Kids these days always seem like they’re in such a hurry to grow up. I constantly see fifteen year olds with better contour than me, wearing clothes from Topshop that I can’t even afford, and talking about things that I never even knew about at that age. The process of growing up has been very different for me.
You could say that I had a sheltered childhood. My parents tried their absolute hardest to preserve my childhood for as long as they could, and that’s something that I can never thank them enough for. When everyone else was watching Big Brother and Little Britain in year 6, I was still on Spongebob Squarepants and Hannah Montana. In fact, I didn’t abandon those shows until way after I started secondary school, and by then my peers were watching horror films and shows with sex scenes. We went to the same school, we ran in the same circles, and yet our lives were so different.
Throughout school, I was always the innocent, naive one that nobody wanted to taint. People my age were talking about crushes and sex and alcohol, and I was still stuck in the mindset of a child. Because, well, I was a child. I didn’t dare swear, not even in front of my friends. I still wanted to cuddle my teddy bear to sleep. I freaked out every time someone brought up their period, and feared the day I would get my own. When I did get my own for the first time, I fainted, cried, and then tried to revert back to being a six year old again and got my mum to buy me a Bratz doll. Thirteen years old isn’t “grown up”, and I didn’t start to feel grown up until I hit eighteen. The night before my eighteenth birthday was quite the scene in my house.
Eighteen is a big, important birthday. You legally become an adult, and you can do almost anything. The most exciting thing for most people on their eighteenth birthday is being able to legally drink, but alcohol had never even passed my lips before, so I didn’t even think about that. Instead of the usual excitement, I was in pieces. I sobbed and sobbed at the thought of becoming an adult. I fretted over things that I don’t even have to worry about right now, like “how will I remember to put out the bins every week?” and “I’ll never be able to afford a house”. Uni was just around the corner, and that looming life change suddenly started to hit me. I would have to live alone, function alone, and be surrounded by strangers, but all I wanted was to cuddle up on the sofa with my mum and watch Monsters Inc.
Everybody always says that they don’t feel any different when they age a year, but I did. I never had before, and I never have since, but I felt like something changed in me once I hit eighteen. I felt old, mature, different. I didn’t like it.
Have you seen Toy Story 3? When Andy is all grown up, and he doesn’t play with the toys anymore? If you’ve never seen it before and you don’t want any spoilers, look away now. When he gave all of his toys away to Bonnie, my heart was breaking. He was essentially packing up his entire childhood and letting it go. Sure, it was going to a deserving little girl who would get way more use out of the toys than him, but those toys shaped who he became as a person; they were more than just his toys, they were his friends, and they made up a huge part of his life.
Letting go of my childhood is something I will never be able to do. I was extremely lucky and I had the greatest childhood I could ask for, and I never want to forget that. Even the thought of having to say goodbye to those incredible years is painful. The only thing I regret is letting other people make me feel ashamed for holding onto that.
The day that I first picked up J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, I fell apart. The wonderful story of children in a magical land where they never grow up was my dream, and I read the whole novel with a smile on my face, overjoyed at the thought. But, spoiler alert, the children go home, and they grow up. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried, and I cried a lot. That fictional little bubble I had locked myself in was suddenly popped. There’s no escaping life, and no escaping growing up, not even in fairytales.
I am now approaching twenty one years old, another milestone birthday. I’ve never been in a hurry to grow up, and I’m still not. But the thing that brings me comfort is this: although I may grow old, I never have to grow up. I still have a teddy to hug at night, because it’s comfortable. I still put Spongebob on while I eat my breakfast every now and then, because there’s nothing else on TV and cartoons still make me laugh. I still hold my dad’s hand sometimes, because I love him. And there’s no shame in that.
Go through life at your own pace. It’s worth it.