To Anyone Growing Up

And to everyone who has grown up

Chris Klemens

There is nothing I wanted more than to grow up.

Sorry, let me backtrack. I am a 23 year old living in New York City. I just graduated college and am lucky enough to have a full-time job. One night, when I was leaving the office, I remember zipping up my bag after putting my laptop in it, and it all hit me. I realized that I am now living the same monotonous routine my parents would come home and discuss when I was a kid. I never connected the dots that that would be me someday. Maybe some of you can relate, and others of you can't.

What struck me about this is the fact that when I said, "I can't wait to grow up!" as a kid and teenager, I wasn't talking about this monotonous routine. I must have been talking about some magical life where I made all the rules and didn't have homework or school or problems. My only regret in life is my younger self wanting to grow up.

When I think about my life and my memories from when I was a kid and young teenager, it's almost like this dreamy film sequence from a past life, and I just remember being outside and being happy all the time and feeling like nothing was impossible. I never for once thought that the days of playing soccer or football in the backyard with my mom and two brothers would ever end. I never thought summer breaks going to visit my Nana and Gramps or going to Cape May with my mom's side of the family would ever end. I never thought family dinners cooked by my mom would ever end. It never even occurred to me that so much would end because as a kid, everything is magic. I thought that's how life would be forever.

But then you grow up.

When you grow up, you shed your naivety, and people tell you "real life" begins to happen. Your parents get divorced. Family members die. You rely less on your family and more on yourself. Life. 

And as I grow, I look back on my childhood and wish I wasn't such a little shit who wanted to grow up. I wish I appreciated my mom making me chicken noodle soup with mini stars when I was home sick from school. I wish I appreciated the time I would spend with my brothers, waking up before the sun on Saturdays to play Pokemon cards on the floor of our room and then watch Saturday morning cartoons. I wish I had appreciated my unending exuberance and enthusiasm and lack of concern for what people thought because at the time, I just thought everyone was nice. I wish I appreciated something as basic as the warmth of a hug after coming home from school. I wish I appreciated how truly easy school and homework was and how the "problems" I had then were nothing.

I am not writing this to be a sob story, although I am tearing up (thank you, mom, for the emotional genetics), but instead, I am writing this as someone who doesn't want anyone to make the same mistake I did by just taking everything for granted growing up. I'm writing this to tell you that if you are growing up or are grown up, that doesn't mean life has to get boring and unpleasant. Why do a lot of us let this notion of adulthood stop us from still being that smiling and enthusiastic and pure-hearted kid? Yes, things like playing football in the backyard ended, but now as an adult, there's new things that my family and I do together. That doesn't make it bad. It makes it different.

Of course, there were days growing up where things sucked or I was mad at my parents or I had an awful day at school, but I don't even remember those days really at all. I remember all those intimate moments of love, happiness, and warmth.

I don't know if any of this made sense, but I guess what I am trying to say is that there will be plenty of rough days as an adult, trust me. The problems will be different, but just like being a kid, they are obstacles. Growing up is not easy, and you will feel unsure of yourself a lot of the time. People will tell you that's "real life", but so was being a kid. That was real life. The important thing about growing up that I wish someone told me is that you never have to stop being that kind, exuberant, and optimistic kid who lives life as it happens.