We All Want To Be Kids
“Adults are just obsolete children, and the hell with them.”
We spend our childhood craving the freedom of adulthood—but then spend the rest of our lives chasing our innocent, hopeful, and stress-free childhood.
I was fortunate enough to have a happy childhood—something I took for granted until I was old enough to learn about and understand some of my classmates’ broken homes.
Even then, there were many points in my childhood where I wanted nothing more than to be a grown-up.
To me, being a grown-up meant having all the answers, and having freedom.
Knowledge and power—that’s what adulthood represented to me.
Given the frame of reference we have as a child, it makes sense that I would equate adulthood with the exact inverse of what I perceived childhood to be—powerlessness, and naivety.
I saw my parents and adult brother (seemingly) doing as they pleased.
I spent years being lectured by adult teachers, and receiving sage wisdom from adult family members.
Now that I’ve begun the transition to adulthood, living on my own, holding a job, paying rent, and planning for the future—I’ve realized that I had a massive misperception about what it means to be an adult.
The funny thing about it is that it’s an inevitable cycle, simply because of the obvious timeline: childhood always comes before adulthood.
I could sit down and explain to my children about what it really means to be an adult, but given that they have zero experience with it, they won’t actually realize the truth until they become adults themselves—at which point it’s too late to savor the remnants of your childhood, or revert back to the child state.
Don’t take this article to mean that I’m unhappy with my life, or stressed out. Quite the opposite, anyone who knows me knows I love my life and have a fairly stoic demeanor and positive outlook.
I just can’t help but marvel at all the simple realities of adulthood that I overlooked as a child.
I never gave much thought to the many stresses my parents experienced, probably because they did a good job of masking it. Although looking back, some of the signs are obvious—hushed conversations, forced smiles, distracted involvement in my activities, no’s to buying new things, etc.
I also didn’t realize what it meant to actually work for a living. I remember reading a Paul Graham article (which I can’t find) that talks about the sudden shock it is for young adults who enter their career paths.
The analogy he used went something like this: your entire life you stand on the shoulders of your parents as they paddle furiously to support you, but once you graduate college, you’re thrown in to water and must swim on your own or drown.
This is part of the reason why I’m driven to start my own company—because it is only at that point that you stop trading time for money, as you now have equity. You frontload the entirety of your collective lifetime working hours to a few years for a much bigger payoff.
The schedule and lifestyle of our entire childhood is one of relative convenience. Go to school for part of the day, do homework, and play sports. Have entire weeks off for holidays, and then two and a half months for summer.
If you don’t turn in your homework, if you fail your test, if you skip school—the consequences are reversible and minimal.
When you work, anyone of the career related equivalents can get you fired and leave you penniless if you haven’t saved money.
Your time in school you’re always working for the future, which seems limitless. But as many people realize, once you start in a certain career path, it’s very hard to transition, and/or give up a steady paycheck.
18 years of hopefulness, and bam—a lifetime of hopefully a well paying boring corporate job that keeps you busy 40% of your waking hours (and probably more if you’re really working in a lucrative industry, and are ambitious).
So the freedom is hardly there, especially because you eventually become indebted to your children when they arrive on the stage.
And the knowledge? One of the things I quickly learned about the adult world is that most people actually have no idea what they’re doing. Seriously.
It’s not like once you turn 21 you get an adult handbook with all the answers to the world in it, including: how to handle personal finances, how to pick a career, how to manage relationships, how to fix things around the house, random dad facts.
Of course, through experience and intuition I’ve already learned a great deal about these, so I’m not complaining, but just comparing it to what I thought would happen as a child.
Most adults are stuck in less than optimal situations: unhappy with their careers, marriages, kids, housing, leisure, etc. They either are too lazy to do anything to fix it, are too afraid of change, or have no idea where to start.
A lot of the things your teachers and even professors taught you are either outdated, misleading, useless, or actually false.
The wisdoms your adult family members and mentors give you are only as valuable as the person doling out the advice. You probably can’t gain much insight from your mediocre uncles and aunts.
At least your grandparents wisdom is useful: value time over wealth, and prioritize the relationships in your life. There’s nothing like staring death in the face to bring you clarity as to what really matters.
Perhaps the most valuable and common advice is the one you ignored the most—enjoy your childhood.
Maybe that’s why as a society we enjoy drugs (even prescription) so much, because they temporarily revert us to our idyllic childlike state.