News from the Tennessee Valley Current

Stephanie Gilliam

Who wants to grow up?

I wish I could tap dance. I would love to tap dance down a long hallway or up and down steps, the way people do in black and white movies on the American Movie Channel. I also wish I could walk on my hands, speak French fluently and jump really high.

And I used to wish that I could be a grown-up.

When exactly is one considered a ďgrown-up?Ē When I was in elementary school and even middle school, becoming a grown-up seemed like something far away. When I was in college, my friends and I would ask each other what we wanted to do when we grew up. The phrase started to sound a little odd, mainly because most of us had always assumed that when we got to college we would be grown-up.

Being a grown-up isnít a definable goal or a point in your life. Sometimes, I wonder if itís even a desirable goal. Why do children always want to be grown-ups? And when do you ever turn into one?

Most children assume that adults possess special privileges and knowledge denied to people under a certain age. I always thought grown-ups must live glamorous lives, dressing in beautiful clothes every day, coming home from work to an evening of leisure, doing whatever they wanted and going wherever they wanted to go. None of the grown-ups whom I knew did those things, but they did in the movies and on television.

If being a grown-up did mean that you got to do some or all of those things, then I would claim to be one now. A lot of people seem to think that I already am one, mainly people between the ages of 3 and 16 who call me ďMiss Stephanie.Ē But becoming a grown-up means giving up as much as it does getting. You get a degree of independence and, if youíre lucky, respect. On the other hand, youíre expected to give up nearly all of your idealism and a good deal of your optimism.

One of the most wonderful things about being young, along with good knees and an amazingly retentive memory for useless trivia, is the honest belief that you can do anything and change the world for the better. By the time they become grown-ups, most people have lost that hope and have decided that itís good enough just to get by. University students who study philosophy and begin new chapters of Amnesty International turn into politicians whose goal is to funnel as much pork to their home districts as possible.

I donít want to be that. I donít want to live in a world of people who compromise their ideals and give up their dreams. Why would anybody want to be that? I donít guess that they do; they just slip into it unknowingly. They let go of visions of wonderfulness and settle into mediocrity.

Most children and grown-ups, for that matter, harbor dreams of greatness in some field. For some, dreams of success are lofty — president, astronaut, a Nobel-prize winning chemist. For others, success has a different meaning.

When my brother, David, was 7 years old, my great-aunt Kathy asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Iím sure she expected him to say a doctor or a judge. Aunt Kathy was appalled when David immediately, and quite proudly, told her that he wanted to be a professional wrestler like Hulk Hogan.

David had as good of an idea of what being a grown-up is all about as anybody else, even though he still isnít a professional wrestler.

Stephanie Gilliam, 24, is a Decatur resident who works at Hospice of the Valley.

Stephanie Gilliam Stephanie Gilliam

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