|my 30-and-something self, brainf***ed and addicted to almost anything|
during childhood we dream big and we know very well what we want to do of our life. someone desires to excel in sports, someone else wants to become a scientist, some other wants to be an explorer. as naïve as it may sound, these dreams represent very well our real and most intimate desires. then adolescence kicks in, our attitude changes, we get angry, confused and we make lots of mistakes and tend to screw things up. we kind of forget the dreams of our childhood and choose other ways of living. the changes in our behavior and the odd mix of feelings we experience in this phase of life are mostly caused by the high amount of hormones rushing in our bloodstream. if we are lucky, with early adulthood we get rid of the mess of adolescence, we fix mistakes we've made and we are ready for our real life. if we aren't that lucky, the way we have spent our adolescence remains somewhat stuck to the early stage of our adult life and fixing things becomes harder.
can we find something similar in the life of non-human primates? well, their lifestyle is so different from ours that it's hard to establish whether a baby gorilla has some form of projection or expectation of her/his future life, but surely from their childhood their behavior starts to differentiate a lot among potential future leaders and underlings. as humans, gorillas too grow up and reach maturity through a continuous process of trial and error. the education they receive from their parents and the older members of the clan plays a key role in correcting their behavior and preparing them for adult life. still, the difficulties a gorilla may face during childhood and adolescence are so different from the ones a young human faces that finding a correlation becomes quite hard: young gorillas won't be tempted to drink or to use drugs and will hardly display their manliness driving a sport car at full speed. they way familiar education works is extremely different too and the methods used among primates can't be applied successfully to our species: the reason hasn't to be found in the way our mind works (it does not differ very much from other primates), it depends mostly on the cultural and moral traits of our society. so in this case analyzing the behavior of our cousins gorillas does not help that much. we are on our own.
the goal of our adult life should be respecting (and, when possible), fulfill the desires of our childhood, forgive ourselves for the mistakes of our adolescence and be satisfied with our present. if we don't feel satisfied with our present situation, the first thing to do is to analyze carefully the way we have changed through the early stages of our life: have we respected the dreams of our childhood? if not, why? can we still become what we wanted to be during our childhood? when i was a full-time musician i never felt i lacked anything, but in the rare moments of sobriety my most recurrent feeling was that i should have left everything to become a ranger in central africa and kick poachers in the butts, or spend my nights bottle-feeding baby chimps. it took a lot of time and efforts to realize that i screwed everything up during adolescence and early adulthood. it took more time and efforts to find a way to become, at least partially, what i wanted to be as a child. and it's taking even more time and efforts to forgive myself for all the mistakes i did during adolescence and early adulthood. i'm not still there but i'm working on it.
i really want to inspire everyone to do the same. the good news is that, if the dream of our childhood wasn't to become a top-class football player or something similar, it's not too late. even if we are in our forties, fifties or later we can decide to start something new, to go back to university, to learn how to play an instrument or to pick up some sport. maybe we won't be able to leave our current job to start a totally new career, but still trying to fulfill the desires of our childhood will improve the quality of our life.
funny note: look at the picture in this page and the one in my bio page. almost 15 years later, i'm wearing the same style of sunglasses and leaning against the same wall.