and spill it in their sodas and also their hair.
I've been thinking about Peter Pan, the boy who went to Never Never Land because he never wanted to grow up. I've also thought about Wendy, the girl who went with him, but then chose to come home, grow up, and move on to the next stage of her life. It made me wonder which option I would choose, if I was in that situation.
Sometimes it's tempting to be like Peter Pan. Then I could go back to a time in my life when I believed that anything was possible and when I wasn't weighed down by so much work, stress, and responsibilities. Ever since I entered my thirties I've started feeling older. Sometimes I miss that youthful optimism I once had, when I still believed in happy endings.
I know that I'm not the only one. American culture values youth. So many people get plastic surgery because they want to look younger (though of course that's not the only reason, but it's definitely one of the most popular ones). Older people who have more qualifications and experience nevertheless find themselves in competition with younger people for jobs. Some people are afraid that their partners will leave them for someone younger, and in some cases, their fears end up coming true.
But even though I have regrets over those younger years that I'll never get to experience again, at the same time I would rather be an adult than go back to being a kid again. Being an adult means that I get to live my life on my terms rather than someone else's. Being an adult means that I'm more of a realist than a "cock-eyed optimist", which means that it's easier for me to figure out what the right decision is (though that doesn't always mean it's easier to MAKE that decision). Kids are innocent and naive because most of them haven't gone through all the experiences that "harden" them yet. But I think that those experiences can make you stronger, too, no matter how difficult they are.
What about you? Do you ever wish that you could stay young forever, or do you ever wish that you could be a kid again?
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