The barrier between Childhood and Adulthood; Confronting Reality
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 13, 2015
By Aarya Pokhrel*
In a small province located in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal, a young prince grew up, pampered with the pleasures of wealth and comfort. He was secure in his own safe haven within the Palace walls, oblivious to anything beyond the threshold of his rich home. But at one point in his early years of youth, he was aroused by a sudden desire to explore the village over which he was to reign one day. As he roamed around the streets with child-like energy in his feet, he came across something that stopped him short; a cripple man, whose face was distorted with the wrinkles of age, his hair a grey wiry mess. He wore filthy rags that were stained in sweat and his eyes held an expression unfamiliar to the young Prince; a look of immense pain and suffering. The young Prince walk on, still unable to remove the image of the crippled man in his mind. Soon, he came across a funeral procession where men and women alike sobbed in unbearable sorrow. He could only observe in astonishment as for the first time he felt pain, real, genuine pain.
There are many things we are sheltered from as children, and growing up means being able to face them with a certain level of maturity. Concepts such as death, injustice and grief are the ones that children often find difficult to comprehend. At age 11, I learnt for the very first time that realities such as death are very much present in our world and at some point need to be recognized. It’s quite fascinating how a single experience can change and mature us in an irreversible way. Certain experiences can also make us see things from a completely different perspective, or even help us learn things about ourselves and the world that we were previously ignorant about. For me, this experience was losing my friend Shayna, who unfortunately passed away at the age of 12. The experience for me was tough, however it didn’t truly hit me until I witnessed the immense pain and sadness in her mother’s eyes- something that I truly will never forget. Funny enough, it was the passing away of one of my closest friends that opened my eyes to the true realities and harshness of the world we live in. That painful experience was tough, but it was a true turning point for me; as I realized that one day all of us will have to go, whether we like it or not. Today, four years later, Shayna’s legacy still continues to inspire me to take life to the fullest; it’s something she would be proud of me for.
As a child grows up into an adult, ignorance becomes their worst enemy, simply because they are unable to cope with the challenges that life is bound to throw at them. It is therefore not entirely beneficial for a child to never face realities. In my past experiences, I have come across several young children and individuals who have been given their way at all times and spoilt to the extent that they are unable to accept rejection, pain and dissatisfaction. This leaves them unprepared for any hardships that they have to face in the future. I recently read Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird in which the two main children Scout and Jem Finch develop and mature through the early exposure to the true hardships of life and human nature. The novel presents this as a good thing, as both the children become strong and tolerant characters after the realization of prejudice and discrimination in society. This novel teaches many things, but one thing I particularly took away was that the best way for a child to develop into an independent and mature adult, is for them to independently experience and fully understand true hardship in life. Cotton-balling your children will disrupt their emotional and cognitive development, which will prevent them from being able to face the issues that life may throw at them later on in life.
So despite the mental and emotional turmoil that facing reality or growing up often requires, it is a vital part of who we are. Growing up is also one of the most crucial and determining periods in a person’s life. It often shapes our perception of the world in a way that we often do not recognize. The experiences that move us from our childhood innocence to our adult-like maturity form the foundations of who we are. Although accepting reality can be extremely distressing, the influence that is has on a person’s mind is often irreversible and very necessary in building character. In fact, after studying the psychology and development of many of the world’s greatest leaders, philosophers and philanthropists, one can pick up that they all have undergone painful experiences which have motivated them to bring around change. Growing up and facing reality often inspires people to try and change the real world into what they remember of their childish fantasies, where everybody lives happily ever after.
As for the young prince; he was overwhelmed by the scenes of suffering around him and the protected walls of his castles tumbled down within his head, as reality hit him with great force. He had been exposed to the true hardship and realities of life. His mind was a confusing mess of painful images and a murky new vision of the world began to form. Yet one thing was crystal clear; he must give up his luxurious past and discover a greater meaning of life. And this was the beginning of the enlightenment, of the one whom we now know as the Buddha.