When I was a kid, I viewed myself as an adult. As an adult, I view myself as a child. We all start out as children, and between our parents, society, and cultural conditioning we usually try to stop being childlike and start being “grown-ups.” But what does that mean exactly? Where is that line drawn?
For me, it never was. Throughout history, what passed as the rough division between childhood and adulthood has varied greatly. At one time, it was acceptable and condoned for a 15 year old to start a family and carry on the traditions of his or her parents. Those same 15 year old “adults” also had a life expectancy of a horse. . .
Our laws in this day and age say children reach adulthood at the age of 18. Some restaurants say that people are no longer “kids” when they hit 13. In my experience, 18 year-olds see 13 year-olds as little kids, 25 year-olds see 18 year-olds as kids, and at the age I’m at currently (33 going on 34) I view pretty much everyone under the age of 25 as kids. I don’t have children of my own and most likely never will, (58 year old grandparents also view me as a kid). So it all comes down to perspective.
Some claim that they had a traumatic experience that aged them beyond their years. Others face situations that bring them back to a younger period of their lives. Whether it’s war, prison, loss of a loved one, childbirth, abuse, college, yellow fever, a “grown-up job” . . .or what have you, we all age at a different and very UN-specified pace. This writer doesn’t believe that physical age has anything to do with whether we are children or adults. That judgement is typically either societal, cultural, spiritual or personal. As individuals we are ultimately responsible for our behavior…what is acceptable (adult) and unacceptable (child) as we go about our journey through life. I believe that the denial of either one leads to the inevitable facing of it. Eventually. Deny your inner child and it will come up to the surface (probably not in a favorable way.)
Jesus is quoted in the gospel of Matthew 18:3, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” I have encountered old men and women who have never faced certain hurdles in life and therefore have never aged emotionally beyond whatever age it was that they chose flight over fight. Life provides us with examples, hardships, lessons, tests and sometimes even what seem like jokes that are tailor-made for each one of us in order to further our growth and sharpen awareness. We can choose to take on each challenge or flee in fear. In the case of the latter, a person could age naturally in every other way except for the area that needed to be overcome at that particular time. They are emotionally stunted and typically ignore or block that area of their lives that was never faced.
There is, I believe, a difference between child-like and child-ish. One can be both mature and child-like, grown-up and childish, or any combination thereof. As with most aspects of life, I have discovered that finding a balance is key.
Whenever I envision the “me” (character role) that makes up who “I” am, (ego) he is a perpetual Peter Pan Man-Boy who has always been the same age and always will be. Every time I’ve left my body and experienced existence as pure thought, it is the same way. “I” have always been, and always will be. “I” have never NOT existed. I also believe that in order to successfully maintain that view of oneself, proper and daily maintenance of one’s inner child is absolutely essential. Death, then it seems, is more the loss of the child within us, than the end of life.
-Matt Bleifuss 5/19/16