Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Awkward and Confused

As we grow up, different bits start growing at different rates. The result can be... awkward. The little baby whose punches everyone loves becomes the toddler who they are scared of. The cute talk becomes incessant chatter. Then the stretching starts happening. I have been in Joburg, opening the Pandora's Memory Box by scanning childhood photos and sending a few back to my partner, Gemma, back in London. Quotable Quote she says... 'Shew (mocking my South African accent), your forehead really has always taken up a lot of space'. When I was a boy I had various nicknames for bits that were out of line. The forehead was a beacon for banter.

The same is true of our opinions on various things. As we grow up we discover some of the beautiful questions in the world. Our answers come as quick as our confidence. Confidence is valued. It seems like intelligence. Especially if you know marginally more than the person asking. The person who admits to the thick fog enveloping them can seem stupid. So our opinions are bold. Own the big teeth. Own the glasses. Own that head that should have its own weather system. But we stumble along when we realise our opinions were misguided. One of the beauties of childhood is that most people other than those immediately around you, don't remember who you 'used to be'. You can hold on to the bits you like and slowly nibble away at areas of ignorance.

I am always amazed at the love parents give kids even when they are little monsters. We are able to say, when energy allows, that whatever the bad behaviour is, that is not who they are. They are still growing up. Even if the teeth need a set of railway tracks to force them into line, with some work, we can choose who we want to be.

The prefontal cortex of the brain apparently matures at around age 25. Up till that point, there are quite literally bits of the foundation of our personality that we aren't physically in possession of. But all learning is the brain changing, and it can carry on changing throughout life. We can carry on seeing which bits are being stretched too far, which bits we need to reign in, which bits we need to grow into. I think the key is being surrounded by people who are willing to give you a little leeway to learn, being willing to self reflect, and willing to tweak.
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