A quote by one of my of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis, has been on repeat in my brain over the last few days: “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
Now I’m assuming that most of you know who C.S. Lewis is. The guy who wrote those Narnia books and talked about Christianity being the one true religion; he was best buds with J.R.R. Tolkien. He taught Medieval & Renaissance Literature at Oxford. Oh, and he died the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Lewis was a public intellectual, a man of letters, a distinguished British gentleman. He also had a life-long love of fairy tales. He didn’t critique them, or at least not all the time, he read them for pleasure, the same way most adults read Tom Clancy, Stephen King or Gene Wolfe.
Wait, sorry, only hard core sci-fi geeks like me know who Gene Wolfe is. Or at least I assume so. If most of you reading this know him, awesome!
Anyway, C.S. Lewis liked fairy tales, which may strike quite a few as odd. Does he strike you as the kind of guy who would read kids’ stuff? The guy served in WWI, you would think childish naiveté, romanticism and idealism, would’ve been beaten out of him in the trenches. I’m not here to discuss this man per se, but the point he raised in that quote.
One of the biggest stereotypes of our generation propagated by older people is that we are immature and lazy. You can find plenty of evidence and individual examples to support this generalized view.
There’s this one guy I follow on YouTube, Phil Burrell, aka Darksydephil, who does play-throughs of video games with live commentary. That’s how he supports himself, believe it or not. He has a contract with a very popular online video game site named Machinima, and he receives money through ad revenue. I follow him because I learn a lot about video games when I watch his reviews and I think he’s a very funny guy.
But he’s a lesser known example. How about Doug Walker, aka The Nostalgia Critic, whose comedic reviews of bad shows and films from the ‘80’s, ‘90’s and ‘00s are so popular he makes a living off of what used to be a quirky hobby.
Playing games and making silly videos isn’t a job! Or at least, that’s what I assume quite a few people would say if or when they read this. Of course, doing game playthroughs and making silly videos isn’t a traditional job. Let’s be fair here; Phil has a degree in Computer Science and was laid off a few years ago, then he went onto Youtube, and the rest is history. Doug, from what I understand, used to work as an illustrator, but discovered that his talents truly lay in comedy and film criticism.
A lot of people aged 18-34 still live with their parents. Now, a big reason for that obviously has to do with the bad economy, I get that. Times are tough for everyone, including us. Millennials will be feeling the effects of the recession for years to come. You can’t blame us for the shitty job market, we didn’t decide at this time. Give a little bit of leeway here, parents, pundits and sociologists!
Guys and girls, I have a confession to make. I hope you’ll forgive me.
I fit that that stereotype. Or at least, I used to.
Up until a year ago, I didn’t know how to tie my own shoe-laces . Yes, I am serious; I’ve worn Velcro strap shoes since I was four. I only bought laced shoes a year ago. Until a year ago, I also didn’t do my own laundry, I didn’t cook my own food, I didn’t book my own appointments. I’ve never earned a dollar in my life, and up until a few months ago, at the end of last year, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. It’s very embarrassing and I’m not proud of it. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve taken big strides on the road to man-hood since then. I can cook my own breakfast, I do my own laundry, I book my own appointments. I’ve even gotten my journalism career off the ground. Still no girlfriend, sadly; ladies, I don’t blame you, I blame myself. I am not worthy of your attentions and affections at the present time.
What changed? How did I go from whiny man-child to adult-in-progress?
Three words: depression and self-loathing.
Like I’ve mentioned before, I was depressed for a lot of reasons last year, and I started to hate myself. I had gone through four years of university, yet I still couldn’t do the most basic adult stuff. The irony was maddening. I mean that literally by the way; I was so upset at my own childishness that I almost drove myself insane.
Now, I’m not going to do the stupid thing, like blame my immaturity on low self-esteem, or my problems with social anxiety, or that I wasn’t raised right.
My mom and dad made me do chores starting around when I was twelve. Around the same time, my dad tried to show me how to barbecue, how to cook simple stuff on the stove and in the oven. I also got to stay home by myself at 13, and was allowed to watch adult movies and TV starting then too. Up until the day he died, my dad was still trying to show me how to buy groceries on special and do laundry. Sorry for being such a slow a learner dad. Mea culpa.
Now, I have to make something very clear: my parents had flaws too. Take my dad for instance. Didn’t finish high school, hated his job at the factory; didn’t like the fact that he made so little money. He had no one to blame but himself. Heck, when he got laid off for the second time, he made me write his resume! He also couldn’t do paperwork worth a damn, and he was a bad procrastinator. I’ll always love him though; he always tried to do right by me and my brother.
All I’ll say about my mom is this: she loves me dearly, she’d do anything for me, but she also coddles me like crazy. When she saw that I was struggling with laces, she got me the Velcro ones because it’s easier for me. The only reason she didn’t teach how to cook or do laundry during college and university was because she didn’t want to interfere with my studies.
Okay, so now that you sort of understand why I was a whiny pathetic excuse for a human being, I want to tell you guys and girls something else about me.
I love “kids’s stuff”. I still watch Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, Batman The Animated Series etc on YouTube. I’ve already admitted to liking My Little Pony: FiM. I read comic books and young adult novels. Hell, I watch re-runs of Boy Meets World on ABC too.
Am I embarrassed about this? Hell no! There is a big difference between watching kids’ entertainment that has multi-demographic appeal and watching Barney the Dinosaur.
Being immature is playing video games all day at home without sending in job applications, without working part-time, or doing any work at all. Being immature is whining about how the world is cruel and unfair and doesn’t appreciate your genius; you went to school, you got that liberal arts degree, you deserve a job dammit!
You don’t deserve shit; I didn’t practice my writing outside of class, I didn’t work hard to be a good writer, even though that’s what I wanted to be.
Up until last year, I was as arrogant as that hypothetical whiner. I thought my raw talent would see me through. I was lying to myself, stroking my own ego. I may not be making money from writing yet, but I’m working. This is my job; you guys, my readers, are my supporters, my patrons. I am humbled and overjoyed by every like and comment that I receive. I am no longer arrogant. I’ve learned to accept the responsibility of my choices, and am willing to make my career choice work. I’ve grown up (finally) in mind and spirit as well as body. If a small disabled Italian boy from Ontario, Canada, can do it, anyone grappling with adulthood can do it.
Don’t wait! Start making the trip out of Never–Never land today. Life is too short my friends. We should not abandon everything that made our childhoods great, but neither can we remain children forever.