Lament for the Lost Childhood


Everyone knows: when you’re young, all you want to do is grow up. And, when you’re all grown up, all you want to do is be young once more. But, by ‘young’, what most people mean is, at least, 18 years old but no older than 30.

It’s a given: I doubt very few people would want to return to eight o’clock bedtimes, being grounded by parents and family gatherings spent being jumped on and having hair pulled out by our younger relatives all because we just weren’t old enough to join in with the ‘adult’ conversations. I, for one, certainly don’t want that again.

But, as 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 year olds, we seem to be in our prime. Both older and younger generations want to be us, but what do we want?

Remember those days? When baby food could take flights on aeroplanes that didn’t cost the earth? When cows could jump over the moon? And when being left at home alone was the coolest thing ever! When sofas were the best trampolines invented, when pizza for dinner on a Friday was an absolute dream come true and when climbing up a tree meant turning it into your own den.

Christmas was all about presents. Halloween was all about free sweets and birthdays were made on the type of cake you would get and the bowling party afterwards.

How things change.

Uni tuition, accommodation fees, food budgeting, alcohol, washing machines, train tickets – these things add up. Free condoms and discounted Wetherspoons meals now complete us.

But, despite it all, I like being eighteen. But that’s not to say it’s an easy age. It’s fun, but not easy.

Why, I often wonder, why is there such a rush to grow up? Why do governments push children into working so hard at school that by the age of fifteen they’re already thinking about what degree will get them a good career so that they can support a husband or wife and three children in twenty years time? Why do insurance companies interrupt our TV programmes urging us to save for our funerals before we’ve even had a chance to live?

Don’t get me wrong; I understand the benefits of forward planning, but why not save the future for when it actually comes? Why can’t we – aren’t we allowed to – live for the now?

Maybe if thinking about having a job wasn’t forced upon us, people wouldn’t panic and settle for government funded benefits instead. Children, naturally, will have ideas about what they want to do when they’re older.

Everything starts out very encouraging;

“Oh wow! You want to be an astronaut, then, do you?” teachers remark – and why not? It’s a brilliant idea.

But then, there becomes a point – a harsh, soul-crushing reality when suddenly flying into space isn’t acceptable anymore. Those dreams are then reduced and become part of a commercial monopoly of youths wanting to be lawyers, corporate bankers or marketing directors instead.

Why do we have to be those suited businessmen and businesswomen working to finance our fifteen houses scattered over the country and gain enough income to feed our horses and add to our strong-hold of classic cars?

I’ve had eighteen years to think about my career, at least ten of which have been spent by parents, teachers and advisers steering me away from my aspirations to become a zookeeper to more practical work like politics. Still, I’m none the wiser.

So what does any eighteen year old want from their life? What do you want? Will we be happy to step out in our suits and into our Porsches that only have enough space to take one of our four children to school at a time? When we get to that point, will being an astronaut seem a better use of our time if that’s what we truly wanted to do?

So, for now, let’s just stop. Put down the pen, turn the music up and think. Let’s live for now, today and tomorrow for what each of these days are. Let’s save our career planning for when it is needed and bring back the dreams of our youth. There’s nothing wrong with doing what you want, so long as you’ve dared to dream.


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