Odd. Despite the hairs that riddle my face, the deeply sonorous voice that resonates as I speak, and the responsibilities that come moseying along my way with age, I am still a child. Perhaps it is because of the deep seeded belief that growth isn’t measured chronologically. One may very well be followed by two, and I’ll grant that two probably trails three, and sure, I’ll go so far to believe that numbers go so on and so forth, but I certainly won’t follow the doctrine that life is described by such absurdities. Charting up age isn’t a precursor to growth. Instead, it is the death of it. Growth ends as soon as it is measured.
Only by measuring the rings of a tree can one know the age of it. This requires the death of the tree to analyze the stump. Similarly, consider the numerical system where one can list off numbers in one’s head. One. Two. Three. Most learned this mathematical chant so long ago, and yet, there is something to be desired in the meticulous, stringent counting of numbers. It is listless. It is saddening. Once numbers are licked off, all else follows. From bills, to girls slept with, to times gotten drunk; chronology takes its toll. History is chalked down numerically. Money is numerology’s counterpart. So too is the world and all around it. 99.86% total mass of the Solar System, 1,392,000 km in diameter, 5505 °C surface temperature: humanity revolves around numbers, not the Sun. Without numbers, the Sun would just be a star. It would be an adjective describing a state of things rather a quality of things. Numbers describe the quality. How many? What kind? Such questions are inescapable and their numerical answers are equally unavoidable. They comprise our numerical Universe.
Natural laws and physical phenomenon are reduced to their numerical value. As are biological responses. Negative 72 mV is the electric potential of a human neural response. 9.81 m per second squared becomes a gravitational burden. Through our age – the number of years since our birth – we purportedly grow. Only because a person is eighteen are they considered an adult, legally at least. Once twelve, a human is a prepubescent teen. Each age has a category, and each category, an age.
One by one we are counted, segmented, and known by such numbers. Like prisoners, they become our identity. Like prisoners, they also become our chains. They are the symbols that are recognizable only to us, and philosophically have no bearing besides our relative descriptions. They are axiomatic. They are adjectives. Like adjectives then, they describe something: the death of a childhood. All childhoods.
I only say this because I, at nineteen years of existence, am expected to follow suit according to my number. I am supposed to float around, getting drunk, and understand it all when I’m older. People berate me for acting, what I’m sure is to be synonymous with insincere foolhardiness, young. Foolish is another way of putting it. Chief to this is the disparagement I receive for sounding “immature”. Some say I am act so young that I still wear a diaper on my bum.
Hardy har har. If only I could tell them to put a diaper on their mouth, cause man, they’re just talking shit.
Besides the fact that such a joke is both a greater testament to my accuser’s immaturity and idiocy, this is a prime example of the failing of numbers. While I remain a joke-ster in earnest, I fail to realize how my age has anything to do with how I act. Experience, not numbers, describe us. A fourteen year old cancer survivor knows more about life than an eighty-year-old snobby-freeloading millionaire. A kid understands more about the world than an adult. Babies are more in tune with the natural world than any other age group. To put it tersely, numbers fail to describe developmental progress.
Yet, we are slaves to the numerical chant. Failing to recognize developmental progress as true levels of growth, we prefer the description of chronology. This is why the topic of this essay was, “kids stuff that is still awesome,” suggesting that we, some nineteen to twenty year olds, are no longer kids. Apparently, most of us are adults if nothing else.
Rubbish. I’m a kid. Lego blocks cluttered on my desk are a testament to that. Give me a stick, and I’ll be entertained for hours. Tell me to grow up, and I’ll say, “How’s it working out for you?” For me, living is ‘kid’s stuff’, as it is famously said.
Now, I am not one for lists, but I feel it is appropriate here. In order to relate to all you old fogeys, I will compartmentalize my thoughts rather than jumble them out like a four-year old attempting to describe a crime scene. Here I go. Let me forewarn you that it’ll be bloody, there will be a moment or two which is utterly indescribable, and I won’t remember much more about the incident, but at least I’ll thin the air. Usually, the young don’t care about the old but by rarefying the differences, I am turning a new leaf. The leaf is of a nineteen year old boy with an eight year old heart and a six year old brain respecting his elders. Hurrah. Hurrah. The crime scene is over. Everybody go home. Nothing to see here. Typical story: bad guy goes to jail, good guy wins, and the case is closed.
Except it never works that way. Turning a new leaf necessarily requires forgetting what the other side looks like. Sometimes, that’s a bad thing. When you’re growing up, forgetting is the worst.
My elders, who this essay is dedicated to, will attest to that. Their memories are all that they have. When the sky opens up, and the carbon dioxide rises from their breathe like a life force being sucked out of them, they can only remember what it was like to be young. They, however, will see me only as a child. In between their crows feet and arthritis, they think that I have as much wisdom as a rock in the desert. “You’re only nineteen,” they say, “you don’t know the first thing about life.” Maybe, oldies. Maybe. But I do know one thing: don’t grow old. Soon as you do, you’ll always wish you could go back, do something different, live another life. If you already say this, then this essay is for you, oldie. Here. Let me teach you something. This is the kid’s stuff that is still awesome. Buckle up. Like a mother spoon feeding her child, here comes the airplane. A buzz. A buzz. A burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Kids stuff that is awesome:
Laughing at the slightest thing from a priest falling down an altar to a clown’s unrivaled stupidity to your parent’s clandestine mistakes.
Letting your imagination run continuously, despite going to a school that stifles it.
Knowing that time was relative before it was described by Einstein for moments spent playing on the grass felt like days and Kingdoms could be conquered in a mere fifteen minutes before dinner and you could experience a mass increase every night when you had to turn into a giant because everybody knows that even giants need someone to look up too. Up there, alone, tall, and yet, inferior. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. You know this. You know all.
Loving with all the drama but without the inconvenience.
The innocence that came with the “he’s only a kid” mantra, when in reality, he – the kid – knew more then he was letting on.
Breathing for a purpose.
Forgetting to breathe for a different purpose.
Getting scared shitless.
Shitting less after getting scared.
Reading until your eyes melt onto the page, and the characters in a book become your best friend, and sharing secrets with fictional tales, and sharing facts with nonfictional ones, and scribbling your name into a history book because it forgot the most important historical event: you.
Crying because crying was acceptable. It made you cry that it was.
Every day that began with a t: tomorrow, today, Thanksgiving.
Running around in a circle like a dog attempting to catch its tail, then remembering that you do not have a tail, but you continue to run around anyways because your parents told you that you could do anything, so growing a tail is what you want to do. So you run.
Farting. Loudly. Frequently. Hilariously.
Not counting, nor remembering how to count, nor what numbers follow which numbers.
Swearing. Fucking swearing.
Learning because one wants to learn rather than because one will be tested.
Having friends for friend’s sake.
Most of all, thinking you’ll never grow old.
Asking your parents one day what does it feel like to grow old, and getting told that it feels like dying.
Living for something. For anything. For everything. For you. For me. For anyone. For everyone. For no reason. For any reason. For every reason.
Forgetting what your doing, trying to remember, and fumbling around with cerebral thoughts entirely unrelated.
Accepting forgiveness like it was a gift of Dunkaroos at lunch.
Eating Dunkaroos at lunch.
Playing with Dunkaroos at lunch.
Understanding nothing; questioning everything.
Recess without the recession.
Falling down and getting back up because you are tired of spending day after wretched day on the ground. The world looks different standing up. It looks different as a child. Cotton candy could very well comprise the clouds. The moon is probably made out of cheese. Enemies are as real as imaginary friends.
The only war you know is the thumb war, and even that tends to get too bloody.
Gazing at an adult’s foibles, and telling yourself you’ll never be that stupid, never be that gullible, never be that drunk, never be that cranky, never be that fake, never disagree so much, and most of all, never be that old.
Watching age tremble over you like a sandstorm; crying, weeping, asking why, why, why.
Never getting an answer. Shrugging. Mumbling. Coughs from your parents when you say, “What happens when you get old.” “You die alone,” they reply.
Trying not to cough.
Understanding that life happens with an equal balance of both and it is only what one decides to focus on that will have the greatest toll.
Smiling with a disarray of teeth that can only be described as a dentist’s worst nightmare, a grandmother’s precious angel, and a warped dream of the white picket fence described in the American Dream.
Not being American. Thanking God for that.
Not believing in God. Thanking America for that.
Being rude and thanking everyone for that.
Saying sorry for it all. For the shape the world is in. For being born in the world. For not doing anything about the world.
Never asking to be born or having anything to do in a world someone else messed up.
Mashing up words to trip the tip of your tongue.
Acting carelessly and carelessly acting.
Being a kid in every which way, from Velcro shoes to a Pokémon loving heart to believing in yourself and others.
And so on. Because, as a kid, “and so on” was what you would use to sum up your day when asked by your parents. They’d ask what you did. You’d whistle off a list of two hundred things, all of which happened in five minutes. Then, you’d just say, “and so on.” So the one thing – besides all that I have listed – that is still awesome about being a kid is “and so on”; an understandable relationship with infinity and beyond. It is also knowing the boundaries, and most of all, knowing what is beyond those boundaries:
Pimples. Body deodorant. Back hair. Chest hair. Armpit hair. Everywhere hair. Adult hood. Numbers. A growing list of forgotten nights and apathetic days. Existing. Old age. School work. Responsibilities. Expectations. Insurance. Money. Driving. Pain. Heart aches. Sadness. Growing older faster than dreams are being accomplished. Manners. Maturity. Watching people die. Feeling yourself dying. Waking up at night afraid. Locking your door during the day. Anger. Lies. Regret. Repeating it all but understanding that you experienced something that will never come again and never can be repeated: a childhood.
And so on.