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Act Your Age

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Children stumble down hallways in their mother's high heels or their father's business loafers, praised as “adorable” or “just too cute.” They know from an early age that being young and inexperienced is not advantageous, so they try to age quickly, and are encouraged. The sad truth is that once they reach adulthood, it becomes apparent that childhood could have been enjoyed instead of pushed aside. Fortunately, within every person is a child; the younger ones just don’t hide it as well.

Adults are more rational than children, but the child within us must constantly be silenced with facts and figures; it never goes away. As adults, we’re told to be logical rather than emotional. The fact that there is unchangeable evil is a harsh truth that we never would have understood as children, but are forced to wrap our minds around now. Why can't the world just be perfect? Our logic tells us that of the several billion people on Earth, some must have malicious intents, and not every conflict has a resolution. We think our rationalizations separate us from the emotion-based decisions of children and refuse to recognize that indulging in our emotions occasionally is human. Of course, politics and other adult conflicts would be impossible to manage if they were all emotionally driven, but why must we tediously override our feelings and inner child? Why must we refuse to admit its existence rather than embrace it?

As children, we did what made us feel better. Now, we constantly stifle this ever-present urge, making us more mature but suppressed as well. When kids are approached on the playground by bullies who terrorize them, they don't stop to think, "I bet they have a hard home life" or "I should figure out what’s actually upsetting them." Instead, they punch that bully right in the face. They don't stop to think of the repercussions or plan out the best course of action; they express their emotions by the most effective means possible. We may desperately try to hide it, but this is our instinct as well. Sometimes, we need to follow what we feel, not what we rationalize -- for our sanity’s sake.

Honestly, I feel more envy than disappointment towards children when they throw tantrums; keeping my emotions pent up is maddening. I crave that invigorating rush of anger working itself out of my system through violent kicks, screams, and broken toys. Instead, I'm hopelessly stuck with a slow-boiling vat of frustration, bubbling and expanding silently as I am forced to disguise my true emotions. I know it's selfish to want to explode every time something goes wrong, but part of me doesn't care; part of me wants to be that bratty child, so easily forgiven simply for the fact that my age justifies my selfish behavior. Tantrums are often scolded, but self-expression is healthy and too often hidden.

When we were younger, we were driven by our self-centered desires, and who can honestly say that's changed? We would charge any boundary to play with that shiny new toy or jump on Susan's new trampoline. She may be annoying, but pretending to be her friend for a day or two could earn you all the sweet jumping time you could ever need. Now, our desires have shifted toward that high-paying job or a night alone with the skinny blonde who lives down the street, but have we actually changed? Maybe Miss Skinny Blonde ends up having a sparkling personality and becomes a life partner, but why did you really start to pursue her? Because you wanted to satisfy your own needs -- the real driving force behind all of those dinner dates and draining conversations. We are told to know better than to act in a way based purely off of our own selfish agenda, yet the agenda grows and every decision is born from it. The needs of others are considered, but at the end of the day, the "what's in it for me?" complex that thrived in our childhood is what we still follow years later.

We view ourselves as superior to the children we once were, but the truth is that we are still children; we have simply learned to hide it as we age. In professional situations, this habit of hiding our inner child is necessary, but we must learn to embrace it whenever we can.




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