Growing Up Is Overrated

growing up is overrated
Drawing by Adrian Serghie

Provided by Troy Headrick from Thinker Boy: Blog & Art

   A little more than three years ago, I left my teaching job at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and moved back to the United States, the place where I was born.  A clause in the contract I’d signed with AUC, way back when I was first hired, stipulated that the university would ship my belongings back to America once I’d left Egypt.  So my Egyptian wife and I took advantage of that perk and sent a whole household of items, from east to west, across the cold Atlantic.

   The other day I was out in my garage and noticed that I still had two boxes, dating back to my time in Egypt, which had never been opened.  I figured they held books, so I tore into them, liberating their contents.

   I had been right.  They held books, dozens of them, and I looked longingly at their covers as I read their titles.  One in particular—The Choice Is Always Ours:  The Classic Anthology on the Spiritual Way—caught my eye, so opened it and perused its table of contents.

   The next morning I started thinking about “choice” and “the spiritual way.”  I felt like the book was speaking to me.  It was reminding me that I needed to work on myself—that I wasn’t as spiritually healthy as I needed to be and that it was within my power to change myself for the better.

   I live a lot in my head and I suppose you could call me a thinker.  Most people with these same characteristics have a tendency to be what some might call “serious.”  Such folks are very analytical and self-aware and tend to worry a lot.  They hold themselves and others to very high standards.  They see problems everywhere and frequently feel the need get involved, speak out, become politically active, intervene, right injustices, organize those around them, and such.  These very serious people have a hard time turning their minds off at the end of the day.  Sometimes, because their brains are so active, they have trouble sleeping soundly when a lot of the rest of the world is slumbering away.

   There is nothing inherently wrong with being a thinker and with caring deeply about things.  There is, however, a very fine line that separates the person who cares from the person who worries, and there is an equally fine line separating the worrier from the individual who obsesses.

   The pressures of adulthood are partly responsible for turning so many of us into overly serious, neurotic basket cases.  These pressures turn us inward, interfere with our abilities to feel joy and to have fun, cause stress and stress-related health problems, and prevent us from having fulfilling relationships.  If we aren’t careful, they can also stunt our intellectual development by turning us into reactionaries.

   The antidote is to become skilled at reconnecting with one’s inner child.  Unfortunately, the world teaches us that a person moves out of childhood—and has to abandon all “childish” things, including playfulness—when one becomes an adult.  Thus, the maturation process is thought to be linear and unidirectional—from childhood to adulthood.  The healthiest, happiest, most creative people are able to return to the carefree state of childhood when the weight of the world gets too heavy.  They don’t just cry, scowl, and fume; they laugh, smile, and let things go.

   In what ways is being “too adult” unhealthy?  How is such rigidity holding us back?  How can we go about reconnecting with that playful part of ourselves that knows—very viscerally, very intuitively—how to live joyfully and fully?

   These are important questions that require some thought and discussion.

34 thoughts on “Growing Up Is Overrated

  1. ah.. this is like reading about myself.. thank you for your honesty. just a few days ago when I was on a trip with husband and friends chasing waterfalls I observed the village children just living freely and carefree and I thought to myself “Where is my innerchild?”
    I am going to share this. hope you dont mind.

  2. My husband is the “serious” type and I do tell him that it prevents him from enjoying life. I have learnt to connect with my inner child – all thanks to my kids and when we do go out, I am bouncing around on bouncy castles like a kid and doing stuffs that kids enjoy. I have learnt to find joy in those simple, mundane things that kids do. This has really helped me because as a parent, worrying is normal.

  3. Adulting sucks! The responsibility far outweighs the perks in my opinion. I think we easily get caught up in the “should do’s” as adults and “keeping up with the Jones'”. We buy into the nonsense of what we think we need to have a good life rather than enjoying what is right in front of us. I am working to shake off that facade and get back to more my true self. It has been a fun journey thus far.

      1. Honestly, the death of my brother and mother shook me to my core and pulled the rug out from under me. Those events caused me to reevaluate everything in my life and the disparity between what I had become and how far that picture was from living my dreams.

  4. Sometimes I think that I was never a Child, I grew up way sooner than my Counterparts. The reason for that is I have always attached myself to older People, Eavesdropping on their mature conversations and mimicking adult lifestyles. I figured that if you seek knowledge, you go to the Well. A twelve years old Catholic School Student who was of the same Mindset introduced me to the finest Marijuana grown around the World. He was ten years younger than his older sibling, which was the problem, we did everything his older siblings did. My Social Consciousness began at fifteen the Year they killed Kennedy, A year filled with Racial and Social upheavals, the same year I started working part time further abandoning my Youthfulness. I was buying my own Clothes and brought money Home every Payday at fifteen I was a Man, though I never forgot to be a Child, my Pranks prompted my Mother to tell me that I never would grow up, my Wife tells me that I have a childlike mentality. I thank them both for their observations, why else would I be semi Retired and choose to write about Parenting and Relationships trying to teach other fourteen years old not to be like I was. Your Article is right on the Money, thank you for your Observations.

    1. Hey, Anthony! Like you, I spent a lot of time around older people when I was just a wee thing. I liked to observe them and listen to how they spoke and what they liked to talk about. I guess I thought older people were wise when I was younger but have discovered, at least to my way of thinking, that many older folks are just as messed up as the rest of us. (The old don’t have a monopoly on wisdom.) I think it’s about balance in life. For those of us with a serious bent, we need to balance that with a little playfulness. Balance is so important. Otherwise, we become unbalanced and therefore unstable. You sound like a really interesting guy with lots of interesting ideas! Nice to meet you! And thanks for your comment.

      1. You are not kidding about the Monopoly. Two days ago I was in Walmart and after watching a Senior acting up, I remarked to Her ” it’s one thing to grow old and ignorant but it’s another to grow old and Stupid. Please go to my website and read of some of the things that I have learned in this Life. The pleasure is all mine.

  5. Loved reading this!
    Made ‘me’ realize, I am a ‘healthy’ thinker!!! Considering I can never stop being a child, whenever I am not…thinking!

  6. I think I felt like I was back to my own self when I started becoming more like my childhood self: for example, recreating my hobbies of childhood (one of which is actually writing). But it is probably impossible to get back to it fully. It is about the balance between childhood properties and adulthood. Good properties from both.

      1. Totally! The process of getting back what I left in childhood was hard. But I am very happy that I decided to get into it. Because I am more content with things now, which brings happiness.

  7. Love this!! “Neurotic basket cases” is the perfect description(at least for me)
    I think my photography is one of the ways I reconnect with that childhood of innocence we should have

  8. I totally agree with every aspect of this article. My goal for this year is to stop living in my head and stop worrying. Things always work out the way they are meant to work out, as long as I am doing the work, there’s nothing to worry about. Thank you for this article!

    1. Thank you for you insightful comment. I also work on myself a lot and have to remind myself to “get out of my head.” I actually tell myself this when I’m out and about and find that I’m obsessively going through my problems and how I’m going to solve them. The mind is a wonderful tool, but it can also get us into trouble. Still, having said all that, I’d rather be a thinker than someone who’s oblivious.

  9. Love this article, this is so me. I’m a worrier type, thinking too much all the time, but thank goodness I found a way to make me less thinking by reading, well any kind of hobbies will work for us worriers, you now rest your brain for awhile and just enjoy.

    1. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m a worrier too! It I could change one aspect of my personality, this would probably be it. Thanks for the comment.

  10. What a joy it was to read your blog. It took me decades to learn how to uncover my inner child. I was pleasantly surprised that she had been waiting for me all that time and was still able to come out and play!

    1. Thank you for the comment. I’m glad you liked the blog. Like you, I went through a very serious phase. During this “adult” period of my life, I developed a few health issues because I took myself, my work, and the world way too seriously. Once I found a way to start being more lighthearted and actually laughing at myself and such, I started feeling healthier and happier.

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