How to Grow Up

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Early Childhood

Little kids are pure id; it’s all impulse. You ask them if they want another scoop of ice cream, and they’re thinking: “Do I want another scoop?! Are you nuts or just an idiot? Of course I want more ice cream. We should eat nothing but ice cream. This is what I’ve been telling you since the beginning of the universe!”. To prevent the species from getting stuck here, the Superego gets outsourced for the first few years. Mom and Dad make and enforce the rules. The kids don’t worry about right and wrong, they just worry about more, better, funner, sleepy. Mom and Dad have to keep an eye on right and wrong.


Somewhere along the way, t(w)eens grow an Ego. The Ego is the Id’s lawyer, and it provides reasons for the Id’s impulses. As a wise man once told me, “A good lawyer doesn’t tell you what you can and can’t do. A good lawyer tells you how to do what you want to do legally.” Ego is a damn good lawyer. Ask a twelve/thirteen year-old if she wants another scoop of ice cream, and she’s thinking, “Don’t condescend me. I’m quite old enough to decide for myself if I want another ice cream, thank you. I might even have some more spinach! Yes, spinach, for I can decide for myself! But today I’ll take a small scoop of pistachio and three large scoops of double-fudge raspberry, and don’t you dare deny me!” What fun.

For the parents, who are still in Superego mode, this is hell. The ice cream monster has a lawyer, and the two of them have teamed up and are really into speculative, malicious, and frivolous litigation. By all means, buy the convertible if it helps, but don’t touch the college fund. The benefit of the process is that, as a side effect of this lengthy series of civil suits, the kids develop their own Superegos. It’s a mastery-slavey kinda deal. In trying to conquer the Superego that they’ve been living under their entire lives, kids learn how these things work. What is right and what is wrong anyway? Oh, so that’s why they didn’t want me hanging around the kid who’s landed in juvie for armed robbery.


This is just the culmination of the process, when you’ve developed your own Superego, you can decide for yourself between right and wrong. How do you know when you get there? Here are two indicators:

1) Your parents will be able to rag on you, and it won’t bother you. Wrath will not be your first impulse, and it probably won’t come at all, because you’ll realize they have done and are doing their best. Who could ask for more? Unless you were a crack baby or the victim of some hard-core abuse, you probably need to get over yourself.
2) You’ll drop the habits you picked up in your t(w)eens with hardly any effort. You’ll quit smoking without missing it and starting again, you won’t need to go partying twice a week, always on the lookout for someone to tell you you’re special. You might have a toke when it’s being passed around, but you won’t be toking … alone … on a Monday evening.

The wrath and antagonism is gone. The parents’ loss is no longer the kids gain, and vice versa. If you ask your adult son if he wants some ice cream, he’ll tell you “Mom, you know I’m vegan, but I’ve brought some fruit salad. Why don’t you have some with your ice cream? It’s chock full of cherries, and I even pitted them for you. You’ll love it. Dad, it’s probably better for your diabetes anyway. Try some.” He’ll be independent, and you should be proud.

It’ll feel like this, and it’ll be slightly bitter, but oh so sweet.

Why everyone is so frustrated, and nothing seems to be working

So you’re 27 and living on your own, but Mom and Dad still help you with the rent, because what you make between freelance copywriting and waiting tables isn’t enough for rent and your IPhone contract and meeting your friends, like, one night a week at the gastropub, which is, like, your only fun anyway (and the weed and the smokes, but those are off balance-sheet, aren’t they?).

So Mom, Dad, and your older brother come to visit. Your Dad says you’ll never get a real job with that haircut, your Mom tells you you’ll never find a boyfriend with such a messy apartment if you’re even still into boys, and your older Brother tells you he can get you a job copyediting press releases for the big oil company he works for. You know they all mean well, but it’s still driving you crazy. Why can’t they just leave you alone?!

But you know the answer. When your Dad used to tell you, “As long as you live under my roof, you’ll live by my rules!”, it made you angry, and that was fine. You were a kid. What? Are you gonna build or buy your own roof? At age eleven? It was unfair, but you were stuck. Why are you still hearing this? Why is he still setting the rules? You know the answer. Where’s your roof? Life’s a bee-ahtch, ain’t it? If you give up everything you have, your safety net, what keeps you from hitting bottom, you might find out there’s nothing left: no substance, no weight. Instead of hitting the ground, you float away, because there might not be a you under it after all.

This can play out in one of three ways:

1) More of the same. You and them continue the passive aggressive trench warfare until you move back home and lose it.
2) You find a bigger dealer with a stronger drug than the Mexican brick you’ve been smoking. Your parents will continue to support you, criticizing you every step of the way until they cut you off. You either hit rock bottom and get clean, or you lose your teeth and live under whatever roof you can, if any. Here are some dealers: ,’s_Republic_of_China , ,
Here are their wares: , ,
Pick your poison
3) You cut them off. You cut the cord. Your life might not be everything you imagined, but it’ll be yours. You won’t get everything you want, but everything you have will be yours. It’s not like you have to stop interacting with them, at least not permanently. Just stand on your own two feet. They’ll recognize it and be proud, or they’ll want to hammer the nail back down, which won’t bother you.
Pro tip: the girls will find you more attractive.
Unfortunate converse Pro tip: many of the boys might mistake you for the manic pixie dream girl or the girl who’s finally come to save him and make him what he was always meant to be.

As the lady says, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

So what have you got left to lose? The bad news: I reckon everybody reaches that point of having nothing left to lose. That’s rock bottom. The good news: everybody gets to decide how far they’re gonna fall and what to do when they get there.

Lotsa luck. 

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12 Responses to How to Grow Up

  1. Guy Fox says:

    Sorry the last four links are broken. No idea what happened. Here they are, for whoever’s interested:

    -manic pixie:
    -dream girl:
    -the girl who’s… :
    -As the lady says:

    • Guy Fox says:

      Oh, none of the links work, but on the others you can at least see the URLs by right clicking/hovering. Sorry ’bout that.

  2. ButterflyMcDoom says:

    Thank you for posting this.

  3. somethingtohidebehind says:

    Yeah. Fucking option 3. I always wonder if this was as much of an issue years ago with immigrant families all living in the same house.

    • DGS says:

      It is. Parents want the kid to “make it in X” hence they are funneled into something sooner and are given less freedom.

      I am doing option 3 right now – it sucks.. real word sucks, I understand alcoholism and prozac now.. and getting women is a lot easier now too.

  4. JohnJ says:

    “To prevent the species from getting stuck here, the Superego gets outsourced for the first few years.”

    I think you’re getting cause and effect mixed up here.

  5. Alex-5 says:

    Very good. Thank you.

    But still it’s oversimplified. Real-life situations have +100 additional factors on them and the Ego-lawyer loves them. Yes you need to cut the cord but the moment you do it the ‘life’ will hit you with all it’s got. And it won’t wait for your responce, tommorow it will hit with all it’s got again. “Life’s a bee-ahtch”. The easiest way is as Alone points out to create the identity that suits it. My personal way was to decide that I love ‘impossibe’ tasks. “You say it’s impossible? Get away! I want to take a shot at it!” And the shame prevents you from giving up. To train myself at not-giving-up I started taking part in sport competitions – fighting against the best helps to understand what level of effort it costs to win.

    Two links in:
    – nothing is simple.
    “Wind, Sand and Stars” by Antoine de Saint Exupery – (will post a link later) The best motivational book I ever read. Inspires you to be human.

  6. DGS says:

    Also one thing that is very noticeable between “adolescence fog” and reality is that the latter accounts for other people, hence making the world a lot less complicated. For example – you realize there is competition in business, there is a limited number of the particular demographic, and there are people fighting for it.

    Those who don’t get this will say things such as “I just have to make X website, and then money will pour in”

    oh really? Have you heard about SEO? Without traffic you have nothing.. with great material you have months of very little traffic before floodgates open.

    Or “just expand your business, you can make millions if you do it in every big city” – Really, you think the business owner hasn’t thought about exactly what he is trying to do in the game EVERY DAY EVERY MOMENT?

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