One of the hardest parts of moving into true “adult” life is learning how to cross the divide, I think, between remembering and enjoying moments of your youth at times and no longer living as an semi-adult all the time. What I mean by that is shedding off ideas that you’re always going to be young and playfully unaware of reality, that responsibility barely qualifies you to do more than cook dinner and pay bills on time, that fun times aren’t limitless and part of being older means finding the appropriate balance between life and work.
I know, it seems bloody obvious. But really, in a world like ours, is it that apparent?
Four significant and unrelated events this past week kind of underscored these facts to me.
First off, the Montreal shooting at Dawson College. I don’t know what was going through Gill’s mind at the time of the shooting, nor do I really want to. I think it is unfortunate the guy’s lasting mark on the world will be one of unspeakable horror and murder, not to mention the fact he selfishly took the life of a young woman who probably would have ended up doing great things. But now we’ll never know.
I didn’t read this guy’s blog, but I got the sense after Gill’s blog was disseminated for full public consumption that the guy was a perfect storm of broken dreams, a man so convinced of his own worthlessness that he hated everything. Thing is, I also think he probably wasn’t like that at one time. He sounded, at age 25, like a guy who’d been so beaten down by the world once too often that he allowed himself to descend into the polar opposite world of most kids: children are, quite often, idealistic and happy, unjaded little people who take the world at face value. But when bad stuff happens to people, as it inevitably does, you start to take on a more realistic view of the world, understanding that the world’s a vicious, mean place sometimes.
There are those that come out damaged, “defective” as it was put on CBC Radio by a Dawson College student, who can’t see those shades of grey in the world and revert to single-minded hatred. Gill’s actions show he was really messed up and needed serious attention, whether from a psychologist or the police before Dawson happened. But it demonstrates a clear point – Gill was messed up and lacked ways to grow up and see the futility of his dangerous, juvenile ways.
Second, a piece of technology I’ve been looking at. The XBox 360. As it seems commonplace for gaming to be amped up in the pantheon of digital culture more so everyday, I’ve felt recent temptations to get one. Thing is, why? I’ve been asking myself why I need such a gizmo when I’ve got more serious goals in mind. You know, saving up for traveling someday? Why get something that clearly won’t benefit me practically?
Thirdly, letting go of personal pain. We’re all inherently shaped on some level by the combinations of pain and pleasure, especially when we’re kids. Our likes and dislikes are largely shaped by that period in our lives. But being people, revealing pain to ourselves is extremely hard to do. Recognizing how pain affects our daily decisions and what our individual goals are is hard. But ultimately, some people hold onto pain so much that it delays their development into fully-formed adults. In a world like ours, with so much instant suffering on the web or CNN, holding onto our personal pain is anathema to our own personal evolution – there’s enough bad stuff out there to exacerbate our suffering enough to simply tuning out, giving up, letting the pain win and beat us.
Finally, comes Queen’s Homecoming. I know I’ve commented in this space recently about some issues I’ve had with the direction of Queen’s, mostly in the realm of Queen’s getting a football stadium at a time of extreme fiscal prudence (talk about putting the cart before the horse people) in academia. I don’t want to keep bringing up this debate to inflame the passions of a certain individual (whom I respect very much) who reads this blog, but this weekend was my class’ reunion. Not to mention the fact I’m the ’01 permanent class vice-president, I still didn’t go.
I’ve decided the main reason not to go back for a long time is that by doing so too often, I’m holding onto a time in my life that has long since passed. For three months after leaving Queen’s in 2002, I had serious trouble letting go. Not only because I was holding onto some amazing times and remembering how radically wonderful my personal changes were and all my accomplishments, but also because I could hold onto some of the pain of those crazy five years in Kingston. Learning to let go is the only way you can truly come to terms with yourself and who you are, as well as evaluating the choices you’ve made.
If I could possibly summarize this post, it’s this: becoming a fully-formed adult isn’t easy in this world of ours. But it is possible. It just means learning to let go and move on sometimes.