Giving Up a Normal Childhood

Kids should be kids. Kids should play and be kids. Teens should be teens. Teens should hang out and be teens. Adults should be adults. Adults should work and be adults. 

Or should they?

That’s how most people behave and go through life. We are not being us but behaving according to societal expectations and norms. We are what society expects us to be at that age.

I refuse to believe this. 

I was already a kid and I had an interesting childhood. And I can’t tell you much about adulthood because, well, I’m not there yet. In this essay, I will focus on the teenage years and why some teens should not chill out and just be a teenager.

When you are a teenager, you go to high school and study to get ready for college. If you’re mildly ambitious, you play sports. If you’re somewhat ambitious, you enroll in extracurricular activities in school. If you’re ambitious, you’d play sports and take part in extracurricular activities. 

If you’re crazy ambitious, you do all the above and go beyond like starting companies, nonprofits, public speaking, etc. You are on a different wavelength of life. Somehow, certain kids break out of the normal way of being and think differently

In a North Star Podcast interview, the economist Tyler Cowen is asked why there aren’t more Tyler Cowens in the world. He says:

You have to ask at some point, what are the returns both to starting early and to continuing fairly late in life? So starting early, you give up a normal childhood. I would say all for the better. Awesome. Bring it on. Let's double down on that one. But most people don't want to do that, or it just doesn't occur to them. They might in fact do it if they saw more role models.

I also gave up a “normal childhood.” I didn’t think about the returns or anything like that, I thought about what makes me happy, what makes me curious, and what makes me me. 

“But those crazy ambitious kids are dumb. They should just go out with friends, go to parties, make silly mistakes, and be a freaking teenager.” Hell yeah! Again, why bother?

If you have goals, there’s no need to pursue them. If you have passions, pursue them later. If you have curiosities, bro I don’t even know what those are. 

You’ll have time…

Adults tell you you should be a teen and enjoy these years. And don’t even worry about doing something too hard or complicated. After all, “you should be a teenager.” 

If you don’t, these adults tell you that you will regret it. So what? Just be and do what you’re supposed to do, watch TV, use your phone, and follow the path of everyone else mindlessly. By the way, don’t forget to be happy [1].

But who are these adults? They are adults who aren't enjoying adulthood. They look back to when they were kids with no responsibilities. What if we checked with adults who love adulthood? You’ll get a different story. 

You have the same experiences that everyone has at the expense of extraordinary experiences you can create for yourself such as creating a project, starting a company, building your own video game, and sharing your gifts with the world. 

Hold up. What are you talking about? “You should be a teenager, don’t do any of that. That’s not cool. If you don’t try too hard and enjoy your childhood, you’ll be happy.” Right, right. Thanks for your advice. 

However, there are a few teens out there who think differently and imagine a world of opportunities where age, credentials, or money isn’t a limiting factor, but an advantage. The crazy ambitious kids are the ones who rule the world. The crazy ambitious kids are the ones who make things happen. The crazy ambitious kids are the ones who you look up to. 

Perhaps I made the wrong choice and I should’ve been a normal kid. But I couldn’t be that. I simply couldn’t. 

This isn’t about me or anyone else. This is about you. Ask yourself, What are your goals? Who would you like to become? 

Go do that. 




[1] Right, be happy! As if people can just flip a switch and be happy. Happiness cannot be pursued, it ensues. More on this here, read the story of Jermaine.

Thanks to Bardia, Ayomide, Shamay for reading drafts of this essay.

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Tags: personalphilosophy