I saw this quote on a marquee at Bellew’s Produce here in Spartanburg as I was driving home from a rather testy day at work. After I passed the building, I thought to myself how true that saying really is sometimes. Most of us spent our childhood trying to grow-up too quickly. We wanted to get to the point where we could do what we wanted when we wanted. Each year marked some sort of milestone that helped us get closer to our personal independence. And with each passing year, our patience continued to dissipate. We didn’t want to be kids anymore. We wanted to be adults even though most of us were nowhere close to being ready to take on the challenges involved with going out on our own.
For me it started with a new bike in elementary school and continued from there. Some milestones centered around key birthdays. Others were based on the level of trust that my parents or teachers had in me at the time. Others were contingent upon completing certain requirements to move on to the next level in school or within the church. Some involved having access to privileges like having my own TV in my room or being trusted enough to stay out late when I got older.
Of course we all experienced a number of missteps along the way. We chose to hangout with the wrong people or decided to blow-off homework from time-to-time. Some of us even chose to skip school or not show-up for work during our teenage years. We all attempted to test the boundaries established by our parents and teachers. My dad would always ask me if I learned my lesson after I had served my sentence for doing something that was out of line. That was always the most important part for him. He wanted to make sure that my brothers and I wouldn’t do it again, and usually we didn’t.
We just wanted to grow-up. We wanted to get our driver’s license so we could achieve a whole new level of freedom. We wanted to be able to go places when we wanted to and with who we wanted to. We wanted to finish high school so that we could either go to work so we could move out or go to college. The goal was to gain independence. We just wanted to be able to call our own shots. College brought on a totally different level of responsibility. No parents to nag us to get-up for class or to study for tests. No one to tell us when to eat or that we couldn’t go away with our friends for a weekend. We got to choose our friends and girlfriends without a parent there to question whether or not we should associate ourselves with that person. We were only accountable to and for ourselves. Some of thrived while some of us failed.
College is the grand experiment in my opinion. Most of us determine our career paths during the first year or two when we pick a major. A lot of us also go to college with the hope of finding that special someone to eventually marry and have a family. A lot of key decisions are made in a relatively short amount of time. The transition from teenager to young adult to adult essentially takes place in a 4-5 year span. Many of us lose a lot of innocence during that time. We are exposed to things that our parents spent many years trying to protect us from, and the decisions we make when faced with these situations can impact us for the rest of our lives.
After college, the path to being a grown-up is almost complete. Many of us will start jobs, get married, buy homes, and then have children. We will get rid of many of things tied to our youth – mostly stuff and some memories. We will all start to forget what it was like to be a kid and have fun. We will be so focused on the next step in our lives, our childrens’ lives, and our parents’ lives that we could forget what it was like to have fun. And to me that is the proverbial “trap” that is alluded to in the quote I saw on the marquee at the produce stand the other day.
We can’t forget the feelings of having fun, of being a kid. We can’t forget the memories from our childhood. We need to remember the good times and the lessons learned. Our children need to be able to see us as adults laughing and having fun. We need to be able to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons and The Three Stooges reruns and laugh like we did when we were kids. We need to keep in touch with our friends from high school and college – those that were there with us and for us during the good and bad times. We need to reminisce and share old stories and new stories.
Even though we’re grown-ups and are doing some seriously adult things, we need to stay out of the “trap.” If you want to wear a Batman t-shirt, wear your Batman t-shirt. If you want to watch cartoons, watch cartoons. If you want to eat your dessert before dinner, then eat it before dinner. If you want to listen to your music really loud, listen to it really loud. If you want to go to a concert, go to a concert and act like a crazy person.
We’ll never be able to relive our youth, but we can continue to avoid the “trap” by doing things that help us escape from adulthood from time to time. But don’t do it alone. Share the moment or the feeling with someone!