My wife and I were sitting at the local high school waiting to pick up one of the kids. Of course, she was late at coming out of the school, and we had about ten minutes to just watch high school kids wander out to the parking lot. It was pretty interesting: you have the cool looking kids, the hip kids, the seniors walking around like hot-shit to their junky-ass cars because they can drive, and the awkward kids looking, well, awkward. I thought back to my own high school times and thought, “High school sucked. I’m glad I’m past that stage of life.”
Remember that question that get’s thrown around sometimes, “What age would you like to be if you could be any age?” Whenever I think of that question I always assume I’d say my current age. I don’t think this because of any real reason, it is just that thinking back to me at a past age or me at a future age sounds shitty. Being a kid was shitty, being a teen was shitty, being an adult is shitty, and while I’m not a senior citizen yet, I’m going to assume that it will be–you guessed it–fairly shitty. So with seeing the high school kids and thinking that was a shitty time, and thinking that all other ages was a shitty time, I came to the generalization that life is just shitty. The point here is that life sucks for differing reasons at each age category. There are pros to being certain ages, but there are also some major cons that take all the fun out of any benefit the age itself provides. Let’s journey through life and go over why it all sucks.
Being a Newborn/Toddler Sucks
I don’t think anyone wants to be a newborn or a toddler. I know I wouldn’t even think of returning to that age of my life. I’m considering this age to be from birth until four or five, maybe right before you head off to school. The coolest thing about being this age is that life is totally epic. You’re learning stuff at a crazy pace and everything you do is the first time you’ve done it! Just think how a newborn or toddler feels to see snow for the first time, feel rain, or even get their hand burned by a hot stove; everything is a completely new thing and there is so much to see and learn and the world is one big adventure. Sure you can’t really do a whole lot, but you don’t know or care because spinning in circles is still the coolest thing ever, even if you bang your head into the coffee table afterwards.
This stage of life has a major downside: you don’t actually remember any of it. There is some theory in philosophy (although I forget the proper title) that states that as long as your memories are continuous that you are the same person. Or something like that. It’s all about answering the question of, “What makes you you?” Anyways, memory is a big aspect of who you are, and outside of this theory you know it plays an important part of your view of your self. If you don’t remember something it’s almost as like it’s never happened. There may be consequences and everyone else remembers what you’ve done, but to you it’s like you didn’t even exist if you don’t remember it. Just think of a time where you became so drunk you blacked out. You can hear about things you’ve done, but you don’t remember any of it so it seems like it’s all from a story where the main character was you. Either way, you still seem pretty divorced from what happened because you simply don’t remember it. It’s like the movie The Hangover. All of these dudes did some crazy shit but since they don’t remember anything, it doesn’t even exist to them anymore. This is how being a toddler is. The world is a big, cool, amazing, and wonderful place but it doesn’t matter because most of us don’t remember shit from that time. Looking back from my perspective, it’s like toddler me didn’t even exist.
Being a kid is an amazing thing from an adult’s perspective. When a kid bitches, adults occasionally say something like, “Why are you complaining? You’re life is simple! You don’t have bills, a job, etc.” This all boils down to one key difference between being a kid and being an adult: responsibilities. Kids don’t have shit to worry about. Their parents (or any other authority) take care of everything for them. Food, shelter, transportation, bills, and clothes are all provided by the adults. Kids don’t have to worry about anything. The worst thing a kid has to worry about is farting in class and getting laughed at. Their lives should be a huge pile of fun and games and should be a magical time and for the most part it is. So why do I think being a kid is shitty?
Kids don’t know what responsibilities feel like. They can’t appreciate their responsibility-free life because they don’t know how shitty responsibilities actually are. For this I’ll bust out some Taoist wisdom. They believe in “the way” and how shit just sort of “flows” for lack of a better word. A key idea is that things exist in pairs with their opposites; each is dependent upon the other to exist. You can’t have happiness without having some sadness to compare it to. If everyone was happy, no one would know it and it would be the new normal. There can’t be rich people without poor people, and there can’t be daylight without a night. This is how it is with responsibilities; kids haven’t had to live with any so have no idea how easy their lives actually are. It’s pretty sad really, and it’s why I never try to use this logic on kids if they complain. They don’t give a shit how many bills you pay or how much gas you spend driving them around because they don’t know how shitty it is doing those things day after day. That pretty much negates childhood being a great time. It was a meh time, because you didn’t know it was a really easy time until it was over.
Being a Teen Sucks
Being a teenager is probably the best actually. It isn’t the most amazing time period but it doesn’t suck too much. I guess it isn’t the holy grail of joy that everyone seems to think it is. I’d say the best part of being a teenager is you get the best of both worlds of being an adult and a kid; you sort of have some freedom but it isn’t hampered by the blatant amount of responsibilities you have as an adult. You’re free to do as you want, but not too free to actually be expected to care for yourself completely. It’s pretty nice.
The worst part about being a teen is the hormones. Everything is drama. Everything has an inflated about of importance. It’s nuts. Your crush in high school talks to you about something mundane and you flip the fuck out about it. “Holy shit, maybe they like me!” Or if you talk to them and they’re busy and have to leave, “OMG, why did they do that? Do they hate me?” It’s a rough time with that aspect. It’s like your emotions are ultra sensitive. With that, and looking forward to adulthood is very scary. If you flip out over some stupid shit at school how are you going to deal with adulthood? That shit is scary. What you don’t know is that when you are an adult you start to not give too much of a shit as you used to in high school. If your crush talks to you in adulthood you get slightly happy, but you don’t get your hopes up. You learn to shrug things off. This is missing when you’re a teenager, and that is why I’d never want to return to that stage of life. I like not feeling that everything is the end of the world.
As a teenager you also have the pending nightmare of adulthood coming up. You have to decide where to go to college, what career to have, among countless other things. I know I didn’t know anything at 17, so asking me to plan the next 40 years of my life was terrifying.
Adulthood is long enough that I split it into two parts: early and regular adulthood. Early adulthood is right after high school, or during or after college. It’s when you’re just figuring shit out. This part is nice because you’re an adult, you can do whatever the fuck you want! If you want to move to Canada and live in the woods, you can. Seriously, anything you want to do, you can do. It’s a freedom that you have never experienced before in life. The world is out there, and it’s full of opportunities, so what do you do?
No one actually told you how to properly be an adult. Suddenly you have bills, and insurance, and taxes, and…what the fuck is all of this shit? All your life you’ve been growing up to be an adult, a full grown human being, and suddenly you don’t know how the hell you’re supposed to do anything because no one taught you a damn thing. I used to think that we need a class in high school, called like “Life Basics” or something, where you learn how to open a bank account, shop for car insurance, do taxes, manage money, and how to tip properly. It would cover all of the awkward shit about adulthood that no one ever teaches you how to accomplish. It’d be a fun class. Anyways, that’s what killed early adulthood for me; I had no idea what I was doing. There was a ton of freedom to do nearly whatever I wanted, but I didn’t do shit because I was scared and had no clue how adulthood worked.
Normal adulthood is when you finally figure out how to make shit work. You’re now a professional adult: you’re a pro at time management, you don’t get too hungover anymore, and you’re a master at budgeting and paying bills. Maybe around this time you’ll also have kids and you’re a master of parenting. Whenever life shows you something new that you don’t know how to handle it, you deal with it anyways, because you’re a fucking pro at adulthood. You don’t whine to your parents to fix your problems because you have life on lockdown. You’re a master. During this time you theoretically also have all of the freedom that adulthood gives you. You can still do whatever you want. It should be a great time!
Remember those things called responsibilities that made childhood so amazing because there were none? Well, there are tons of them in this phase of life. You have freedom, and by this time you might even have some money to play around with, but you can’t actually act like you’re free because you have to work early in the morning. Any spontaneous trips to Disney World or the Bahamas are out of the question because you don’t have off work for the next week. And the kids don’t have off school either. Can you get shit-faced drunk and ride your bike around the city? Nope, unless you plan ahead and have a baby sitter ready for your kids. You have all the freedom in the world, but not really, because you have responsibilities now.
All of that is also considering that you have a decent paying job, and have saved money. Many adults have it a lot worse and don’t even have the remote possibility for a spontaneous vacation. Some people are living day-to-day and week-to-week with no way out. These people really have responsibilities and their lives as well as a handful of others depend on them for survival. That’s a ton of weight to have to carry, and that sort of stuff isn’t exactly fun. Adulthood is fun because you have freedom, but you have some serious responsibilities to worry about.
Being a Senior: Can I Die Yet?
Next up is retirement and being a senior. This stage has all of the perks of adulthood without all of the day to day responsibilities. The kids might be moved out, and you might have a cushy retirement fun, and everything could be peachy for you. It should be a fantastic time to be alive…
…Except for the whole “getting old” thing happening. I’m currently 30 years old and have already noticed my body isn’t as durable as it was earlier in my life. 30 is fairly young too. I dread to know what 60 or 70 will feel like. And the people in that age group I know seem to agree that it is hell. It doesn’t sound like a fun time to live through. Like, sure, you’re alive, but if you ache all the time and can barely walk up some stairs I doubt life will be as enjoyable as when you were younger. You really wont want to do a spontaneous trip to the Bahamas or go on a drunken bike ride. Once again, this is a best case scenario. You might still be supporting your kids, or grand-kids, or trying to fund their college. Or you could be dead by this time. Doesn’t that sound fun? So, as an older person, you have your adult freedom back but by this time you deteriorating body and health probably won’t feel like using that freedom you have. You’d much rather sit in your comfy chair, watch TV and be scammed by people.
So, yeah, life sort of sucks. Not really: life is wonderful and besides life there isn’t really much else to enjoy. Life is all we really have to work with when we’re alive. I guess it’s really the micro, day-to-day worldview of life that makes it shitty. Or maybe it takes a more positive outlook on life that I (obviously) haven’t developed yet. Whatever is the case, I don’t like to think other age groups hold more promise than my current adult age does. Has anyone ever heard of the “grass is greener” saying before? Life is life, some parts are good, but they also suck. I’m perfectly happy being an adult even though I can’t find time to really do a damn thing I’d like to do. I’m not an ignorant kid, or a moody-ass teenager, and I know how to adult pretty well compared to many others I know. I haven’t paid a bill late in three years! And my health hasn’t went to shit quite yet. So that’s good. Eh. Life doesn’t suck too bad.