Neil Gaiman has been a favorite for quite some time. I was so excited for The Ocean at the End of the Lane to come out that I read it in one sitting. The fairy tale story line and adorable characters sucked me right in. But this line? This line made me smile in that “you caught me” kind of way. It’s certainly one of his best.
“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” – Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The first time I read this it actually choked me up a bit. It comes in a conversation between the two young stars of the story, and when I read it, it was like Gaiman had exposed our little secret to the world. Because we do try to keep it a secret. I’m a grown-up. I’m an adult. I’ve got it all under control now! But inside, in little places, we’re still the same being we were at 5. At 9. At 13. And that makes us all still a little bit shaky on this whole idea of being a grown-up. We just aren’t jumping up to admit it.
We’re so unsure about whether or not we’d classify ourselves as grown-ups at the right time that we’ve assigned adulthood a set age. Somehow, and maybe unwisely, the age of adulthood ends with the word “teen”. Not sure who thought that one up. Honestly, I don’t know. I could Google, but I’ll just put it out there – was this decided when adulthood had to be 18 because dead was usually 40? Would we get a better grasp on the whole adulting thing if we waited until there was another zero on our age, and we were out of our crazy, awkward teen years? We’ll never know now thanks to someone’s bright idea.
It was a big deal to read this line and figure out it really isn’t just me. Hell, The Great Neil Gaiman himself might even fall into the category of people officially aged to adult that spend a whole lot of time just faking it. And boy are there days that I fake it! But we all do, right? You go through your days, you hold together your relationships, you work and pay bills. You get involved, you stand up, you parent and you referee. You find grown-up hobbies and develop grown-up tastes, and you go back to having a bed time. And you tell 13 year old you that you can’t stick your tongue out at people when they bug you. But you tell 9 year old you that it is still OK to carry rocks in your pockets, because you’re a grown-up and you say so…