I don’t think I will ever grow up. It’s a nasty business, growing up, if you ask me, at least the kind of “growing up” society wants you to partake in. I don’t mind having to work during particular and set hours, as it provides a sense of order to life—that’s a nice aspect of growing up, even though most don’t seem too fond of it—provided one choose one’s work wisely. And I don’t mind having to do grown-up tasks, like visiting the Post Office, or cleaning or cooking, or having to tidy up oneself without being asked, and banks, I have found, can be grand and fascinating places. Every time I visit a bank, I find myself very amused—look! All these numbers, on these little screens and computers, all of it make-believe, like the way I used to buy things from my doll’s shop with pebbles, and everyone swallows it down and believes it to be as true as the ground and the sun and the sky! Yes, banks are very entertaining, I find. All those parts of being grown-up are quite tolerable. What I don’t like about being a grown-up is the requirement to become very proper, civilized, unimaginative and boring.
Not everyone turns out like that. Lots of grown-ups—mainly those who work in creative professions—remain child-like in their view of the world. After all, they do spend most of their working lives playing. But the majority of people, when they grow up, trade in their wonder, creativity and imagination for a job spent answering telephones and pushing papers about and signing things and entering numbers into computers. Now, I’ll tell you this: a child would find doing things like entering numbers into an Excel spreadsheet, or answering the telephone for a hotel, very entertaining—for the first two days or so. No child on the planet would be compelled, however, to engage in such tasks for up to forty hours a week, for years on end, not unless they were forcefully coerced. Why? Because such jobs and tasks are boring! And a lot of them, if you look at them closely, with a very keen and beady eye, are completely useless, too.
Receptions are needed might look very necessary, being as how they are needed to filter in calls for the institutions they work for, but I’ve found a lot of the time the very institutions they work for are not necessary, companies that manufacture unnecessary material goods which they then sell to people who don’t actually need the products, but simply want them because they believe buying things will make them happy. And of course receptions are needed for places like hospitals and suchlike; but if you were to do a bit of asking around you’d find that technology has reached the stage where it is perfectly feasible for there to be electronic, robotic and automatic receptionists to be instated in every institution around the world, only it hasn’t been done because someone somewhere has decided the population needs to be kept busy, and so many very boring jobs which could very well be automated are still done by people.
Another thing that is not so lovely about growing up is that if you have managed to remain a child at heart, then you will tend to find those who’ve already sold their souls to society and become boring, capitalist robots to be very draining to be around. There’s nothing in their eyes. If you look a child in the eye, you’ll always find something there, some brightness, some avidity or curiosity, some spark of playfulness and joy, that signals their soul is still intact, still fresh and beating. But if you look inside the eyes of a lot of these grown-ups who sit behind these desks all over the world, there’s nothing very much there, and to peer into them is to feel oneself standing on a barren wasteland, with a cold wind blowing in your face. And the more of these people you encounter, the more deeply alone you tend to feel—the way, I suppose, a living child walking amongst lifeless, dangling puppets might.
When you are a grown up, it suddenly becomes not proper to stop in your tracks and inspect a caterpillar as it inches across its leaf while spouting exclamations of delight. It is not proper to be curious about anything that isn’t related to your job, your studying, or your family. Children get excited and curious about everything. Questions whiz from their mouths like fireballs, and their eyes are always open wide, looking around, their lips curving into smiles, their whole selves opening up like flowers to the world swarming and shifting around them. The difference between an adult who has remained a child, and an adult who has slotted him or herself into the pigeonholes of society is that one has retained a sense of wonder regarding the world, a kind of delight regarding everything from the moon to butterflies, while the other probably doesn’t even remember the last they time they properly looked at the moon, and, if pressed to do so, would remark, “It’s just the moon,” and if a butterfly were to accidentally fly through the window into their house, try and whack it with a book, or shoo it back outside, rather than gaze upon its delicate beauty with reverence and awe.
Nuh-uh. You’re not turning me into one of those people. Over my dead body, I say. I’ll go on skipping through the leaves, and watching the pigeons, and being curious about everything from raisins to goggles, and let the “grown-ups” live their lives standing up to their knees in boring muck. Now, if you’ll excuse me—I have an imaginary friend to get back to.