This past week I gave final exams to my graduate students and among the four topics they discussed, one was a favorite childhood memory. For some, childhood consisted of intensive study and little free time. For others, childhood was a carefree life where they played hide ‘n seek with their friends, swam in the river, and climbed the mountains near their village. And for some, it was both a time of studies and play.
Many of my students recalled those times with nostalgia. And some even said they would rather revert back to their childhood because of the looming pressures of adulthood. And there is plenty of pressure. Finding a job, finding a spouse, buying a house, having a child, and giving their child the best education possible. I do understand the nostalgia, but to some extent, you have to let go of the past.
Even for me, returning to my childhood would be tempting. No responsibility, no pressures, everything provided for by my parents. But the fact is, my childhood is gone, and I am an adult now. It’s time to grow up. Not that I can’t play with little kids anymore or joke around with my friends. But relying on my parents for all my choices or playing video games for hours each day would be a regression for me. So I have left that stage of life.
I can’t deny that I do miss the amenities of living at home. Having my mom wash my clothes, enjoying home-cooked meals, and watching movies on the couch with my family. But again, that’s a part of growing up. I can’t stay at home forever. And honestly, if I stayed much longer at my parent’s house, I think they would have given me a well-deserved kick in the posterior to help me become more independent.
Sure, as we grow older, life gets harder. There’s more stress, more responsibility, more work. But it’s not all bad either. We can share our lives with a spouse who loves us, we can raise children together, and we can devote ourselves to the job we have. A dependent child will always be under the purview of his parents, but a mature adult can dictate the direction of his life, to an extent. We can choose our closest friends and determine what our character will be, which ultimately will become the legacy we give to our loved ones, good or bad.
At some point, we all grow up. And we must. I will always fondly remember my childhood. But that chapter has already been written, and a new one begun. I willingly embrace adulthood, and with it, the inherent responsibilities and pressures that come with it. So what would I tell my students who wish to revisit their childhood? Don’t cling to it, nor forsake it completely. It’s part of your legacy. But embrace your adulthood. You have grown up, whether you like it or not, and now the younger generation will follow in your footsteps. You are not “too young or too simple” anymore.
For most of us, life may not always be easy, nor fun. Most days will be commonplace and mundane. Others will be exhausting and enervating. Yet there are moments of joy and delight that punctuate our lives. And so I resolve to leave my childhood behind and embrace my adulthood, enjoying the life God has given me, realizing each day is from him.