When I was five, I used to look at people aged twenty one and up as having it all figured out. They were the real deal, the full and total embodiment of adulthood- You could work, you could vote, you could drive, you could light fireworks with no fear and without burning your hands (Chinese New Year Holidays). To be ‘adult’ was to head along in life with all these answers in their heads and convictions in your hearts.
Now that I’m finally at this age, the number ’21’ meets me with fear, and a copious amount of wine. Wine because we got all ‘adult’ and fancy and no longer drank ‘booze’; and fear, because I found that I am nowhere the person I imagined I would be when I was a child. ( No I lie. There’s still ‘booze’)
I wish I could turn back time and tell my five year old self that no, I don’t have all the answers, and the reality is that 21 is just the beginning of everything. The reality is that, “Jowee, you would probably spend the rest of your years searching for the answers and probably never even end up finding them…” But that’s okay, ‘it was all part of the journey, and don’t let that ever stop you from looking’.
In many ways, I’ve hardly changed since hitting 18- the reverential first of the many milestones in life. Being 21 felt no different from my past three birthdays, in fact my years kind of stopped after 18. That is not to say I haven’t progressed in life, or that I haven’t done anything significant after that. On the contrary I’ve learned so much, but my disposition and resolve has remained quite the same. I’m afraid I’m still living with an open heart and head full of dreams.
Looking back through the lens of that five year old, everything I ever came to know about being an ‘adult’, said a lot about the adults I knew back then. Apart from being able to do all I’m unable to as a child, adulthood mostly meant, work, responsibility, bad skin, all the while possessing this jaded pessimism about everything. You can’t go out, because someone was going to rob you. No Jowee you can’t bring that stray dog home because it is ridden with diseases and all sorts that could kill you. You can’t be trusting, because someone is always going to prey on your naivete. You have to ‘control’ your husband, lest he go astray. (My aunty actually said this once. True story. ) We know too little, our opinions carry no weight, and success in life is measured by the largeness of your bank account.
In many ways, these values still remain true for the world. But something I discovered along the way is that, 1) the adults I knew were mostly unhappy and 2) they were also a bit ‘cray-cray’.
But seriously, If its one thing that growing up had taught me, its that I could make my own rules, and I didn’t need to follow the ones set by the broken others before me.
Yes I still care too much about animals, I still think the environment is worth saving, and money isn’t the most important thing in life. Because if I did, I would be in business, not studying the arts and probably earning peanuts in the future.
So in truth, I’m probably not the world’s definition of ‘adulthood’ yet, neither am I the adult I knew of when I was a child, even though I am 21. Then I’m really glad I’m not because that means I can still be happy.