Why I've Stopped Asking For Child's Tickets
It started in Pizza Hut.
Our server, someone I'd say was only a few years older than me, charged my meal as a child (under 12). I mean, on one hand it was great- cheaper food- but on the other hand, having just turned seventeen I suddenly felt incredibly young. I might be the size of a twelve year old, but I like to think I don't look like one. It's the kind of age we often associate with immaturity and bad fashion sense, and that's not the impression anyone wants to convey. Similarly, my aunt was buying us tickets for a show and said to the man behind the counter, "One adult and," she looked at me for a second, "a child, obviously. " I was silently crushed. But then suddenly it dawned on me. How can I possibly blame someone for charging me as a child when, most of the time, I go out of my way to try and get that cheaper train fare or entry ticket? It was the kind of revelation that suddenly made me determined. Before I knew I could get away with it, and suddenly, I no longer wanted to.
You see, there are several birthdays in life that are supposed to signify adulthood in various ways, milestones we pass and then view from the other side, not feeling all that much different. I thought something big would happen at 16 and it didn’t, of course. Maturity doesn’t happen when you blow out a certain number of candles; it strikes you at various moments when you are suddenly faced with the freedom to make certain choices, or the responsibility to take on others. It’s a subtle shift in your perception of things, or a feeling of calm confidence that used to escape you when you were younger. I’m 17 now, which is by all reasonable measures still very young, but it's the age my brother met my sister-in-law and started university, and the age so many people start moving out of their parents houses to do the same.
I could very well be dealing with much more adult things than I am now, and perhaps I would feel even more mature and capable if I were. But I’m not, and I feel pretty good where I am. Part of this having the time to do the things I enjoy, which I recognise as a luxury and privilege that many people don’t have. Sure, I don’t have total autonomy in the projects I take on — I still have school and exams and plans, after all — but I can make my own schedule, and work on things I love and care about most of the time, and spend my free time writing. It’s certainly a huge boost in confidence, and in making me feel like I have achieved some nebulous level of (young) adulthood.
But more than that, I feel secure in where I am in life — and propelled forward towards the dreams I still have — by the people I have chosen to surround myself with. I have talked before about the important shift in my life when I started from zero in terms of friends, but it’s not just something that takes place when you begin freshly in a totally new environment. It’s also something that happens mentally, when you escape, if not your hometown itself, the hometown mind-set that keeps you locked into the same routines, the same obligations, and the same horizons. Now, obviously I'm still in my hometown but if all goes well next week that may not be the case next year. Just the thought of that shattered completely any thoughts of mine that my home-town was the only place on Earth. (Although, knowing my town most sensible people have hatched a plan to leave asap)
I wrote the other day about how social media tends to burden us with this idea that we are closer to people than we actually are, that because we have seen the lives of acquaintances unfold before us we owe them some kind of weight in our lives, or that their opinions should be meaningful to us. We become caught in the web of obligation to withering social groups, or norms that we feel we must follow because of the hypothetical judgement of others. And while some friends will follow us naturally from nursery school to adulthood because we love them and are truly well-matched, there are many others who tend to linger on the periphery of our social group because it would feel wrong to cut them, and even subconsciously, their existence fills our own sense of horizon and purpose.
Having been away all summer, coming home last week I was struck by how nice it was to see my town on my own terms, to see the people I wanted to see, to run into happy old acquaintances, to meet up with old friends who have grown into thoughtful and kind (young) adults. It was wonderful being able to see this place I grew up in without the baggage of necessity, of feeling that I had to say hello to this person, or to invite that person. And this can only come from creating a new mind-set, in much the same way: by choosing who makes you grow and who you aspire to be more like, and remembering that you do not owe your time or your emotional energy to anyone.
Your group should be a mix of people from all elements of your self — your hobbies, your school, your job, your old friends and new — all of whom bring something essential to your social life, and bring out the best elements of your personality. One might be the person with whom you work hard and strive for more in the professional world; one might be the person with whom you can have emotionally restorative and thoughtful talks. One person might remind you to be fun and enjoy your youth, while the other might remind you that you have so much you can still achieve if you make mature decisions. In my group, I would say I have about 10 close people, nearly all women, with whom I can talk freely about everything from my new nail polish to my biggest worries.
In the end, I have a long way to grow, and much more to learn about becoming an adult — particularly in the age sense. But shedding the notion that I have to hold onto every social contact and remain in the same space mentally has done wonders for making me grow as it stands. I have learned to be smarter with money (sadly that include not buying child's tickets), more confident at school, and more demanding of emotional maturity and mutual respect. I no longer have friends that treat me like shit, as many people tend to keep around, because I have no need for them. And neither do you. We can select each person we want to surround ourselves with intentionally, and create a tight-knit second family of people who make us better people. We may have been raised with some great friends, but that doesn’t have to be the extent of who we love. We can be so much bigger, and so much better, than where we started.