There is a Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 13:11, that reads “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” I bring up this example because I recently celebrated my 30th birthday. My friends and I partied until 11:30 at night and by the end I felt exhausted, bloated, ugly and stupid. 30 is awful (don’t do it)!
When I was still in school, one of the things I hated most were questionnaires that asked for your occupation. I naturally wrote down “student,” which sounded much better than “unemployed.” Even if I wanted to get a job, most Asian parents don’t allow their children to work part-time during school. I used to be jealous of friends who found work at a local Dairy Queen. “You’re telling me the food is already cooked and you just reheat it? Gee-wiz, that is awwwweeeesome!”
Being a student was the only constant throughout childhood and adolescence. It was easy: go to class, hang out with friends, be home for dinner. My entire identity was shaped by these routine experiences. This all changed by the time I found a full-time job however. Now I have responsibilities like “recycling.” I also have to answer “non-profit” on questionnaires, though I wonder if I should stick with student, which sounds more dignified.
It has occurred to me that my childhood is becoming less of who I am and this balance will become more skewed with time. Gradually, the major focal points in my life aren’t who I went to prom with (it wasn’t Elizabeth G., captain of the gymnastics team), but my experiences in the Peace Corps or community work in Seattle. This idea, surprisingly, is very novel to me. Here are 5 childish things I put away by age 30.
Bullying: I wasn’t the typical “big guy” bully who shoved smaller kids into lockers or gave people wet willies (it would have been nice though). I was usually the smallest kid in school, so my bullying took other forms: telling people they were stupid, calling girls fat, pointing and laughing at victims of misfortune. I was a punk. Thankfully, Grown-Up James has realized that bullying doesn’t win you friends or make you happier (though I still occasionally pick on vegans and hipsters for their poor life choices).
Excessive hair products: Middle school was when kids began to experiment with different hair products. Except no one ever showed me how to use hair gel, so I always applied too much. My hair was like a razor; sharp enough to cut open a can of tuna. It was a great trick during lunchtime but never got me any phone numbers. Middle school girls liked boys who were dangerous, but couldn’t handle someone that dangerous.
Shame: I used to resent my parents for being Asian, and even worse, refugees who barely spoke English. I’m over all of that now and have come to appreciate all of the amazing things my parents have done. Like my mom who smuggled over diamonds on the refugee boat. But the fact that my Dad still calls me boy is mortifying. He just doesn’t understand me…
Cheating: I would cheat on anything if it suited me: school tests, board games, even when I was playing MadLibs alone. As I got older, cheating became harder. Now the IRS may audit my tax filings, my boss annoyingly corrects my spelling and grammar, and my mom knows if I add MSG to the fried rice.
Jealousy: Working for a non-profit, I’ve accepted the fact that there are many things and experiences I will never have, like the dinner for two at Applebees. Instead, I now share in the successes of my family, friends and peers. So congrats little Sister, I’m so proud that you were able to extend your visa and will stay in London for another two years (best 30th birthday ever!).
How about you? What are some childish things you gave up? If you’re currently a child or teen, don’t answer this question or take any lessons from my bad habits. Study hard and be a doctor.