Friday, December 9, 2011

The gives and takes of growing up

We live in a generation and society that more and more asks the question “What’s in it for me?” Is it a bad question to ask? It’s pretty hard for me to say, but nonetheless, it’s a question that we instinctively ask when faced with a new opportunity or situation. The question belies the attitude that anything worth doing is worth doing because of the result that comes out of it. To any degree, I believe that this generally holds true. While the Bible does tell us that it is more “blessed give than it is to receive” you are still storing up an eternal reward in heaven, a reward which, I believe far outweighs anything you could reap in this lifetime. Yet, this is not really what I want to discuss either. I wrote an earlier piece on this advent of “adultescents” which I believe is a growing problem in this day and age, and I’d now like to further continue to explore this issue. Am I an expert? Well, not really, but this is just my personal observation and speculations, but I’d say that I have some experience with this issue. Why? Probably because I’m likely and “adultescent” as well, though I’d say if I were I’m in denial (though if I’m really honest, I’d have to say that I really am something of an “adultescent”).

For those of you that are perhaps too lazy to go back and read through my (likely overly verbose) post, let me sum up what I mean when I write the word “adultescent”; to put it simply, an adultescent is basically a kid in an adult body. I know, I’m making it sound like the movie Jack with Robin Williams, but what entails is simply the fact that our lifestyles and thought processes and priorities don’t generally reflect “our age” so to speak. For example, 20 and 30 year olds with little better to do in their spare time than play video games, surf the internet (browse Facebook), shop and spend irresponsibly. Not to say that you can’t enjoy above things, but it’s not really what you think of when you think about being a “contributing member of society” or “responsible adult”. Now I know that we’ve discussed somewhat as to why this is happening, but I would like to provide some more insights and perhaps a slightly adjusted perspective for us current adultescents as to how to deal with this (less than ideal) situation.

It brings me back to the question I asked at the beginning of this exploration, “what’s in it for me?” I believe that intuitively, people are asking themselves “what do I get out of becoming an adult?” and frankly, I don’t think they’re find thing the answer very satisfying. In the US, most people are generally considered “adults” when they are the age of 21. I recall a friend, who, upon turning 21 asked, “What’s so great about 21? I can go buy a drink legally? How exciting.” (This is dripping with sarcasm if you weren’t able to tell). Perhaps growing up and becoming a responsible adult is one of the crappy realities of life, but in a day and age when we tell our kids to chase their dreams, create their own destinies, shape their own realities, is it really that hard to believe that they don’t want the crappy one? I feel like it’s kind of pulling the proverbial rug from underneath their feet. “You can be anything except for what you really want to be.” Am I advocating irresponsible spending of money and time by these adultescents? Certainly not, but there certainly needs to be something more to life than growing up, getting a job, and worrying about these sorts of things (like kids, mortgage, finances, prestige, etc…)

I learned to ask myself a very important question when I was in high school, “And then what?” I had what I would call a minor existential crisis because of this question, and frankly, it was a good thing, a well needed reflection upon my life as a whole. It started with the whole question of “what am I going to do with my life?” I started at where I was, and my internal conversation went something like this (yes, I talk to myself, who doesn’t?)
“Why should I study hard now in high school?”
“To get into a good college.”
“And then what?”
“Get a good job.”
“And then what?”
“Support a family.”
“And then what?”
“And then what?”
I mean, it came to a point where I could come up with an answer, but I was really reaching. I know, morbid, maybe I was emo as a teenager, maybe I’m still emo now, but that being said, I believe that this sort of reflection is valid. Of course, there’s nothing requiring you to be quite as depressing as I am, but that being said, I believe this line of thought is a healthy one to examine. I often asked myself, “What is it to me if I make it big and end up in the history books? After all, I’ll be dead and gone.” So the question then comes full-circle back to the age old question “What am I living for?”

Now, I can’t say I speak for everyone, but I believe that often, we associate adulthood with no fun, I’ve heard countless people say something along the lines of, “You don’t like school? Wait until you have to work.” We half expect that when our kids reach a certain age, some “responsible” switch will suddenly engage and then become a full-fledged adult. The more I think about this, the more I realize that this stems back to a very fundamental question of life, that question being, “What is the purpose of life?” Intuitively, I believe that we all have a desire to be living for something, we have a desire to have a reason for doing what we do. It’s really not an easy answer to find, but I believe that instinctively, those of us growing up have come to the conclusion that frankly, what the “real world” has to offer us really isn’t worth it. There’s got to be something more.

Frankly, there’s a fairly large gap in what this world is able to offer us and what we are looking for, unfortunately, I don’t know that a lot of us realize what exactly it is we’re looking for quite often. It’s often more along the lines of something being awry but we’re unable to quite pinpoint exactly what it is that is missing. I know I personally don’t find the concept of becoming “a cog in the corporate machine” as some would call it, very appealing, so ultimately, when it’s all said and done, I don’t find that to be enough of a reason to do what I do. I was made for a purpose, I’m here for a reason, I have a destiny. I know, it all sounds so clichéd, but that’s what it is. How do I find out what that is? Well, I guess the logical answer would be to figure out who made me.

Is it then a societal failing that we have so many adultescents? Perhaps, but society is often shaped by the collection of individuals that it is composed of. If we want our kids (and ourselves) to grow up, we have to give them a reason to. We can’t expect kids to be kids then stop being kids when their age hits an arbitrary number without helping them through the process. I mean, it doesn’t really help when half of the games for the Playstation 3 are probably marketed towards people over the age of 20. It doesn’t help that game and media companies are now trying to appeal to the childhood of these older people. If we want to grow up, we have to take steps to do so, the best motivation is a driving reason. Obligation is a great thing, sobering reality is sometimes necessary, but in this day and age, we are constantly being bombarded with messages that we are obligated to no one except ourselves, and that reality is what we make of it. In a day and age where it’s not hard to escape reality and forgo obligations, we need to find our reason for doing what we do, and living this life.

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