Redefining Adulthood: How To Do It For Yourself


“Adults are obsolete children.”

–Theodor Seuss Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss)

My childhood friend

You see that little guy above my words, Dear Reader?  That is Bogey, my childhood friend.  Actually, he’s an orangutan from the cartoon, Shirt Tales.  Shirt Tales is about a group of zoo animals who solve crimes in Central Park.  To communicate their emotional state, the animals display various words or messages on the shirts they wear.  And–though they are being closely monitored by the zoo’s security guard–the former is somehow unable to discover the fact he has super genius creatures living in his place of employment.  Or able to fit awesome technology inside of a tree in the middle of New York  no less.

I don’t remember all of the characters’ names but I do remember their species: one was a tiger, a panda, a mole, a raccoon and a rabbit.  But the one who caught my 4 year old heart was Bogey.  His name derives from the fact that he sounds like Humphrey Bogart (though I didn’t know at the time).  He swings from trees freely and is always the one cracking a joke like a hammer would a walnut.  I watched Shirt Tales because of him and he is one of my favorite characters to this day.  I even had a Bogey plush toy that I carried around with me everywhere–I mean every fuckin’ where–until I mysteriously lost him while I was out of town with my family.  Reader, I was an unhappy 4-year-old that night. I have NEVER cried so hard and I haven’t been the same since.  No matter how many stuffed animals I have, they can never replace Bogey.

But loving cartoon animals is not the only activity I partook in as a growing child.  I played Atari (fuck an X-Box!  No video game system wouldn’t even EXIST if the Atari weren’t invented), Nintendo, and other video game systems out.  I spent just as much time and many quarters in arcades like a compulsive gambler in a casino.  My father blew up at me a couple of times because I gave freely to the Video Game Gods.  But they blessed us with Pac Man, The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers, so almost everything he said went into one ear and out the other.  In fact, I still catch myself spending hours playing certain video games like Mortal Kombat or Dawn of the Dead–becoming animated/vocally profane while searching my pockets for quarters before my game is officially over.  I had imaginary friends and pretended to rescue my Clumsy Smurf doll from whatever evil I invented that day.  When Dad picked me and my brother up for the weekend (when he was allowed to) we went to Skateland North, Six Flags or swam at the YMCA.  As I got older, I read books and began writing stories of my own.

By the time I was 10, however, I was changing my brothers’ diapers and babysitting almost every night.  By 15, I was teaching my siblings how to read, tie their shoes and getting them ready for school. Rarely was I allowed to hang out with the little group of friends I did have or allowed to date.  I had a job during high school and some of the money had to go to the house.  By the time I was in my early 20s, I was living on my own, had a car (until it broke down) and paying bills.  I was an adult! Finally…right?…

Nope.

I didn’t know how take care of myself and–when I tried to do so–my father reminded me of my mistake time and again (to this day, I don’t like telling him much of anything).  Whenever a bill came in the mail, I dreaded it as anyone would, but I sometimes didn’t open the mail because that I meant I had to spend money on something I didn’t find necessary.  I had my Aunt Jean and Grandma Luna living with me at the time and I felt I was being a caretaker.  When I had the chance to be alone, in my apartment in Springfield, I felt empty and I didn’t know what was going on.  Years later, the light clicked on:

I was mimicking adulthood.

I’m telling you all this because–as adult trauma survivors–a lot of us are mimicking adulthood.  Depending on when the trauma began, most of us were forced to transform into mini-adults.  We now had to babysit and/or watch over younger siblings.  Our single parent asked us to stay home from school because he (or she) was distressed and had no one else to confide in other than us.  We were placed in the position to protect our bodies because we physically developed at a uncontrollable rate and we were either the target of ridicule or an object of sexual desire.  We were told we would never amount to anything or be loved by anyone.  Or someone would tell us how much they cherish us and take advantage of our trust.  After all this, we trauma survivors are told to “grow up” when we act like children in adulthood!  So many of us mimic adulthood, truly believing that paying bills, driving a car and owning a house constitutes being grown up.   Not only is this an unfair demand on those who have been traumatized in childhood, but a lot of us don’t know what adulthood is!

I cannot speak for every other survivor, but I decided a long time ago that I’m going to create my own version of adulthood.  For me, being an adult is not about driving a vehicle, obtaining a college degree, generating income and/or living in a five bedroom house in the suburbs.  Being an adult is about taking control of my life due to getting tired of sitting in my own shit and spinning.  It’s about reexamining what I consider reality, asking myself whether everything I believed in is based on the negativity I created by using the past as a crutch.  It’s about seeing my part in the chaos within my own existence and doing everything I can to change what I have the control to change–and then owning up to it.  It’s about not letting others get in the way of my transformation–especially those who told me to “grow up” (in fact, they are actually helping me when I stand up to them).

Lastly, it’s about accepting where I am and accepting the fact that I’m always going to be a little emotionally underdeveloped.  Which means I’m a 20-year-old (or younger) kid living in a 30-year-old’s body.  I play Super Mario Brothers and Dawn of the Dead.  I listen to Oldies and techno.  I say “Dude,” “Awesome,” and “That’s some bullshit” on the regular.  I watch He-Man: Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power.  I like to push buttons because I am easily amazed by them and I want to know what they are going to do.  I ask a lot of questions like an annoying child in an Apples PC Store: (“What does this do?” What’s that taste like?” “What does “cis” mean?” “Can I wear your hat?…No? Why not?… Dammit!).  I collect stuffed animals (I hope to replace Bogey).  And I love Story Time.

With that being said, I pray that you, Reader, stop mimicking adulthood and define what adulthood means to YOU!  I’m not telling you to be irresponsible to point of harming yourself and/or disrespecting someone else.  What I am saying is that it’s ok to tap into that Inner Child and to not take life so seriously. We only did so because we felt that the other shoe was going to drop, so why bother changing?  Stop those thoughts and get the life you deserve.  It makes no sense to be a fake adult to protect yourself. Find what it means to you!

Now bask in the glow of Bogey’s cuteness!

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