Some of us are just born old. Asking us when we knew we had grown up is like asking us to solve a quantum physics problem in our head. We simply have no frame of reference; we’ve always felt grow-up. As children we felt the weight of the world on our tiny shoulders even though they weren’t ready to carry such a load. Atlas may have shrugged it off but we couldn’t. Circumstances of our childhood conspired together in such a way as to guarantee we would skip over some important stages. The sense of wonder, freedom and innocence eluded us. Fun became a four-letter word.
We see smiling pictures of ourselves in our parent’s photo albums and don’t recognize ourselves because of those smiles. We do remember some good times, like catching fireflies on a summer’s evening and jailing them in a glass prison. We remember making tents out of blankets and playing in them with our dolls. We remember rolling lopsided balls of snow into distorted snowmen. We can even remember hugs and kisses and warm moments of intimacy. But we also remember fearing that those cherished moments would slip away too soon. And they often did. We knew those singular moments weren’t our real life; they were just cruel snippets of what could be, what should be.
There is an old southern saying that states, “If you don’t crawl before you walk, you will crawl before you die.” I think it’s supposed to mean that we are meant to experience certain phases in our life at appropriate times and if we don’t, we will experience them inappropriately at some other time along the way. Becoming an adult too soon is one of those “not crawling before we walk” kind of experiences. Doctors tell us not to push our children to stand up too soon because their leg muscles haven’t developed properly and it could cause injury. The same is true for our emotions.
We were forced to experience adulthood way ahead of schedule. Our under developed emotional muscles were simply not ready to take on such mature themes. But we became very adept at carrying our burdens because we were survivors. When life gets overwhelming now, we put our big girl panties on and tell ourselves to “grow up for crying out loud”. The truth is we do a pretty good job; we have been trained well.
I finally became a grownup when I realized I could have fun, even pursue it intentionally. I now enjoy life without feeling guilty. I no longer feel I’ve ignored the suffering in the world just because I laugh. Maybe laughter is what helps up grow compassion. It gets our minds off ourselves for awhile and consequently we can think of others. I am more compassionate now, give more financially now and extend myself more now because I’m a healthier person over all.
How about you? Are you grown-up enough to laugh and have fun?