Sunday, May 2, 2010

We never really do grow up.

It is true.

We never really do grow up.

I thought about this the other day while I was in an elevator at a Boston teaching hospital and a couple of residents were goofing off and one said to the other two, "When are you guys going to finally grow up?" The one resident looked at her and said, "Hopefully, never."

I find myself occasionally saying to my 11 year old daughter that she is more "grown up" now and should know better about certain things. But I really don't want her to grow up; I just want her to follow my rules.

And, so, that brings me back to my initial premise that we never really do grow up. Our spirit just gets dampened by societal rules. It is like there is some unwritten pronouncement that once you reach a certain age, you must act proper and be much more serious. That life is serious business. And that we had better get serious and see to it.

We certainly have more responsibilities to shoulder when we are adults. And many of those responsibilities are quite serious. We have houses and mortgages, jobs we need to get to and kids to raise. We have yard work to do and bills to pay, cars to maintain and fill up with gas and laundry to do. We have meals to cook and rooms to clean and errands to run. We have little time to be silly and just play.

And that is a shame.

Because we like to play.

And we do do play. But they are adult-type games. Like tennis leagues and golfing and maybe shooting hoops with the guys for an hour. Or playing an instrument, but not with the abandon we did back in our youth. And sometimes we spend a lot of time watching TV as others play.

How many of us sing in the car or the shower but would be mortified if anyone heard us? Or how many would love to go out and skip down the street once in awhile? (I did this once and my daughter just about died of embarrassment telling me that "old people" don't skip.)

Or play jump rope or hula-hoop or go on the slippy-slide. Or blow bubbles or play kick ball. How many would like to just stick our tongue out at our boss or call someone a "cheater." (Because, they are. Like that colleague at work who takes credit for everything.)Cheater, cheater, cheater.

How many would like to cruise down the block on a warm summer night with the windows down and the tunes cranked, or spend a day at the beach building sandcastles or floating on a raft, and not just with the kids. But many people would probably look at you oddly if you did that without kids. So we sit and read the Wall Street Journal instead. So grown-up.

And how many of us old married folk would just like to hang out at a drive-in movie some night and make out with our spouses? Much better than the planned "date-night" all the experts think we need. I think marriages would be better if we acted more on impulse once in awhile, don't you think?

But no, we are too grown up for all of that.

So we just hold it all in. Perhaps we get a sports car or a younger spouse or a face lift to try to re-live our youth. But that is not what I am talking about.

I am talking about the fact that there is no such thing as "grown up". That we are born and we will die pretty much the same person we have always been.

I think that is why there are so many adults on anti-depressants. It is depressing to feel that you have to "grow-up" and squash all the fun out of your life. Become someone else. Act a certain restrained way all of the time.

Sure, there are many who are, quite frankly, immature. They cannot hold a job or a relationship and they act on impulse way too much, especially with booze or drugs.

But for for most of us, we stifle our perceived childishness too much and too often. We should let it out once in awhile, just to play. We can always put it back again when we need to.

I do have the unfair advantage of seeing over and over again how this life we live ends. And, for the most part, people do not say things like you read in serious books on the matter, such as "On your death bed, you will never wish you had spent more time at the office." I have to tell you the truth here; a lot of my patients wish they were back at their desks.

But I do hear something over and over again, and that is that they wish they had acted sillier and not taken life so seriously all of the time. That what they thought was so important turned out to be not as important as they had always thought.

There is a time and place for everything, but occasionally we should just allow ourselves to be who we really are. To just let it rip. To understand we are just simply us, only a bit older and wiser. Our kids, family and friends would love to see a less complicated version of ourselves. Many times, they never get to know the real us.

And that is a shame.

So, I dare you to act on impulse at least once this week. Do something that shows the real you that others would never guess. They will like you more, I guarantee it.

And you will, too.

“We find it hard to believe that other people's thoughts are as silly as our own, but they probably are.”
James Harvey Robinson

"In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play."
Friedrich Nietzsche

"If you want to be happy all the time, stay in your pajamas and watch cartons all day."
Rachel McCullough, age 9

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