Stop being so serious!

A few days after this article is published I will turn 50. I understand how that is a big birthday for some people; I am not wasting my time on how “old” I am. Age is not a milestone I really care about, at least not to the level of finishing my Masters degree or acquiring my Amateur Extra radio license. When I start thinking about age I often start thinking about what I thought it meant to be an adult when I was a young kid.

Growing up I understood that adults lived in a very different world than kids. While both adults and kids had responsibilities, they were different. I did not know any kids who helped their parents pay their bills, but some of us sometimes helped with adult chores like shopping, automotive repair and taking care of the larger pets, like horses. The differences were mainly of scope. While children had to go to school, do chores and homework, the adults had to work, pay bills and drive us brats around so that we could be dropped off at places which would take over for the parents for an hour or two.

It was expected that parents and children acted differently as well. While it was sometimes acceptable for children to run around screaming and tackling each other, it was rarely appropriate for adults to do either of those and likely never acceptable for them to do both at the same time. Adults were serious most of the time, and when they weren’t serious, they often were only confusing if not entirely unintelligible. Children and adults had their different games, and only sometimes children were allowed to join in.

Of course, the world is a very different place than it was in the 1970s, and being an adult and a child is very different as well. For much of my childhood we had access to four television channels and only a few more radio stations that were worth listening to. The Internet, which is so ubiquitous now, wasn’t even a thing known to the general public at the time, and handheld game consoles were a dream. Most of my entertainment came from books, active play and the stories in my head. I was lucky enough to grow up in a place where it was reasonably safe to play outside and be outside at night to see the stars, at least for a few years of my life.

I compare myself now to the adults of my childhood and I see two very different kinds of people. There are similarities of course like the willingness to work hard, the desire to be respected by friends and family, and not shirking adult responsibilities. However many of the adults I grew up with did not seem very adventurous, curious or playful. I see myself as very curious, and I am not afraid to be adventurous or playful. I am consistently surprised by how reluctant certain people are at trying new things, especially food. I admit, I get bored doing the same thing all the time. I have always been that way which often got me in trouble at school.

I have discovered that I need to be silly; I need to experiment and play with things that are not practical at times. Life still amazes me with all its variation and beauty. I feel that being this way helps me adapt and be resilient and I feel that people need to be more curious and be more playful even during the hardest of times. I am not saying that you should laugh or break out into a song and dance routine at someone’s wedding or funeral. It is still useful to be situationally aware.

I think that expectations have changed and I see this as a positive because we need to change, we need to work and play, we need to balance our responsibilities with our desires, and we need to remember to once in a while try and do something different, adventurous or even a little crazy. It is good for our mental health which improves everything else that we do in our lives.