Some years back, we were visiting our children in boarding school, coincidentally, our daughter and her friends had just finished their final exams and were assuring us that they did well, when suddenly, one of them stretched out, sighed and to our astonishment told us with a look of great accomplishment “I am now a woman.”
When asked to explain further as that statement was heavy with several meanings, she told us that having crossed the Rubicon of WAEC she was now qualified to be called a woman though she was then only 17. We laughed till our sides hurt at the naivety of youth, the parents around that day gave her a moniker, “I am now a woman”.
I found myself reflecting recently on that incident and I realized that even though we had laughed at her naivety, all the other children who felt like her were both right and wrong. It is true that at 17, she was on the cusp of being referred to as an adult since 18 is the legal age of adulthood in many countries of the world but we all know that most 18year olds are still not mature emotionally and cannot carry the responsibilities of adulthood even though, at the same time, they have the bodies and, sometimes, needs of an adult.
That place in life that we look forward to as our utopia, where anything and everything is possible. Where our dreams of independence is guaranteed, where we can do and undo, go where we want to, watch what we want to; sleep and wake up whenever we like.
It inspires impatience at the slow pace of time and makes a child add to his age so he can enjoy age based pleasures and entitlements sooner. It makes him wish birthdays came sooner (like a month for every year) so he attains the next age much quicker. It’s why a 3 yr old boy claims to be 5years old so he can have a go at his brother’s toy or wear boxers instead of pants, why a girl at 10 stuffs her bralet with tissue paper so she can look more buxom, why a 12 year old preteen desperately desires to use makeup and steals a try at her mother’s eyeliner and lip balm when she goes out to the neighborhood store.
That mixture of emotions when you feel grownup yet still behave like a child, of wanting to be treated like an adult but not being able to or capable of handling the responsibility that comes with it. It’s a heady mix of wonder, excitement, trepidation with a sense of invincibility where the consequences of one’s action are far-fetched and optimism is at center stage.
It’s the place where dreams are killed, passions wane and reality checks abound, an introduction to the game of life, people of different backgrounds and inclinations .It’s being thrust into a world where things are expected of you whether or not you are prepared for them. A harsh world of criticism and hard knocks.
I remember so well what it felt like as a child looking forward to the glorious years of adulthood and feeling that once it was achieved everything would be okay. I was going through a thread on twitter lately and saw the response to the question: “what is the one thing you now boldly do with your chest , now that you’re an adult?
The answer was hilarious – getting to eat as much meat as one can topped the list, followed by doing chores only when you want and the freedom to go out or come in as one wishes.
I identified with most of the responses to that question and realized that everyone had very high hopes of what adulthood will bring. It was also galling to note that some of the participants realized that even though they were now adults and could do as they wanted, they had been well conditioned in childhood to curtail their desires and wait for an Eldorado that would never come.
Adulthood is a scam as my daughter often says when asked how it feels to be an adult and I must say that I agree with her. The first time she said it was when she started working, she called home just to ask her father and I how we had coped all these years educating, feeding and even entertaining she and her brother and told us that she was cutting the number of her future children from 4 to 2 as she couldn’t imagine having to work so hard to cater for a large family. It was the same with our son who after receiving his first ever paycheck said that he actually felt depressed when he saw the miserly amount of money paid to him after all the long hours he had worked.
It promises much but actually delivers very little, instead of freedom people find themselves saddled with responsibilities; instead of everything working out as visualized, they see dreams die, instead of having your money to yourself, it is divided among bills, taxes, family duties and responsibilities with little or nothing left for oneself.
The amazing thing about it is that, it starts before you become aware of it, one day you wake up to a new age and expectations that you don’t know how to fulfill yet you still feel the same old person within and the real measure of knowing when you attain it is your willingness to take responsibility for your actions and owning your choices.
Oh, how I wish for the carefree days of youth when the biggest issue one had was being liked by a friend, choosing what snack to eat during break, not going for a party or having a fight with a friend.