One thing that has been said to me as I’ve approached my birthday is that it’s the age where it hits you that you have to “grow up.” I won’t reveal it here, but let’s just say it’s one of those numbers that when you think about it as a kid it just sounds “old”. As I celebrated with my family and close friends it’s hard not to wonder just what that means, grown up. I’ve certainly grown taller, that’s for sure, but I’ve long wondered, ever since I graduated college what it really meant to be “grown up.”
Certainly it means living up to your responsibilities, both financial and personal. Amongst my group of friends, it was realizing we couldn’t do midnight showings of movies as much anymore. Growing up also means making the right choices. An adult is less likely to go out clubbing all night and get wasted because they know its’ a dumb decision.
Even in my younger days I usually tried to make a responsible decision. When Revenge of the Sith came out my best friend and I had plans to go in costume later on in it’s opening day instead of midnight due to Final Exams. I was mocked for this, and accused of not being a real fan, but I knew I would have more fun with my friend when we were more awake and our Finals were done then if I went at midnight.
However sometimes when someone says the word “grown up” to me I bristle. I think back to when I was at lunch with a friend of mine and a friend of hers joined us and my interest in superheroes, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings came up.
My friends friend looked at me and said in a voice dripping with cold disdain, “My brother likes those and he’s ten.”
Ouch! So does being an adult mean I have to put away the fun adventures I enjoyed since childhood and instead read the business section of the paper, the works of James Joyce, Henry James or the other more “lofty” authors? Does it mean I can no longer enjoy the sweet tastes of chocolate milk and instead drink an espresso, even if the latter gives me stomach problems and keep me awake at night? Does it mean instead of singing along with the songs on the “Awesome Mix, vol. 1” from Guardians of the Galaxy I have to listen to the farm report? Instead of awaiting the final Hobbit and a new Star Wars movie, should I be more eagerly anticipating the latest Christian drama on marriage?
Maybe. If I want to live a boring and dull life and become an old stick in the mud. I’m reminded of what CS Lewis wrote,
“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
Indeed. I know when I was a kid and even a teenager I was often embarrassed by my nerdy interests as it made me a target for bullying. Then I got into high school and I’d see guys on the sports team walking around with their cans of Dr. Pepper with Spider-Man on them and proudly call them their “Spidey-Juice” and a few weeks later when the movie debuted all of a sudden kids in school were talking about Spider-Man! In college, I finally found a great group of friends I fit in with who shared those interests. It made it so much easier to be myself. What’s more I took a college course in which many of the things I liked where in the course curriculum and have gotten to guest-lecture for that same class. What was once a target on my back is now a badge of honor.
In the past decade I’ve learned many things. Among them is one simple truth: life is too short to worry what everyone things about you. So what if people think I’m a nerd. C’mon, its 2014, those nerdy interests in Middle-Earth, comic books and sci-fi aren’t just fringe interests. They are big business in Hollywood. Even a D-list comic book like Guardians of The Galaxy was able to become one of the highest grossing movie of 2014. The things I like are finally mainstream! Why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy it?
Those things are my “hobbies” for lack of a better term. Yes, I read comic books. I enjoy the stories and appreciate the art work. Yes, I play with action figures. They actually help me stage scenes for my fiction by acting them out. Yes, I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, but I read plenty of other books too..
People have all sorts of interests and hobbies. I have a friend who is a personal trainer and another who works at a vineyard, yet none of this precludes them from enjoying a good sci-fi movie. I’ve seen people well into their forties and fifties doing cosplay at comic conventions. While sports may be a more “grown up” hobby doesn’t it bring out the kid in you to meet your sports hero, to cheer them on to victory live and even paint your body in bright colors and show your team spirit?
It’s kind of like what Hoban “Wash” Washburn says to his wife Zoe in Firefly,
“ Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese. Goslings. They were juggled.”
Being an adult means knowing there is a time and a place for everything. It means sometimes you don’t have a big elaborate party with your friends but instead just have a nice quiet evening talking. Sometimes you forgo the fun things you want to do in order to take care of the responsibilities that you need to do. But it also means being true to yourself and enjoying your life and your interests without concern of what someone thinks about you.
So the next time someone mocks you for being an adult who likes something some may call “childish”, just remember these words of Wash,
“Some people juggle geese.”