**This is an opinion piece. I use very direct language in this post and want to first make it very clear that this is my own take on aging. I’ve given the idea an immense amount of thought and believe that I have summarized the phenomena in my own words. But please understand that these are my own words, and nothing more. I hope you enjoy!**
I, as we all, age by taking on the responsibility of keeping oneself safe. Defining safe as the state of being with no foreseeable impending harm, we begin this life truly ignorant of the fact that our safety is nothing guaranteed. With this simplicity in mind, there only remains a desire to play. As a means of joy and pleasure, a child is brought into this universe with curious eyes and creative thoughts. Fabricating nothing into everything, this freshness allows for an innocent state of consciousness. Extremely vulnerable, for not even the idea of self-protection initially exists, this way of being does not last forever. If that child may be so unlucky to carry such a burden before they take it on willfully, the individual will not only mature but also suffer. For when a weight to carry is desired, it becomes a challenge. When not, it is merely a bother.
The parent(s), in both an internal and external sense, that hold this responsibility allows the child to truly play. Unknowing of the need for their guardian’s watchful eyes, the child may frolic about in a carefree manner. Only needing to understand the command of, “listen”, the child can move about timelessly. And may I say that a parent who can play with their little one, at peace for at least that moment from possible threats, is involved in one of the most beautiful acts of existence possible. Both temporarily innocent, the parent once again can become their child-self as the one they love to protect reminds them of who they once only were.
This, as wonderful as it is, is extremely difficult to do. When neither individual is standing guard, the parent will have trouble not blaming themself as danger unexpectedly occurs. Likely to coil back into their parent-self, the child will likely instead remain innocent as a confusion of what could have been done begins to brew. This is unfortunately why a parent can not be friends with their child. To be a parent is not to be a friend. To be a parent is to be the one who carries the burden of safety for their child. Able to go back and forth between the two is surely possible and healthy, but make no mistake, the friend is not the same person as the parent. Same body, but a different mindset.
Interestingly, as the child grows older in years, a peculiar thing occurs if not done naturally. Moving into the schooling system, or something of a similar nature, children of the same year but different maturities come together. All with different amounts of their own burden to carry, envy can and usually does form between these peers. Still thinking as the animals we are, with the typical need to be accepted, the power associated with carrying a slightly heavier load is one of many factors that may contribute to their social status. Responsibility, although a weight, is also a power. For as long as the weight above you does not crush you, you shall get stronger. And that which we commonly do not have but still desire is something we hope to obtain.
Let’s be honest, the things we innocently first began to carry are barely anything at all. I said the F-word yesterday, unable to comprehend the N-word. I’m going to see an R-rated movie in the theater later, unfeeling that guns on the screen also shoot in real life. I kissed Dave yesterday, before either know he is gay. Believing the world is only as large as the sandbox, children desire to “grow up” because their backs haven’t begun to ache.
Another possible problem I see with this flow of life is that some parents aren’t ready for the job. Being a decision that one can not understand unless it is already made, these individuals begin to carry the burden that their children assume they live without. Like I’ve said once before, a weight not wanting to be carried is a bother, not one of life’s beautiful challenges. So if you are already bothered by your own weight, and desire to carry no more, then another’s may not be a good decision for you. Of course far too complex to actually make any such statement, holding a child’s burden may just be the selflessness you need to regain the strength to keep them and yourself afloat. Therefore, all I advise is to be conscious of the weight you will feel as your sphere of concern abruptly expands.
Now, as a final statement, I may lose a few of my readers here, but I nonetheless find it important to point out. We age and mature in a healthy way as we willingly take on the responsibility of caring for ourselves. Relieving our parents of this duty, we begin to be seen by the world as grownups, but not always by ourselves. Many times I will look into a mirror and see a child. My big blue eyes starring back at me, still as confused and innocent as the day they began. I am a child within a twenty-one-year-old body. Am I alone? Do you too not fear the dark, just a little? Dred the opinions of others and pray for their acceptance? Not all the time, but sometimes. Sometimes I am still my child-self, just wanting to play.
An odd thing will happen too if you really look closely. And I mean CLOSE. Because it’s not me who fears the dark. Something puts the possible threat in my view, and so I react. Do you notice that? That the voice inside your head is the one bubbling as social anxiety takes you out of the moment and causes you to look for safety. Of course it’s me, my brain, my human. But I who identity as myself, the one who reacts as a finger is pointed my way screaming, “YOU!!”. That me, Jake West, he is not the person who watches over me. Some may call it the ego, the subconscious, or even a guardian angel, I like to call it my internal parent. Yes, I have my parents in an external way, but also inside lies that same pattern within myself. Everything, and I mean everything, I have written in this post so far transcends inwardly as well. And so, as an act of gratitude, I will relieve my internal parent of some responsibility. Allowing them to play, just as I have done my whole life, I hope to create a more fair system. One where we can play together, and really let ourselves flow as a beautiful singular entity.