The moment your childhood ends
February 25, 2015
A few weeks ago in my short story class we were talking about a story where a boy sees his hero doing some pretty shady things and loses faith in him.
Our teacher mentioned the idea that there is a moment in everyone’s life when they realize that they are no longer a kid and that the world isn’t as bright and wonderful as they once thought. For the boy in the story, it was that moment.
His hero wasn’t who he thought he was, and because of that, maybe nothing was really what he thought it was. Walking back to my dorm room after class, I thought about what my moment was. What had happened in my life that was a definitive statement that my childhood was over? When I couldn’t think of a single moment in my life that ripped my childhood from me, I smiled at the idea that maybe my teacher had been wrong, that not everyone has those moments.
Then a few days later, I got a call from my dad saying that they had to put down our family dog, Halle. He told me that the night before she had fallen and lost the mobility of her back legs, and it was time. It was the middle of the week and since I didn’t have a car I couldn’t go home to say goodbye to the dog I had since I was five years old.
I thought about when I said goodbye to her at the end of J-term, and wondered if I would have said goodbye differently if I knew it was going to be the very last time. I wanted to cry and stay in my bed all day like a little kid, but I knew that for everyone else on campus it was just a normal day, and that meant that I had to act normal too. When I got back to my dorm later that night I knew that this was my moment. Having to act like an adult over my dog dying and not having my parents around to comfort me was the moment that my childhood was over.
That moment may happen to some sooner rather than later, but eventually it happens to everyone, whether they realize it or not. I'm lucky that my yellow lab lived to be 15 years old, and that I had gone my whole life without having to deal with the death of someone I love. That defining moment in my life was hard, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Some people have to face the harsh reality of their childhood ending too soon and because of much worse reasons.
No matter how hard we try to fight it, we all have that moment where our childhood starts to fade away and it’s time to grow up and become an adult. But it’s important to realize that just because we’re on a certain path doesn’t mean that we’re stuck on an assembly line of adulthood. We can still stop and smell the roses or catch butterflies on the way to the next stage of our lives.
As I’ve said, there is a moment in everybody’s lives where their childhood is over, but that doesn’t mean that we have to lose all of ourselves and who we used to be. When that moment happens we are sometimes broken down and forced to reconstruct ourselves. We may be forced to grow as a person into someone better, someone more independent and strong; maybe someone that our younger selves would have looked up to.
Natalie Howell is an alumna of UW-River Falls. She was editor of the <em>Student Voice</em> during the 2016-2017 academic year.