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April 4, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Editorial – The Teeth-Grindingly Embarrassing Childhood Edition

We all had the same childhood. All of us. You. Us. Everyone.

It’s a paint-by-numbers experience: the colours will be different, but the template is the same. We all ate dirt. We all attached ourselves to a favourite plaything in an almost comical display of devotion. We all thought we were different. It’s a wonder we don’t end up the same in later life.
We all had different childhoods. All of us.

Some with pristine pastels coloured within the lines; some with ragged, neon expressions made with no regard for the fascist institution of borders. Although there are bound to be differences between our childhoods, we’re good at glossing over the details, with shared nostalgia being one of the best and most accessible topics of conversation. It makes it easier to get along with people if we can trick ourselves into thinking we all came from the same place.

“I grew up.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll soon fix that.”

It’s hard to separate yourself from the person you were as a child. Even though, in the intervening years, every atom in your body has replaced itself innumerable times, and you don’t even like B*witched anymore, it’s still you.

One of the great tragedies and one of the great joys of modern existence is that we are so trained to view our lives through the prism of the more constructed narratives that surround us on TV, in film, or in books.

One of the most universal cases of this is the move from being a kid to being all grown up. We’re so used to seeing onscreen profound single moments of change; ‘the step-forward’. There’s always that close-up on the teenager’s face as they face some decision or horror, and a mental switch flicks and they know that they have grown up, in an instant.

It can be quite annoying when it doesn’t work out like that. Even if we’re not aware of it, we wish our lives were more like the three-act structures that our brains have come to perceive existence as conforming to. If only we could all find our individual moments
of epiphany, sprouting maturity in our brain gardens, suddenly becoming an adult.

But, of course, this isn’t the case. We don’t live our lives in stages; our lives are a continuum. Looking back on the work we did as children is embarrassing because it’s hard to distance ourselves from our past—especially when, really, the past wasn’t all that long ago. It was still your brain, which doesn’t feel like it has changed that much, that produced these mind-bendingly terrible ideas. It doesn’t feel like it was a child that made these things. It was you.

This lack of division between our child-selves and our adult-selves can be both a great and a terrible thing. Yes, it can result in the teeth-grinding embarrassment discussed above, but it can also result in a liberation, a freedom that can redeem some of the worse situations. That we don’t have to endure one big switch from young to mature means that we can retain and cherish the wonder and joy that defines childhood.

There is nothing wrong with being a bit childish occasionally. In fact, sometimes it’s the only thing worth doing.
Never grow up,

Elle & Uther

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About the Author ()

Uther makes theatre. Elle grew up on a boat. Together they edit Salient.

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