Our Article Writer Katie Charleston shares her thoughts on growing up.
It is one of the world’s commonly observed ironies that kids often wish they were adults, and adults long for the freedom and innocence of childhood. During the summer I worked at a holiday camp, and a 6 (and a half) year old told me that her Mummy often wished she were a kid again, and she asked if I felt the same. Not really, I told her. Been there, done that, wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Now, I live with my best friend so it’s like having a sleep over every night, I can decide my own bedtime, and I can even have chocolate for breakfast if I really want to. This blew her mind. As soon as her Mum arrived to pick her up, the little girl proudly announced “Mummy, I can’t wait until I grow up, or you die, because Katie said that then I can have chocolate for breakfast”. Of course, this wasn’t quite the interpretation I had hoped for, and the potential heart-wrenching tragedy of losing a loved one quickly dawned on her.
Her morbid interpretation aside, it did make me think. To these kids, I was an adult. In reality, I am nowhere near. I have often wondered whether so-called ‘adulthood’ is actually a myth. Working with children, I often marvel at their imagination, their beautifully bizarre logic and train of thought, their perception of the world untainted by the disappointments and disillusionment of life. That said I do believe that artists, designers, and any creative professional in between, maintains the right and the privilege to never really grow up. We can embrace the experiences we’ve had and lessons we’ve learned, but holding on to the imagination, confidence, blind optimism and often-necessary silliness from our childhood minds can be the key to originality and authenticity in our work.
Just before the Vis Com third years graduated last year, I remember our technician, Scott, asking some of them if they were ready for the ‘real world’. They joked that Scott doesn’t live in the real world; he spends all day in the studio helping us, and then goes home to skateboard and eat pizza. It’s not exactly your standard 9 ‘til 5 lifestyle. But that’s what’s so great about him. I used to consider being an adult as when you pay your own bills, buy your own food, and understand mortgages, taxes and insurance policies. When you get excited about buying new bedding, or finding reasonably priced tiger bread that lasts more than a day. I recently asked my brother, who is older than me, what he thinks a grown up is. He said simply, one who is fully-grown. “I am a grown up. I have grown. Up.” I couldn’t dispute this logic. But, my brother – who for no particular reason wanted to be referred to in this article as ‘Jean-Jacques Bridlington-Smithe’ – said that he is more specifically a ‘baby grown-up’; he is a grown-up, but not an adult. “You become an adult when other grown-ups think you are one. You’re an adult when there are coppers younger than you”. Well, it’s as good a definition as any, I suppose.
There are more official definitions of adulthood – legally, when you are no longer considered a minor, or biologically, when you reach sexual maturity. I remember being told “you’re officially an adult now” at my 16th, and 18th birthdays, and it’s inevitable for my 21st. But socially, it’s when you can be considered independent, self sufficient and responsible. Of course, we all know some adults who are none of these things, but it’s up to us to define what our own adulthood will be. Take ‘act your age’ as an invitation for interpretation. I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself when I say working in the creative industry is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle, and a fundamental part of us as people. Maybe it’s time to take ourselves a little less seriously. Maybe it’s time take the silliness seriously. Maybe by not trying so hard to be grown up, we might learn something about ourselves. I don’t know, maybe.
Words by Katie Charleston, Illustrations by Sarah Gomes Munro