Several times over the past year, I’ve sat down and started typing out a blog post, attempting to articulate why the notion of “never growing up” is so important to me and why associating myself with childlike things is such an integral part of my identity.
These attempts have always fizzled out after two or three paragraphs, when I invariably find myself unable to actually answer the question. Why does this matter so much? Why am I so desperate to cling to the idea of childhood well into my 30s?
I sat down today to try one more time to turn my feelings into words, when I realized for the first time why my previous drafts never amounted to anything: I wasn’t attempting to explain the appeal of eternal childhood to a third party. I was trying to justify it to myself.
Society doesn’t look kindly upon the womanchild. The popular conception of the adult who “refuses to grow up” is someone who fears responsibility and avoids it at all costs. Someone who would rather burden others to meet their needs than try on their own and risk failure. Someone who acts frivolously and impulsively, hedonistically pursuing fleeting satisfactions while never considering the long term.
And I worried I was that person.
But I am clearly not. On the contrary, I am the most independent person I know: I live alone, relying only on my own income to support myself, with no contributions from family or partners. I work a full time job and keep a balanced budget. When I spend money on something extraneous, like dining out or buying a new toy, I do so only after making sure to cover my basic expenses, including an emergency fund in case I should ever lose my source of income.
Why, then, do I feel like I am still a child?
Many of the cultural hallmarks of adulthood hold no appeal to me. I don’t like alcohol. I have no desire to buy a house, get married, or have children. I don’t understand all the hype surrounding sex.
When I was actually a child, I would often express bafflement as to why so many people felt they needed to pursue those “grown-up” things to feel fulfilled in life. I was always told the same thing: “You’ll understand when you’re older.” And I believed it.
So when I find myself at age 32 feeling exactly as little interest in “adult” pursuits as I felt at age 8…well, can I be blamed for feeling like I never grew up?
Further, many of the things I do find joy and fulfillment in are things commonly associated with children: bright colors, shiny objects, tactile toys like models and dolls, and, perhaps most importantly, imaginative play.
This is not absolute, of course. There are some stereotypically adult things I rather enjoy—I am a sucker for a hot, freshly brewed coffee, even if I do load it with sugar and cream.
But when I look at the things society tells me adults should want from life, and the things society tells me children should want from life, I find far more appeal in the latter.
As a child, I watched the adults in my life struggle to maintain their position in a capitalist society, and I developed an intense fear of adulthood. I never wanted to be like that. Grown-ups seemed constantly miserable, and I dreaded the day I would be forced to become miserable in the same way.
Now that I am, at least nominally, an adult, I realize my life doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t have to make the choices my parents made. I’ve been lucky enough to have been afforded the freedom to choose my own path, to do what makes me happy.
And what makes me happy is to shun the expectations of “adult life” and indulge in childlike pursuits. I choose to be the person I want to be, not the person society wants me to be.
I will not grow up, and nobody can make me.