I prided myself in being more mature than my peers. I felt either too old or too young for the things that turned other kids into fire crackers. Fairy tales belonged behind screens and I never wished otherwise. Romance…the real kind with people who looked like the future me would, belonged in the future, right where my future self waited for me.
I understood the adult things on time – things like sacrifice, responsibility and obligation held enough meaning for a child like me to develop a palette that didn’t care much for sweet silly things.
You see, tea parties were for kids who used words like “jammies” and wouldn’t wear anything that wasn’t bedazzled. Things like that seldom lived beyond my thoughts. I was too busy exploring words on pages and regurgitating them as my thoughts on paper, in the best way a child could manage. Somehow, I realized early that there were more important things to do.
My teen years came draped in the same spirit. I’d swallow my emotions whole especially when they echoed desire for silly things. Things like dating your crush were silly to me just because they were – what business did 14 year-olds have with that anyway? Other things like school trips abroad were a tad silly (or at least i thought I’d be viewed as such) because I figured that preserving the finances of the family was my obligation too. My parents would kill me for this later.
It wasn’t so much about my age as it was about the feelings – the rightness of things, how tight or loose my chest felt when I weighed things against “greater causes”. How could my peers not see that there was always something at stake, with all the random, supposedly childish stuff we chose to do? How could folks not see how there was no sense in what a lot of us spent time doing?
It was culture, communal values and personal observations among other things, all taking root consciously or subconsciously. It was all the things that teach a child that personal truth has an order to it. It’s the way our subconscious picks up otherness and how we sometimes let that take preeminence over our needs in this present moment. It’s how we accord the future meaning based on happenings of the past and insist that the present should explore itself only within the boundaries of that formula.
These things worked out greatly in certain contexts. It awakened an early pursuit for purpose and a life with a higher meaning. It balanced me out morally, by societal standards. Heck, I kicked the hell out of school work for most of my academic career. But despite all these, I can tell you, in retrospect, that there are disadvantages of always living like there’s more important stuff to consider before dipping your feet into the present.
It robs you of any taste for disruption and risk; two things you must be willing to joyously embrace, to a certain degree, in order to stand the chance of holding truth that pulses in the same rhythm as your heart beat. Despite my colorful persona and people’s opinions that I can be fiery and daring, I know within myself that the paths they see are not those that challenge me the most. I know that there’s more digging to do and that the thought of calling the relics that may be dug up by name sometimes terrifies me because it’d need me to bury my feet in the heart of the present, damning consequences and tossing the lenses of obligation that have served as a moral compass for a long time. You see, the uncertainty in how that may look or feel can be frightening.
Despite thousands of quotes and memes that urge us to embrace our journeys and interrogate what we hold as true, the fact is that the process of unlearning that follows, is a hard thing. Unlearning that ourselves are supposed to be neat sensible, knowledgeable beings holding a clear map titled ‘Becoming’ is a hard thing. Learning that there is a wildness to us that should not be tamed – one that we need to keep alive so that we can fearlessly walk uneasy paths – is not an easy thing.
Sometimes, the most important thing to do is to acknowledge now; to embrace this phase and bare your skin to it even though it may become like parched desert ground for a moment or two. Sometimes, it’s to jump and borrow feathers from birds on your way down. Atimes, it’s not to wait until you’re twenty to have your first kiss. Even now, it may be to take up honesty with yourself concerning how you became who you are and whether you believe that’s all the story is or could be.
I think it may start out tasting like gravel; something that your teeth resists and your tongue rejects. But soon enough, this becoming begins to taste familiar…something like your soul, something like deep consciousness, something like bliss. I think that this is when we begin to truly thrive as our own people.
I believe that being comfortable with interrogating who we are and why we are, and accepting and exploring the role of where we are, are powerful things; events that no one should be ignorant about. Not us and certainly not our children or those with whom they’ll share their lives.