Growing Up?

May 18, 2008
When I was six years old, I told my neighbor, Jessica, that I was a witch. Now, as untrue as the statement was, I was not in jest; I actually had proof of my magical prowess to corroborate my rather weighty claim. Tossing a haughty look back at Jessica, whose dainty, four-year-old mouth was agape with disbelief, I clambered up the smooth, slate stones of a rock wall that my mother had built to separate the two levels of her garden, righted myself to a standing position, and jumped.

Landing about a nanosecond afterwards, I smiled smugly at Jessica. “See? I can fly!” Jessica’s eyes were so wide with awe that I could almost see my reflection in her pupils. I mean, she had just seen her friend soar through the sky from the daunting height of three feet! I knew then that I had Jessica completely convinced of my supernatural capabilities. Later, when I demanded that Jessica fetch some of those scrumptious fudgescicles that her mother always bought but mine claimed would rot my teeth, she of course complied, fearing what I would do to her if she didn’t. I was in control.

However, by the time I reached sixth grade, I had either lost my persuasive skills or all of my friends had become alarmingly skeptical and jaded, unwilling to return to their naïveté. In any case, no one wanted to pretend there was a vampire lair behind the locked door by the lunchroom (it was too mysterious to be a mere supply closet!), and it was really no fun to pretend by myself. I was lonely, so I was forced to adapt to the changing interests of my peers and thus absorbed myself with Seventeen Magazine, Bon Bons brand nail polish, and the ever elusive opposite sex. Still, I felt as though I were missing a part of myself that could never again be regained.

At a certain point in life, I think everyone finds it impossible to return to Neverland or to cross the bridge to Terabithia because in essence, we all “grow up.” But I wonder: why are we so eager to mature, to leave behind our childhood ideals, notions, and aspirations? If we are “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald claims at the end of The Great Gatsby, why do we try so hard to ignore our past values?

Society. At age 11, about the time of sixth grade, I think people begin to comprehend the influence of society, and consequently begin to tailor their lives to agree with the majority. My friends definitely did as such, and I did too when I realized that if I did not change, I would be miserable, hunting for vampires all alone. I suppose concurrence with society is not necessarily a terrible thing; after all, my ulterior motives in telling Jessica I was a witch were somewhat ignoble. And I suppose it is almost Darwinian to conform, for how can survival of the fittest work if there is no standard by which to measure the “fittest”? Even so, I think altering myself to “fit in” was perhaps the worst choice I ever made in my life. As I repressed my imagination, I slowly lost myself, the self I had been so sure of as a six year old.
This isn’t a success story—I didn’t lose my sense of self only to rediscover it once again in a grandiose fashion. Perhaps futilely, I am still trying to find myself. But really, that’s the least we can do. We can all just try.

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