Yesterday, as I was walking along the beach in Saint Malo in the north of France, the group I was part of stumbled upon two particular sights that are known as the “Big Bay and Small Bay” (Grand Bé et Petit Bé in French). As we went towards the Big Bay – since the Small one was surrounded by the high tide water – we noticed that it was not as big or imposing as one would expect given the history of the town of Saint Malo and its nickname as the “Town of privateers”. The name given to it was more connected to its relative size to the Small Bay next to it. As we often tell ourselves in similar situations, it is all about perspective.
Something that can seem huge and magnificent in our eyes might turn out to be viewed as average and insignificant in the eyes of someone else. Our perspectives are shaped according to our backgrounds, our experiences, as well as our philosophies and the way we approach life as a whole. An example is when we hear that a car was driving at very high speed on the highway. When you hear that claim, what speed would you clock the car in question at? Would it be 100 km/h (60 mph)? Or is it closer to 160 km/h (99mph)? For others, especially those who usually drive on the German Autobahn, it would not be surprising that they would clock the car at 280 km/h (174 mph). Such difference in quantification of general terms is quite normal and can be applied to several other things as well, where subjectivity plays an even greater role, leaving very little room for any form of rationale to intervene.
This reflexion reminded me of a particular quote picture I once saw on Facebook a long time ago. Its accuracy and even cruelness at certain points forced me to always have it on my phone, despite the fact I changed devices a couple of times during that period up until today.
“Soda becomes vodka. Bikes become cars. Kisses turn into sex. Remember when Dad’s shoulders were the highest place on Earth and Mum was your hero? Race issues were about who ran the fastest. War was only a card game. The most pain you felt was when you skinned your knees and goodbyes only meant until tomorrow.
And we could not wait to grow up.”
There is a trap in growing up. A trap everyone falls in at least once in their lives. What is even more interesting about this trap is that few are those who managed to free themselves from the net they fell in. The trap starts as soon we leave our comfort zones and we are face to face with the world. Not the world we are used to seeing in cartoons and reading about in comics and fairy tales. We tend to think that bad and evil people are the exception in our society, not the norm. We are always taught that good guys win and are always rewarded with fame and glory because they “did the right thing”.
In several cases, we do not need to refer to movies and comic books in order to build these ideas about life and the way to success in the world. We are taught the same at home, at school, at church, mosque. There is nothing wrong with learning values and principles from these sources. The problem starts when children are not taught to think by themselves, to question things, to view things from a different angle. This causes kids to stay trapped inside their own bubble. A bubble that suddenly bursts, giving way for everything ugly and cold that we see every day in this world to attack us on all sides at once.
When faced with all these simultaneous sudden attacks, we tend to have two particular reactions towards that change of circumstances. One reaction is to deny it all: we try to stay in the world we used to live in. The one where we did not say “Goodbye. I’ll see you later.” to someone at 5 in the afternoon and then be told at 9 in the evening that later will never come. The world where PTSD from events like the one I just described or toxic relationships do not exist. The world where people would compliment us and we would accept it with all the joy in the world because everyone had pure intentions and kindness in them.
I will not elaborate the second reaction in this article in order to keep it all at reasonable reading length. However, I can say that both results lead to strong mental illnesses: depression, anxiety, anorexia, suicidal thoughts and so many more. For the simple fact that the human mind often struggles to adapt to change, let alone when it is faced with change on its own. The mind fails to recognize what is real and what is an illusion. What is right and what is wrong. What is normal and what is crazy.
“Growing up is losing some illusions in order to acquire others.”
– Virginia Woolf
There is one final aspect that needs to be remembered whenever we describe the world we live in as cold and cruel. It is not as cold and cruel as we claim it to be. If it were, children would not have had this innocence of things, this hope in humanity and this willingness to get back up and work harder for a better world. The reason why some children keep this vision of the world when they grow up is because they were surrounded by adults who shared their vision. Adults who decided to keep on pushing and never give up. Adults who decided to lead by example. Adults who refused to forego their Freedom Child. They had the courage to change, to adapt and still keep that fire inside of them. They understood that the battle for a better world goes beyond just them. It takes a team effort to happen. Adults who are willing to go through everything if it means that they can offer younger people a better chance at improving this world.
If you tell me that the adults that I just described do not exist, then I can confirm that you have never met my parents.
You have never heard their stories.
In my books, no one could ever come near to wear the title of soldiers the way they do every day.