The Remnants of Childhood

The traits we gain as children and hold onto as we go through life.

Something that has been on my mind a lot this week in my interactions at work is how adults and children really aren’t that different after all. We teach that adults are mature, wise, and fair, yet that is more the ideal that we seek after rather than the reality we live. For, in truth, many of us never truly grow up regarding the things that matter: still just children within. I’m a big believer in the idea that the first few years of our lives are more than just a foundation for our growth, but are the guise through which everything else is built on- and that it still plays a fundamental and basic role in our lives.

For instance, children are naturally self-interested. From the moment they are born, their first concern is themselves. This is an essential characteristic for survival in regards to our health and safety- but as the years go on, our self-interest grows to encompass more than just our basic needs like eating or sleeping. They spread to our likes and dislikes, to our wishes and desires, to our goals and actions. We go to school and learn how we should live and act in society, but often as we get older, our focus is less on how we can help society and more on how society can help us. Unfortunately, too many of us grow up and never even think to step outside of our own worldviews and self-interest. It can expand to cover our family and those close to us, but for the most part, we look out for our own interests above everyone else.

Now, this is not a bad thing- as stated before, it is an essential part of our individual survival, but I think that too often we all try to control, manipulate, and direct the world around us so that it benefits us, to the detriment of the rest of the world. We grow angry, jealous, cruel, and scornful towards those around us that risk that world view, even if the situation is really not that serious or important in the grand scheme of things. Being an adult, to me, means being reasonable and logical- it focuses on fairness and effort. It is seeking to grow and be better- being aware of our weaknesses and faults and setting out to change them. One thing that often destroys a person on this path to maturity is the same thing that afflicted us as children: being controlled by our emotions.

Now, emotions are an essential part of our lives- they truly are what makes us human- what fuels the arts and our personal connections, but a person must exercise restraint when it comes to their call. As children, our ability to do that is incredibly low, shown by the tantrums and crying fits that are seen often in children. Often, we think we have grown out of such things, but in truth such actions have merely adapted to a new atmosphere. I sigh inside and often outside at how often I see someone through an adult version of a tantrum in public- usually something happened that they didn’t like or they didn’t get what they wanted or things didn’t go according to their plan and so they get angry and upset and let it all out on whoever is near them, even if that person is not at fault for the situation. They scream and yell, call names, repeat themselves again and again and again, and sometimes even physically act out – and often over the most ridiculous things! The similarity between their actions and a child who didn’t get the toy they wanted is startling.

As time goes on, I notice this comparison more and more. So many of us never truly grew out of the bad habits we gained as kids and have instead carried them into adulthood and acted on them again and again, completely unaware of the fact that they control our very lives. Of course, we all falter at times and act like this- emotions are powerful things that can often shatter our control and efforts in a single moment. But, my problem is the lack of accountability or understanding that I see in many people in the world. They have no idea that they are acting foolish or like grown up children because it is the norm for them- they can’t see to step out of their own worldview to see that maybe they should not be acting in this way.

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions” is an example of this situation. To too many of us, our intentions matter or are worth more than the actions of other people and rarely do we see past those actions to the intentions behind them. We forget that they people around us are people too- that that they are not targets standing there that we can freely fling mud at. I’m rambling at this point, but I digress. I just honestly feel sad and exhausted when I see people act like this because I wish that we could all be better- do better, but such things are life-long processes and efforts to accomplish and all one can do is work on themselves and hope that, one day, those people will begin to change and truly grow as well.