Bear with me as I attempt to come to the bottom of a particularly perplexing problem I’ve been wrestling with. That of growing up, taking responsibility, and letting go. This could apply to a number of situations, but I’m talking in the general and hypothetical here.
What does it mean to grow up? When to we realise that we have? How do we know to take responsibility, and when do we realise that we can’t solve everybody else’s problems and let go?
I’ve been half-jokingly (and quite seriously) saying that this year I have to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Inferring that, having been a student of some type or another for 23 years, I haven’t needed to grow up and face the responsibility of the adult world. It’s true – student’s live in a false economy of time, money and responsibility. And it’s got to the stage where not having a manager making sure your work is up to scratch and being beholden to somebody or something other than one’s own thesis is more attractive than the much hyped and very difficult life of a doctoral student. And oh, a salary above the poverty line would be really fantastic round about now.
But I do myself discredit by saying that. I was fully aware of what I was signing up for when I decided to do my PhD. I knew that I would be sacrificing the equivalent of a good job at decent pay for at least three years to work on a project that would be so obscure, and mostly irrelevant, to all but a merely handful of people in the world. I knew it would be hard work, that there would be ups and downs and that sometimes I’d just want to up and leave. That I wouldn’t have a social life like all the friends I’d be leaving behind, and that really, apart from the sheer love I had for literature and what eventually became my thesis topic, it was only my life’s goal to have a doctorate before I turned 30 that drove me to my mania. But knowing those consequences before I began means that I must have been grown up a long time ago.
So when does one grow up? I’m currently helping out at my old high school teaching year 13 (Aus – year 12) Media Studies, and I look at these kids and marvel at how young they are. Not in age, but in mentality. I wonder, was my group that immature? Sure, we were a smaller class and didn’t all own iphones and ipods and facebook pages, but we were also a bit more aware about the world we existed in, even on a microcosmic level, than some of these kids. It almost appears that these days answering a simple essay question seems to be too difficult without a teacher to paraphrase it. When did that happen?
I look at those who want to (and will) go to uni or polytech here, and I wonder how they will cope in the completely foreign situation to the one they currently find themselves in: the complete freedom and autonomy, no teachers to follow you up on your assignments or help you in class, nobody to really question your judgement over the choices you want to make with your life, and in some cases, nobody but people you come to call friends to help you when you’re down. People who sometimes appear out of nowhere, and stick with you for some really obscure reason or another, or that they really do enjoy your company. At what point will they, and did I, grow up to a responsible adult?
And being a responsible adult, when do you realise that you can’t fight the battles of others for them? That you can’t live their lives and make everything alright? When comes the point you understand that the only life you can live is your own, and if you neglect that, nobody is going to live it for you? Do some people miss that flashing light completely? Is it a giant neon sign at a crossroads, or is it a change in the wind? Is it ever easy to just back away and let those who need to sort things out themselves do it and be alright with that, or does one always feel that you could have done more?
Is that the real point of being responsible and grown up? Knowing which battles to fight and which to leave and give comfort after the embers have died down?
These are the frustrating questions, the ones that can sort of be answered, but never fully, and never really to a complete conclusion. Humanity is too variable to find a resolution in the equivalent of raging at the wind, which is what I am doing here. (And if anybody answers with “How many roads must a man walk down…” I may possibly scream >.<)
My apologies for being too philosophical so late on a Sunday night. This bout of seriousness attacked me out of left field. I'll have some knitting to show off tomorrow, I hope, and some praise for the well-designed pattern that is the cobblestone sweater. (We will not mention the cricket, although I think DrK can celebrate the rugby some more (I missed the league though – sorry – how did you boys go?)).
G’night. Hope Monday treats you all well.