Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, many realise that a life without responsibilities is a once-in-a-lifetime privilege. While some people eagerly embrace grown-up independence, others attempt to cling onto their last moments of childhood. However, focusing on losses leads to bitterness and missed opportunities. Feeling sad about growing up is natural, but the best thing to do is appreciate the memories and move on.
Childhood is precious but it doesn’t last forever
Remember when you didn’t have to worry about real life? Back when boredom and icky vegetables were your biggest problems. Time felt limitless and the world was yours to discover.
Eventually, childhood wonder wears off and you’re forced to grow up. Summer breaks become resume padding opportunities. Close friends move on with their lives and become old friends. Hobbies are replaced by work that pay the bills. It’s sad to realise that you can never be as carefree as you once were.
Dread of missing childhood
Some people can instantly look beyond the end of childhood and see the adulthood adventure that awaits them. Other people need time to fully accept their fate.
For many including myself, it’s an inevitable change that causes heartbreak and depression. I can’t even count how many nights I spent crying myself to sleep, dreading whatever future awaits me. In my mind, tomorrow would never match up to yesterday. Existential crisis loomed like a dark cloud over me.
Living in the past: Chasing nostalgia
I’ve seen my peers fall into the same downwards spiral. Interestingly enough, many of my friends have tried to recreate childhood memories. I’ve seen people reinstall old computer games and reconnect with old hobbies.
I’m pretty guilty of this. In freshman year of university, I frequently visited Neopets in my spare time! Juvenile as it is, it was a desperate attempt to chase nostalgia. During these moments, you felt like a kid again. But eventually, reality kicks in and you have to put down the games.
Living in the future: Chasing financial independence and early retirement
I blamed the world for making me grow up. Society forced me to focus on my career, so I could earn money, just so I could live and work more. It was backwards and made me bitter. I wanted to get out of this trap. That’s when I discovered financial independence and early retirement.
I don’t hate my career, but I didn’t want to spend most of my life at work. The idea of financial independence was perfect to me. If I didn’t have to worry about money, I didn’t have to worry about work. I could do whatever I wanted, just like a kid.
I started dumping money into savings and investments. However, my expectations were too high. Retiring at 40 these days is considered super early, and I wanted my childhood back sooner.
Although the goal of financial independence stretched decades ahead, it gave me a purpose in life again. It was something to look forward to, a break in the loop. I was obsessed with the idea. I stopped living in my childhood, but I wasn’t living in the present either. I started living for my retirement.
It’s unhealthy as it sounds, I stopped eating out and partying in favor of putting those expenses into investments. I wasn’t happy and this was how I coped.
A couple months into extreme investing for retirement, I realised a number of things:
- I won’t have any noteworthy memories from today to look back on,
- early retirement isn’t the same as being a kid, and
- what hobbies am I even going to do when I retire?
Living in the present
Obsessing over early retirement at the tender age of 20 was insane, but it gave me something to look forward to. I felt excited about having enough money someday to work only when I want to.
My life doesn’t revolve around early retirement anymore. However, looking ahead helped me get my mind out of the past and developed appreciation for what I have in the present.
These days I’ve been just doing things that make me happy. I share my thoughts on this blog, I indulge in nostalgic video games occasionally, and I call up my old friends once in awhile.
Although my friends, family, and I have moved on from childhood, there’s no shame in reminiscing sweet memories. However, I needed to accept that the past cannot be recreated. By doing so, I was able to start creating new cherished memories today.