I came across this photo on Facebook a while back.
I read it and started to ponder. Like some of you probably might, I felt that the child I once was would be extremely disappointed in the adult I have become. If that child were to have a glimpse of me, right now, somehow be able to get inside my head, know my thoughts, know what I feel and believe, that child would surely be shocked, maybe even be angry.
Then, right in the middle of feeling sorry for myself and the dreams and plans I had let slip by, right when I was feeling completely unaccomplished, when I was feeling I had let myself down in all the worst possible ways, it came to me-That child’s opinion doesn’t matter at all. His acceptance or disappointment in who I am right now is not an assessment or evaluation of my life, or who I have become. Any thoughts that child would have would come without context, without any sense of understanding. The child in me would not be able to comprehend most of the choices I have made or the situations in which I had to make them. I try to imagine my ten year old self making any of the adult decisions I have made any differently or with any better success. When you are unable to comprehend anything beyond the next year, the next month, or even the next day, how could you ever begin to understand or accept the choices you would make decades down the road?
I can’t imagine any child being remotely comfortable with any adult version of themselves. All of us had an idea of what or who we would like to become, the ‘right’ things we should have and be. Still, even those of us that have somehow found ourselves with the right job, the right family, the right appearance, have things about ourselves that our child-self would find repugnant. We grow up. We understand the world differently as the years go by. We understand that despite or in spite of our wishes for a black and white world, we live in one of color and context. No choice is ever completely right or wrong and as adults we figure that out, hopefully. We do the best we can, make mistakes, have successes, grow and learn. I don’t know anyone who is completely satisfied with who they are, and really, I am not sure I would want to be around someone who was. Someone with no room to grow or change or be wrong, that seems like the essence of narcissism.
I did wonder what my 18 year old self would think of the adult me. I am sure there would be many things that would confuse him as well, even though he would be better able to understand, or at least see why certain decisions were made. I wondered what one thing would be the most shocking to him. I am sure he would be more than thrilled with my choice of life partner. He would adore my boys and never question why they were adopted and not my physical offspring. I think he would even understand my spiritual beliefs (or lack of them), as he was already asking those questions by then. He would hate that I was bald and gray, and that I was ever overweight, but with some thought, he could make sense of those things as well. He would be happy to see that I still have many of the same friends and that the new ones are such fantastic and clever people. He would love where I lived and the kind of husband and father I am.
Strangely and silly enough, the one thing he would not understand is my lack of interest in basketball. Yeah, that is who I was at 18. Living, breathing, playing and craving basketball all the time. Ridiculous, I know. Maybe even sad and pathetic, but that is what I think would bother me the most.
I loved being a child, growing and playing, experiencing things, living life. I am grateful for the family I had that let me try things, let me succeed and most importantly, let me fail and learn. Every choice let me experience things I am lucky to have experienced, made me weaker at times, stronger for sure. If some of those choices made me someone my child self would be upset with, fine. I am loved and love. I am happy most of the time and really, that is the only gauge that matters.