Everyone is in such a hurry to grow up, never realizing they’re running away from the best years of their lives.
I’m reminded of this every spring when graduations are ubiquitous. Regardless of the level — high school, college, postgrad, even junior high — the point of a graduation is that it represents the completion of another step on the road to adulthood.
I was so depressed the morning of my college graduation. While many of my classmates were thrilled to be getting out of school and looking forward to finally making money, I realized something far darker: our youth was over. Even if you went straight to full-time graduate school, it would never be the same. Life would never be so carefree again. The only other time you’d live in a community with thousands of people the same age as you wouldn’t realistically happen again until maybe you move to a retirement community. And if people go streaking there, it’s far less exciting (and much more worrisome).
People complained about studying for finals and writing papers. No, those aren’t fun, but they pale in comparison to knowing that if you fail in your career, your family may not eat or have a place to live. I’ll take hurting my hand filling up a blue book over a mortgage, child care costs, insurance, and everything else. People complained about their rooms or apartment, but when you’re living on campus, people clean your bathroom and fix anything that’s broken. Unless you’re a teenage millionaire, it’s unlikely that would happen away from campus.
When you’re a kid all you want in life is to be a grownup. You want to be able to have cake for breakfast and eat all of your Halloween candy immediately. You want to go outside without having to add extra layers and climb a tree without someone telling you to be careful. You just want to live life on your own terms, man.
I see this with my own kid. She’ll turn five in a month and she’s obsessed with the fact that all but one of her cousins are older than her. She wants to be older so she can do all of the things that she sees adults do, like staying up late to watch Sofia and Alvinnn.
Often, when we make her clean up her toys and dolls, she’ll throw a fit and complain that she has two people telling her what to do but we don’t. She thinks that if she were a grownup, she could live her same life — school for a few hours, play all afternoon, having all your meals prepared for you, someone bathing you and tucking you in every night — without the restrictions. To her, adulthood meets freedom.
Then you grow up and, unless you’re a sociopath, you realize that it’s not what you thought. In fact, it’s worse. You still have people telling you what to do. Maybe it’s your boss. Or your shitty spouse. Or your overbearing parents. Maybe you have student loan debt. Maybe you’re still paying off that trip you took when you were twenty-three and put it on a credit card because you thought you’d be making six figures before your twenty-fifth birthday. Even if you are your own boss with no debt, you still have to pay taxes. And you still have to be beholden to customers or shareholders or partners.
Being a self-sufficient grownup means you can eat gummy bears for breakfast and drink Kool-Aid for lunch, but it also means responsibilities. The house needs maintenance. The retirement account needs funding. The car needs fixing. The job requires you to work late. Playing falls to the bottom of the list. And even if you do have time to play, as you get older your energy level plummets so all you want to do is rest.
When you’re a kid, doing nothing is the worst. When you’re an adult, doing nothing is the best.
I keep telling my daughter to stay a kid as long as possible because before she knows it, it’ll be gone.
And she’ll never be able to get it back.
Christopher Pierznik’s eight books are available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.