I used to be the kind of child who, before making a choice between two alternatives, I would visualize a cross-road in my mind. The image was clear and in high definition; It was a road that split into two different pavements. Each one would lead me to a different future and it was up to my intuition which road would be the most pleasant one to travel by. Of course, as a result of this, I rarely chose anything at all. I would either run away from the obligation or … make someone else choose for me. Can you imagine what entering adulthood must have felt like ….?
On my tenth birthday, when my mum took me out for French pastries, I took about fifteen minutes just standing over the counter, staring at all the delicious cakes and tarts, wondering which one would bring me the most joy. That day was the first day she had ever told me: “You can have whatever you want now.” – a dreaded sentence in which I knew was not good for my mental health at the time. Naturally, I didn’t want the burden of having chosen the wrong one, so I ended up putting my hands over my eyes and let my mum choose for me. The responsibility of deciding between pastries in a bakery was just too much of a burden on my shoulders. This particular kind of behavior continued to follow me a decade later. But I never knew why I struggled so much with it. I guess logic told me that if I didn’t choose anything, the possibilities would continue being endless. I wouldn’t be questioning all the time whether I made the right choice and I wouldn’t suffer from regret.
After a little while, I started looking into alternative worlds. As you probably would have guessed already, the notion that I could be someone else and do other things amounted my mind in an instant. It was like a get-out-jail-free card for my imagination. So, one day (I think I was around twelve years old) I had a headache. It was normal irritation, like the one you get when you haven’t been drinking enough water. I knew it wasn’t deadly and that I would be fine the next day. Still, my mind immediately began visualizing an “alternative me” developing a brain tumor. I drew the whole story in my mind; I was a girl, starving for more attention from my siblings and my mother, and because of this, God served me with cancer. Oddly enough, I felt happy with my diagnosis. I was finally someone. I was “the girl with cancer”. Better than nothing right? Well, when my health started deteriorating and my life was at risk, I came to the realization that it wasn’t that good of an idea to wish for cancer. And so I sat down and wrote my first story ever. It was called:
“The girl who didn’t want to have cancer after all…”
I became mesmerized by this alternative girl I had created. She was like me, only more bold, honest and wicked. I read the whole story for my sister and my best friend. They loved it. So I wrote a part 2. They loved it even more. I guess the moral of the plot was to be careful with what you wished for. In life, you may think you want something, but then once you have it, it’s not as great as you thought it would be. A classic human mistake isn’t it? Can you blame me now why I had such a hard time choosing something – anything – by myself? Well. Let me tell you this – it does not get any better when you’re an adult. In fact, it gets worse. Yay! And if you’re a hypersensitive girl like me; If you also visualize a crossroad in your mind every time you have to decide something or if you think that a stomach-ache could, in fact, be intestine-cancer .. well, you’re not alone. But life is going to be just a bit harder for you. I hope you can take it!
Here is a list of the 7 challenges I had to go through with the pains of getting older …
You realize you’re the only one in charge of your own health
For me, this is the worst one – in fact, it’s something I still struggle with. Yup. My life is great you guys, but we all have problems. And here I am, telling you mine … About a year ago, I slowly began developing a mental syndrome which Wikipedia chooses to call: “Hypochondria”. Allegedly, it’s one branch out of the tree of the many anxieties that human beings have to go through at least once in their lives. While others struggle with anxiety about money, social life and claustrophobia, I struggle with worrying about illnesses and death. I love hospitals – they make me feel comfortable and safe. I hate being away from my doctor or not knowing where a hospital is located because then I can’t check if everything is alright with my health. Every time I meet a doctor, I usually jump on them and ask them about all my concerns. My future dream involves having my own private doctor of whom I can pay a visit whenever I like. I usually have symptoms of some sort, all the time, every day. However – I don’t know whether this is caused by me just being an alive human being or me mentalizing myself into pain. A little bit of both, perhaps. Anyways. I recently discovered that a part of growing up is being in charge of your own health, which … pretty much makes me even more worried. Now I have to take care of what foods I eat, how much sleep I get, what vitamins I lack and which symptoms mean what?? Yeah. It’s hard. But I’m slowly but surely getting used to the idea that being alive also means experiencing physical pain every now and then – and that it’s actually a good sign:)
2. You have to make your own decisions. You just … have to
Yeah … It’s not the greatest, but if you wish to be an independent, functional human being in this world, it’s bound to happen sooner or later. You can’t just go back to being a child in bed, relying on your parents to make the choices for you. You have to decide on a way to earn your money, you have to know who to spend your time with, you have to choose a condo with or without a roommate, you have to choose the street, the city, the era, the car, the grocery store, the bedcovers, the bedsheets, the phone. Yes, you will probably regret half of them. But hey! You’ll learn and next time you won’t choose that thing that was wrong for you again. So look at all this a learning process, not the real thing – that will keep your sanity-level up for the remaining parts of your twenties:)
3. Everything costs … SOO much!
Why did all the prices go up all so suddenly? Is it only me, or does it feel like the average price of something increases by an amount of 50% each year? Maybe it does. I haven’t checked the economic marked lately, but my personal theory is that it doesn’t increase that much. A little, maybe, but not a substantial amount. Rather – we start becoming more and more conscious about our own purchases. Why? Because we’re growing up! We become smarter. We begin to actually prioritize the things that mean something by putting the things that don’t mean anything back on the shelf. Suddenly, buying that expensive purse from that expensive brand becomes an insignificant thing for us. We laugh about high-school girls and boys who STILL care about materialistic values because we know all too well that those purchases won’t mean anything when they’re put into a situation of having to earn their own money. No one cares about what you wear, who you date or where you went on vacation. People care only about themselves because there’s not enough room for others in this chaotic, stressful and expensive life called adulthood. And frankly, it’s not too bad wearing cheap, basic clothes that no one recognizes or thinks anything of. At least you’re not faking it. At least, you’re being real!
4. If you leave a cup, the cup will stay … forever
I still cry over the fact that every single action has a consequence to follow up with it – including leaving a cup or a glass of wine on the counter. It’s still so amazing to me that if you live alone and leave a cup, the cup will actually stay there .. like … forever! Until you get up on your feet and decide to actually do something about it. But until then – it will just …. stay there. Isn’t it weird to you? Perhaps it’s just me. (Quietly reminding myself o clean the empty cup behind my laptop after writing this article …)
5. You have to be nice to everybody
Yeah … Not my best trait but I’m working on it! Again, don’t mistake me. I consider myself to be a genuinely very nice person and I usually always see the best in people. But … you know those days when … all you feel like doing is locking yourself up in your room, staying in bed, read a novel and not talk to or see anyone for weeks on end? Well … if you’re a creative like me – if you’re dependent on having an extended group of influential contacts in order for your craft to get it’s deserved recognition in the world – well, I’m sorry to say but you have to learn to be your best self all the time. You never know when a business-opportunity is going to present itself. You’re a starving creative! There’s no time for your ego to come through. You can’t just – in the middle of talking to one of the most influential investors – yawn and say “You know what, I don’t really feel like socializing today. I’m gonna take a nap in your coach.” I know, I know – extreme example. But you get my point. Growing up also forces you to fake it a lot of times. Do like me – pretend you’re going on a stage. You’re an actor/actress now, not your real self. Just do your very best performance and keep reminding yourself how much it will pay off in the end.
6. Did I mention laundry?
The most dreadful subject of them all … laundry! Your clothes just get dirty. I know, it sucks, but it’s something you have to live with. Sure, I did my own laundry throughout my whole life, it’s not like I’m not used to it. But it’s something about living alone … it makes it harder. Till this day I have yet to figure out the reason why … but I think it’s because there’s literally no one there to tell you that you smell and that you should probably do another round with your dirty clothes. Okay, fine, I don’t live alone. I live with my husband, so there really shouldn’t be any excuse for me but … to be honest, my husband is not that concerned with formalities either. We’re both creatives, can you blame us? When you’re so into your work and you feel like you’re doing a great contribution to the rest of the world, it’s easy to forget trivialities such as washing your clothes! And I know you do it too. We’ve all been guilty of taking a little too long with fixing our external appearances. And I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it hasn’t been hard for me. Yet, I refuse to lose my optimism about the future. I’m working on it okay? It’ll take some time but … I’ll get there.
7. You realize the world isn’t … that great
I am an optimist and I will always be – however – I am also aware of the cruelness of the world and that people can actually turn out to be full of shit (excuse the expression!)
But it’s true. And it’s one of the hardest things I had to come to terms with when growing up. In my teen years, I used to dread newspapers so much that I wouldn’t even let my eyes read the headlines. Yes, it was that bad. In the grocery-store – when seeing a newspaper – I would quickly turn my gaze away before my unconsciousness was able to download any information at all. I would hear something about “murder” or “terror attack” on the TV when I was sitting in the emergency room in the hospital, and I would immediately put my hands over my ears to shut out all the noise. It’s not that I didn’t want to learn about the world. It’s that I physically and mentally couldn’t handle it. I struggled understanding why people do what they do – why rapists rape, why terrorists attack and why kidnappers kidnap. So I chose to just turn away from that world completely. I chose to look at them as aliens. I couldn’t – I simply couldn’t see them as human beings! To me, they were more like otherworldy species who had come to the earth to destroy us. For some reason, this childish notion comforted me and gave me hope for a better future world.
Now, however, I’ve been training my mind to come to terms with the reality of things; People do what they do because they simply have another perspective of things. And the best thing you can do as a human being is learning to put yourself into other peoples shoes. Because that is in fact, the only way we can ever find a solution to horror. We have to try and understand why they do it. Not turn away from it. I refuse to blind myself like I did in my teens – because mentally blind people don’t contribute to any change. All they do is shy away from reality. They’re in denial. Yes, it is hard to grow up, to hear about such horrors and to be forced to comprehend that THIS is, in fact, reality – but you can’t change what’s happening around you. You can only change where you go from there.
Aftur S. Nerdrum
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