I used to think I had the worst childhood in the world. When I spoke about it I called it a “rough” or “bad” childhood. I spent a lot of my teens and early twenties hyper-focused on that notion that I perceived as fact. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing this for two main reasons. The first is that obviously I did not have the worst childhood in the world. The winner of worst childhood in the world is certainly not a contestant from the United States and I don’t think I place in the top 10% in America, in regards to “Roughest Childhood” (a really strange competition btw).
The second reason is I realized that focusing on one’s childhood and labeling it “terrible” is really a poison to happiness as an adult, an easy path towards bitterness and victim-hood. Pretending that moments in my early development no longer shape both negative and positive aspects about who I am today would bring about its own psychological issues. However, the reality is that in America my childhood was probably only a few standard deviations below the mean. And if you look globally, I’m certainly lucky to have never dealt with war, famine, drought and other tragedies that occur on a less-than-rare basis across the globe.
Thus, the way Phillip Morris is now Altria, I have rebranded my childhood. It was medium. It was a medium childhood.
While re-branding my past is a big part of happiness, another key is always looking on the bright side of things. As such I’ve listed my favorite things about the fact that childhood was the least favorite part of my life….
1. Being tougher than the “Happy Children”
Ok so yeah…there’s the private panic attacks and racing thoughts when triggers from those childhood moments occur. But nobody really sees those, and after you deal with that mess (healthily or unhealthily) you keep it moving. At work you’re tougher because of your childhood and everybody knows that you’re tough—they respect you. One co-worker is having a bad week and wonders if she’s depressed? Eye-roll, you wonder every day if your depression came back and you’re just in denial like your mom was. And there’s no reason that depression needs to stop you from hitting your numbers. Somebody starts crying at work?…and you can’t help but laugh…your tear ducts ran out of juice when you were 10. Somebody is embarrassed because they spilled coffee on their blazer? Your embarrassment sensor is broken from that shame of being you 20 years ago. Man your office is full of pu****s. You’ll never get fired if this is your competition.
2. An unburdening of obligations
This is one I realized relatively recently when I started observing functional families…so many obligations. They need to talk to each other politely, interact with each other while sober, and get together at regular intervals. Ugh, what an ass-ache. You don’t have to do anything during the holidays or live up to anyone’s expectations if you don’t want to. You don’t owe anybody sh*t. This is an underrated aspect of your jacked-up family…enjoy it.
3. Pride In Normalcy
You ever see that movie where the son is trying really hard to make his rich and successful dad love and respect him? It’s a popular story arc because it’s a common theme to many in the world. While it seems like a pain of the privileged, it’s painful nonetheless. You don’t have that. All you have to do is get a job, keep it, avoid crack and stay out of prison. Every day that I spend a 24 hour period without being a terrible crazy ass mess…winning.
4. Way less parenting pressure
This one may not fit you yet (or ever) if you haven’t taken the terrifying step of reproducing—possibly being responsible for someone else’s years of pain, anger, and resentment. But trust me, being a parent is WAY less stressful if you know that it’s possible to emerge from a medium childhood and still be OK. Because with parenting, you will inevitably feel like you’re doing it wrong. Having the expectation that you need to recreate some blissful pathway to maturity for your offspring can cause a lot of anxiety, and be downright crippling to some. With my medium childhood the bar is set pretty low, such that as long as I never steal money from my kids I feel like Atticus F***ing Finch. I LOVE being a dad, it’s really an delightfully awesome experience. Thank you emotional wounds!
5. How else would you want it?
If you have the choice between happy childhood and sad adulthood, or sad childhood and happy adulthood…which one are you gonna choose? Now I have met people who were raised in a positive nuclear family environment, undamaged, with means and education that are happy adults. It DOES happen. Some parents can be supportive and consistent without coddling and raise well adjusted people. But if social media has shown us anything, it is how annoying all these “formerly happy children” are as they become adults. Quarter-life crisis?…get out of here…you just got too many hugs as a kid—shut up. Spoiled children turn into spoiled adults, and there’s nothing more miserable than an adult that starts blaming the world when things don’t fall their way. And worse than the annoyance, is the self-absorbed unhappiness that is often the result. I spend most of my days happy…truly happy most of the time. Sometimes I get emotional as my heart is so full of appreciation for the joy that I have. And why am I so happy?
Because I know that I will never have to be 12 years old, ever again in my life. Sometimes I get so happy about that, I feel like I could cry…but I don’t. Because I’m way too tough.