The Art of Mirriam Neal

//the fear of childishness

I was an extremely solemn and somewhat solitary child. I had siblings to play with, but I lived inside my own mind and was just as content building cardboard stables and playing with plastic horses, or scribbling wild and terrible sea monsters, than I was playing with my siblings. Anything I endeavored, I undertook with a face the picture of seriousness, and I tackled hurdles with the ferocity of a pro wrestler. I had a sense of humor, and I could laugh – I simply kept most of it to myself. However, as I grew older, I realized something: not everyone could see inside my head.

They could only see the grave mask I wore and assume I had a terrible disposition and the world had done me an injustice.

My parents helped me overcome my shyness, and I learned to actually engage in conversation; but it wasn’t until my teens that I really began to show who I was.

If you know me at all, you probably know several things about me. You know I love to laugh, and I laugh constantly. You know I love to make other people laugh. You know that my sense of humor is mountainous and frequently less than appropriate, and you know that I enjoy having fun. I enjoy being lighthearted – in fact, I’d probably say I am lighthearted.

I enjoy joy.

However, where before people assumed I was the Grinch incarnate, now people assume I’m childish. But let me clarify: there is a difference between being childish (in the modern sense of the word) and being childlike. The act of being ‘childish’ involves petulance; being ‘childlike’ is a characteristic which, frankly, I think is underrated. Children view the world around them with wide eyes and wonder. They believe in things, they cling to faith they can’t explain, they love and hate with purity and innocence.

I’ve had this assumption quite a few times, and again, I was discussing this with my mom. She’s often said I’m her most difficult child to read – something which, over the last handful of years, I’ve worked on overcoming. I’m highly private and live very much inside the walls of my own head by nature, but nature isn’t always something that should be allowed to continue as-is. If I wanted people to know me, I realized, I had to let them see me, not their perception of me.

If I wanted my real self to be seen, I had to show it.

As I dug into myself, I realized there are misconceptions flung about what maturity is and what it isn’t. People may mistake my lightheartedness as a sign of immaturity, but that’s just what it is – a mistake.

Immaturity involves several things. It involves

• the refusal to see how one’s behavior affects others, or the refusal to care

• the refusal to care about the problems of others

• the refusal to see your own flaws and the refusal to correct them

In short, immaturity is selfish, blind, and stubborn.

It has nothing to do with how often you laugh, or how much you like a good joke. It has nothing to do with your ability to carry on a seemingly unimportant conversation for an hour, because you’re having such a good time with someone else.

Maturity involves being aware of others and of yourself, of seeing mistakes and attempting to correct them, of weighing things with reason, of studying things instead of blindly accepting them.

Being yourself isn’t easy. People will always carry misconceptions – although hopefully, those misconceptions will stop once people get to know you. I know this struggle very well, particularly on Facebook. Facebook is for my persona. It’s where I have fun and keep in touch with friends – if I’m going to have a serious conversation – philosophical, religious, or just life-centered, it isn’t going to be in public on my wall for everyone to see. It’s going to be in a private message, where we can discuss deeply without interference.

It’s not easy for a deeply private person to open up, and it’s something I’ll probably work on my whole life. Even now, I’ll mention how I feel about something on Facebook, or drop a bomb on my blog, and my mom will find me and ask why she didn’t know this. I don’t mean to leave people out. It isn’t a thought process, but all that means is that I need to make letting them in a thought process.

Maturity isn’t something that happens overnight, but I’m not trying to give you a step-by-step guide anyway. In fact, what I’m trying to say has already been said by someone far wiser than I.

‘When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.’ – C. S. Lewis

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email