The Age of Innocence
It’s fascinating how life alters your perceptions; how the endurance of aging can erode convictions of childhood, how dearly held truths lost their shine, embrittle and blow away in the uncaring winds of experience.
I used to believe I would never do things that I do now; I used to believe in things I would now heartily denounce. Sweepingly, this is referred to as growing up; maturation; the loss of innocence.
However, I believe innocence is not what I have lost but what I have acquired. When once I considered myself ‘too cool’ to act in a certain way, I now consider myself insufficiently ‘cool’ not to be myself. There is definitely an adult rejection of ‘coolness’ for its own sake; as we grow old, the fads of youth appear laughable, the proponents of its culture credulous and the proprietors of its wares as cynical opportunists.
There is a warm comfort in declaring myself ‘uncool.’ Whereas once such a phrase would have forced me into self-inflicted isolation, it now affords me contentment in my chosen existence. Teenage years are, to me, temporary yet ugly cysts on the sphere of life. Teenagers are susceptible to influence from every source except that which understands and cares for them the most. Teens are unhappy, narcissistic, paranoid and, crucially, pathologically insecure. A recent examination of my teenage wardrobe illustrated to me how unrecognisable a person I was in that seven year period that some people, bizarrely, recall as the zenith of their life.
Every external influence was there: clothing with insignia, brand names crudely emblazoned on sweatshirts; incongruous trends bought whimsically in the company of an approving female. Every external influence that is, except two of the greatest significance; the influence of a mother who studied textile design, produced her own patterns and directed her own shows whilst at fashion college and the influence of a father whose formidable collection of suits and shirts clearly directed, genetically, my late disposition for acquisition and variety of ensemble.
My own teenage collection paid homage to an idol I no longer recognised. Initially, I was disappointed in my own inconstancy; to have built on such sand at one time surely means I am capable of doing so again. Such questions are not trivial. I think the ultimate happiness of continual self-improvement can only be achieved when we are true to our own selves.
However, I was happy to recognise earlier scribbling from my pre-teen years that was more recognisable; tales of top hats, bow ties and even the wide-eyed imaginings of a tailor’s shop. It made me realise that we are not always ourselves, indeed there are long periods of estrangement, but that our true characters always lurk beneath the superficiality of other’s influence.