When to grow up (and when not to)

Grace Wininger '23, Web Editor in Chief

When I was little, I wanted to go to Neverland. Regardless of the inherent danger of pirates, I found the idea of mermaids and mid-air flips rather enticing. And who wouldn’t want to stay young forever? Adults are gross; they drink coffee and go to bed early and make small talk about the weather.

However, some years later, I have come to the realization that adulthood is contagious. I stumbled my way down a rabbit hole and landed in the topsy-turvy reality where I need caffeine to function properly and would marry my bed if that was an option (though I haven’t stooped so low as to small talk — I have some dignity left).

I was rereading that classic book, as one does when they are as old as I feel, and was reminded of this childhood dream. And I wondered how I managed to grow up, when I opposed it so vehemently before. Where, in all my careful preparation, had I gone wrong?

Growing up, as JM Barrie once said, means forgetting. But maybe it’s not the beauty of childhood we’re forgetting. Maybe it’s the difficulties of it. In growing up, we tie on rose-colored goggles to see the yellow-brick path to the past in a nostalgic light. We forget the fake friends and bad grades and painful stacks of homework someone assigned at some point, in favor of remembering better times. Just as children have decided that adulthood is a fightable enemy, adults have decided that their childhoods were perfect.

I, however, can write from the in-between. Not quite an adulthood, but not quite a child either. I can stand here as a signpost to guide the rest of you along. We’ll have to grow up, most of us. It’s an inherent problem with humanity. But we can grow up on our own terms. We can leave behind the parts of childhood that aren’t so great — the egocentrism, the homework, the immaturity, the abominable institution of high school. But we can hold on to some of our childhood too — we can keep the humor and excitement and dreams. We don’t need to drop it all at once.

I’ll accept the pains of adulthood. I’ll carry that weight on my shoulders, take those tests and fill out those applications. But in the sake of compromise, I intend not to grow up all the way (yet). I’ll keep the funky earrings and avoid small talk at all costs and stick with tea instead of coffee. And if a flying child knocks on my window, I may accept the invitation.