Observations of an Adult

Kathleen Prohaska

I

Scaffolding. Simple bits and pieces really; nothing complex about it. Whenever I visit Chicago or New York City, I see it climbing up the sides of buildings like a beanstalk. I walk underneath it without realizing what’s above my head. Once in awhile, I catch a glimpse of a city worker actually working and repairing a piece of siding, or cleaning the windows (but I realize that’s a rarity).

 

On one particular, not-so-special day, I saw a child (who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6) playing around the edges of the scaffolds clinging to a skyscraper; being so thin and fragile it looked like a stiff breeze would blow it over. The child, obviously having a wonderful time, was scooped up by his mother as she scolded him saying, “I told you never to play around such dangerous equipment. Now hold my hand tight and don’t wander off again.” The child, in response to his mother’s scolding, explained, “But mommy! If I climb up real high I can be just like Spiderman!”

 

Just then, I realized something – other than the fact that Spiderman is a comic book character and doesn’t really exist. That child truly believed he could climb up the building. He believed he could accomplish such an extraordinary feat, because he imagined he could. Now, I know I’m not 5-year old and I seem to think I have a fairly good imagination. However, I can’t imagine being able to climb up scaffolding, and flying off the top. It’s just not logical. I then realized something else: because I’m not a 5-year old, I couldn’t possibly imagine anymore. That magic was gone.

 

After that day, I began to notice that the division between childhood and adulthood is quite noticeable. I’m not just talking about the physical divisions or the intelligence capacities or the obvious age separations. I’m talking about magical divisions. It usually happens right around the age of twelve. Though children aren’t considered to be adults until a much more substantial age is reached, we can say that magically speaking, we all become adults after the age of twelve. You see, before turning twelve, every child holds a sense of magic unbeknownst to all adults. Of course, at one time, we all knew this magic, but after a time it fades and eventually dies away until we wouldn’t notice a glimpse of magic even if bolts of lightning shot forth from our fingertips. This probably explains why no single adult believes in Santa Clause.

 

As I’ve grown older and have looked back into my childhood, I’ve realized there are certain things children possess, secret fascinations or abilities, if you will. There are at least eight of these secret abilities known to children (they really are quite fascinating). Number one – all animals can talk. Number two – your favorite blanket is woven from a fabric so mighty that once pulled over your head, it becomes an impenetrable force field that not even bullets can penetrate. Number three – nothing is too heavy to lift with the aid of a cape. Number four – your hand, held forefinger out and thumb up, actually fires bullets. Number five – jumping from any height with an umbrella is completely safe. Number six – monsters exist and can be both seen and defeated in battle. Number seven – the opposite sex will always have cooties. Number eight, and perhaps the greatest, most special and regrettable loss of all – the ability to fly.

Now, I would tell you that all of these are facts, but, I wouldn’t be right in telling you so. In the world of science and logic, in order to call something fact, you have to prove it so with examples and theories. Anyone under the age of twelve is too little to understand how to prove something fact, and even if they do give evidentiary support, no one over the age of twelve wants to believe it. Therefore, none of those eight abilities and fascinations can be called fact.

 

As we grow into adulthood, it’s funny to think that we once possessed any of those abilities. By the age of twelve, we start to see something new; a revision, if you will, to belief number seven: the opposite sex no longer has cooties. For some odd reason, we one day realize that the opposite sex actually looks appealing. Girls no longer appear disgusting or icky. Boys suddenly have this charm or aura about them that make them look like Prince Charming (in disguise of a 12-year old boy putting gum in your hair). Suddenly, the way we dress makes a difference as if making an impression upon the opposite sex is the goal of each day. Unfortunately, this quality stays with us the rest of our lives.

 

I remember the first time I looked at the opposite sex with these very thoughts. Brian was my own Prince Charming. Even the sound of his name gave me bubbles in the deepest parts of my heart. I had gone to school with him since we were both in diapers, but I had never looked at him as though he were anything more than just an obnoxious boy. Something strange started happening to me. I started spending more time making sure my hair looked just so, but to my dismay it would always come out looking the opposite of what I intended. I was constantly trying to gain his attention; sitting next to him in class or sitting within viewing distance during band practices were obvious ways of having him talk to me. For some reason, when we first are attracted to the opposite sex, it is nearly impossible to actually talk to them the way we do when we practice in front of the mirror at home. I would build up my courage before school started and go through the entire day hoping that that courage would push me to talk to him. Looking back on it all, and realizing this fuss I was making over this one boy, was the beginning to the end of my childhood.

 

After discovering the opposite sex, the world begins to look more and more frightening, and these lessons of love are just the beginning. I’m sure you can look back at your childhood and pinpoint, at least down to the year, when you started feeling older. For me, it was Brian. I finally did gain his attention, just in case you were wondering. We had assigned seats in our math class, and to my excitement and dismay, Brian was seated right next to me. As you all know, 6 th grade boys have a tendency to torture girls of the same age. Brian chose me. After weeks of sitting next to each other, he had made it a habit of pulling my hair, tossing bits of paper on to my desk, and making weird noises in my direction. I decided that, as much in love with him as I was, I had to tell him to stop. He had been throwing paper at me for four or five minutes, when I turned to him and punched him right in the mouth. Unfortunately I didn’t know my own strength and blood started dripping down his lip. I was absolutely shocked and immediately apologized. Of course it was too late, and he had told the teacher what had had happened, and I in turn received a stern lecture on the importance of keeping my hands to myself. Brian apologized to me later on, and we’ve remained close friends ever since. After my love for Brian faded, I had a crush on a new boy at least every other week. Of course, none of these boys could ever know how I felt. If anyone had ever told them my feelings, the initial reaction would be death – death by humiliation. This feeling stays with you until you find your eventual life partner, but in the end it all seems so arbitrary, that you wonder why you ever worried about the humiliation in the first place.

II

 

You now have in your possession the abilities and fascinations of children. You must realize that adults have their own abilities and fascinations as well, except instead fascinations, adults tend to view them as rules to live by. These rules build the scaffolding of our adulthood. All the abilities and fascinations of our childhood (though lost forever) form the basis of life – the solid foundation upon which to build the scaffolding. As a warning, the rules I am about to share with you should be taken in stride – so please, read carefully.

 

The first rule of adulthood – animals can’t talk, and are only thought of as companions to keep us company on lonely nights. Rule number two – the opposite sex no longer has cooties. However they are still considered annoyingly fascinating – I’m not sure anyone will ever figure out the reasoning to this rule. Rule number three – adults will always have a never-ending pile of unpaid bills. Rule number four – bedtime may be much later in the evening (perhaps 12am or 1am), but secretly all adults wish they could go to bed at 8pm – just like their kids. Rule number five – coffee and any other form of caffeine is to adults what apple juice and Nesquik is to children. Rule number six – birthdays are no longer fun after you reach twenty-five – it’s all down hill from there.

 

These rules are always subject to change, but remember, these are only gathered from observation and my own, personal experience. Adults tend to live by these rules for the rest of their lives, whether they like it or not. I can almost guarantee that there will be many times throughout adulthood, where you wish you could regain every single one of those childhood abilities.

 

It’s funny to think about the things in your life that change when you become an adult; those things in childhood that are replaced by “adult” mediums. Let me see if I can give you some examples. First, homework is replaced by bills and taxes. This is obviously an example that causes you to flinch – I know, because I saw you flinch when you read it. Second, bicycles and riding the bus are replaced by your own car. Now, this may seem like a replacement that comes with its own sense of freedom and individuality. But the truth is, is that while you have your own car there are still payments and money spent on fixing that car when it breaks down. Third, the annoying boys who put gum in your hair are replaced by husbands (or girls and wives if you’re a male reader). To my female readers – beware. Husbands can be just as annoying as those little boys with bubblegum, except instead of bubblegum, they have a remote control, a car engine, and will always leave the seat up. While these three things seem incredibly docile, I can guarantee that one or the other will cause an argument. Fourth, your dolls and action figures are replaced by actual human beings we refer to as babies. They will need your constant care for the rest of your life (even if they resist your care, you must let them know that you will always be there for them and that you love them. This is of the utmost importance).

 

I don’t recall the exact moment I felt like an adult. I didn’t wake up one morning and *POOF* there were bills to be paid; *POOF* I need to pick up the kids from school; *POOF* the damn taxes have to be done. It certainly isn’t anything like that. It’s just something you learn as time goes on. However, let me offer you a word of caution. You must remember that just because you become an adult and you adapt all of these new rules, it does not mean that you change who you are. You need to remain yourself at all times. I can pretty much guarantee that there will be times when you feel like you need to change who you are just to get things done. Though I give you these words of caution, be prepared to fall into this temptation more than once. You can’t always resist – it’s just a part of life.

 

You must be thinking right now, “Why the hell did I grow up? Being an adult is in no way as care free as when I was a child.” The truth is we have to grow up. We can’t stay children forever. But even though we do grow up, I’m pretty sure that most of us regret losing all of those fascinations and abilities. Losing that part of our imagination does leave this space that is filled with new abilities – or what I should call, responsibilities. Don’t lose hope, though. Just because you have all of these rules and responsibilities to adapt to, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. I still laugh uncontrollably sometimes just because I think funny stuff. I still trip over my own feet in public places and laugh at myself for looking like a fool. I still take pleasure in watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. My point, you may ask. It’s ok to grow up and still feel like a child. It’s ok to be a 25-year old and still have a slumber party with your closest girlfriends. We might lose all of those magical abilities, but just remember – those abilities form the basis of the scaffolding. Our adult responsibilities form bits and pieces, layers if you will, to other parts of the scaffolding that become our lives. But it’s the middle, what we do with our lives, that fills in the rest of the scaffolding – the important things that make the scaffolding stable.

 

All things considered, I revise my original statement.

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