The process of become an adult, of transcending one’s self from one stage in life to another, is a fraught process. It is hard work to clearly identify, first of all, who you are, and then to be able to project yourself forward. Whereas childhood and adolescence is a period in which the present is simply a building block leading to a distant future; the present for an adult becomes nothing more than a pivotal moment for a future that is just around the corner.
A successful process of adultification — at least as rewarded by contemporary Western-centric society — involves the ability to make sound decisions in the now by anticipating the future. Decision-making becomes less intuitive, less centred on play, and more on calculus, on discerning the right from the wrong. The younger years don’t seem to put much onous on the impact of right or wrong for a future you; they are guided by the feelings of today and what feels right or wrong for which is closest to you at that very moment. This is most often for yourself, but more often than we care to admit, it is very much also what is best for those around us.
We also seem to be a lot more aware of our place in relation to others when we are younger, we feel as part of a community — whether this is online, local, global, or imaginary, but our desire for belonging is stronger than the faux-modesty that we build as adults. It is a modesty, a tightening of the upper-lip that makes us sad, nostalgic, longing for days gone by. Nostalgia is the wound of what used to be. This is why I think we romanticise our past, because we look back fondly at a time when our ontology, our way of being, wasn’t wounded by the demands and reprimands of the future.
Children and adolescence know that tradition and expectations are a fools-game, and a game played by adults. This is why they do not want to join us in our games, and will create new ones or break-down the gates of the existing ones. We as adults also know that these fictitious expectations we have created are dubious too, merely mechanisms we have co-opted to feel part of something bigger. Traditions, social etiquette, and expectations exist only because we all silently agree to believe in the lie. They do not exist, they cannot be touched, they cannot even be felt, they are taught, ingrained in our psyche by the various mechanisms of…