Monday, January 14, 2008

Growing old is not growing up.

Sometimes I look around my life, and I see it cluttered with things like books and movies on DVD and video games and comic books, and I think to myself, did I ever actually grow up?

And then sometimes I think, Do any of us?

I remember as a kid watching my dad go off to work. He worked for the school district, so he was a formally dressed, suit-and-tie kinda guy, and for whatever reason that made the impression on my youthful brain that this was how one dressed as a professional. This is what a grown up did. This is how a grown up dressed.

And I remember family dinners with mom and dad and my brother, always at around 5:00, always with the four of us at the table. We'd say grace and then we'd eat, and we'd talk about our day, and none of us would be allowed to have dessert until everyone had finished their dinner, and none of us would be allowed to leave the table until everyone was finished desert. And I remember going on family vacations, the four of us. Sometimes to visit relatives, sometimes to just get it away, but it was a family event, a pilgrimage that the four of us would take as a unit. And I can remember thinking, these are the things that grown-ups do.

And now I look at my own life, with no wife and no kids and no family of my own. I don't feel like I'm lacking anything because of it. I don't feel a terrible absence in my heart. But I do feel like maybe the absence of that absence is yet another sign that I haven't grown up. That I don't feel the burning urge to get married and start a family and buy RRSPs and read the Financial Post and plan for my future and my children's future and my children's children's future is some sort of a failing on my part.

But then I wonder too if the people that *do* do these sorts of things aren't doing it because of any sort of burning desire, but simply because it's what they've been taught they're supposed to do. Get a job, get a career, get a wife, have some kids, grow up, grow old, die. This is the cycle of life, or so we've been taught by generation after generation.

How many of the people who did this actually *wanted* to do this.

Are the people who live their life like that just as jealous of my rejection of that lifestyle as I am of their ability to conform to that supposed ideal? Are they more jealous?

A strange part of my brain still feels like I should be wearing a tie to work, if only because that's what you do. If only because that's what it means to be a professional. I don't, and I won't, because a bigger part of me thinks it's silly. It's the same part of me that buys video games because they're fun and reads comic books from time to time because some of them have some pretty goddamn good stories in them. It's the same part of me that doesn't want to grow up.

It's a part, I suspect, that we all have. It just speaks at different volumes, depending on who you are.

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