We Don’t Grow Up; We Just Grow Old

Treat Thompson



All The Hope And Fire by Erin Milez

As we’re led into adulthood we realize our child-like whimsicalness is out of place.

We get a seat at the grownup table but have to leave our innocence and wonder at the door. It’s a sad thought.

Thomas Wolfe captured that with the title of his novel “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

But Maya Angelou had the opposite perspective. To her, we don’t grow up, we just grow old.

We’ll always be the kids we think we used to be because that’s home.

Thomas Wolfe warned in the title of America’s great novel that “You Can’t Go Home Again.” I enjoyed the book but I never agreed with the title. I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of ones eyes and possibly in the gristle of the ear lobe.

Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors, are mysterious apparitions, who come, go, and do strange unfathomable things in and around the child, the region’s only enfranchised citizen.

Geography, as such, has little meaning to the child observer. If one grows up in the Southwest, the desert and open skies are natural. New York, with the elevators and subway rumble and millions of people, and Southeast Florida with its palm trees and sun and beaches are to the children of those regions the way the outer world is, has been, and will always be. Since the child cannot control that environment, she has to find her own place, a region where only she lives and no one else can enter.

I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.

Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter (2008)

Childhood isn’t a lie; adulthood isn’t the truth.