There is this really great documentary entitled, “The UP Series” that I first was introduced in my Psychology/Sociology/Philosophy class in Grade 11 (because, Ministry of Education or whatever they call it in Canada, decided these were unimportant enough to be lumped together) which follows the lives of fourteen British children since 1964 when they were 7 years old. So far the documentary has had 8 episodes spanning over 49 years. Each episode airs 7 years apart. (Does this remind you of Boyhood? Because it’s very similar. However, true to European audiences, and true to American culture, one is patient and one is condensed for quicker viewing) The children chosen represent many different socio-economic backgrounds – the creators were attempting to show how socioeconomics affected the upbringing and personalities of each of the children’s. I’m a proponent of the idea that economics pretty much determines the majority of culture and subculture, but this shed some insight into other thoughts that I’m not often too preoccupied with.
Seven is an interesting number to pick. Neuroscientists and behavioural health specialists say that our basic personality is set by the first grade – about 7. Seven also has biblical connotations, it has moral connotations, and there is a myth (and I want to be explicit in stating that it is a myth in purely biological conditions… but perhaps not emotionally) that the cells in the body replace themselves every 7-years essentially creating a new person. One only needs to do a minor Google search to debunk that assumption, but it still proposes an interesting thought: do we change over time, and how does long and to what extent do our childhood conditions affect our adulthood?
This is a basic “nature versus nurture” thought that I’m proposing here, but interesting all of the time to me, nonetheless.
The nature versus nurture debate has to be about one of the oldest debates in psychology and basically questions which has the biggest impact on an individuals development: is our personality predisposed in our DNA? Or are we the sum of the parts around us in our physical surroundings, social constructs, etc?
Watching this, and it has been quite some time now, about ten years ago since I’ve seen an episode, the children’s lives wildly varied from one another. Some children who were, outwardly to authority, damned to be trouble makers all of their lives grew to lead very simple, quiet lives. And the ones who seemingly had the most promise lived through multiple divorces and failed relationships. My favorite character was speculated to be in prison by the time he was an adult, and by the time he was in his 40’s he had been seriously dating a woman for decades, never did actually marry, had moved and lived a life of working on his house, working with his hands, and truly didn’t speak that much about himself – a quiet man that just was…happy. He was speculated to do much, so he didn’t desire much. He didn’t assume a pressure upon him from others and was left free to choose whatever life he wanted, and it was a good life from someone looking in.
I think about this show quite often when thinking about the trajectory of life and in observing how the things I do stay congruent with the version of myself at 7 years old – as mentioned previous, seven is about the age where the basic personality is set.
You don’t really need to watch a documentary to know observe this – you just have to know someone most of your life – like a sibling or neighbour if you’re so lucky. The two people I have been fortunate enough to know, Kylie ( a neighbourhood friend I met at 5) and my Brother. When I see them, I see parts of them that will always be the same to me. The way they speak, or movements, or certain reactions. The strangest, absolutely strangest, part of knowing people that long is seeing how they adapt and change behaviours over time. How they learn to cover up strong emotions. If you know them well enough you see the maturity that has grown within. It swells you with both pride and fear. Proud that they have grown emotionally mature enough to be self-aware of their emotions and react well enough in the world to compose themselves, and fear because maybe the truth that was young, raw relationships won’t be like that again. Fear maybe because everything is filtered a bit more through some social norm we’re to abide casually by, without even seemingly being talked to about it. It just happens, people grow up. This is a good thing, but what parts of us die?
You watch yourself in situations almost from above yourself and catch the instinctual reaction and the logical response. You separate yourself from mind and brain, from the logic and emotion and appropriately react. It isn’t sad, it’s adapting, but it IS surreal.
My ideas about morality, even my interests, have developed and adapted throughout time, but when I think about it there are some things about who I have been that seem like they will always be there. Surely, you learn to cover up certain flaws better than others, or adapt to the world around you, but when tired, stressed, or relaxed the tendency to whistle or sing to myself in public during formal moments will still happen – saying that is a “flaw” is a bit absurd, but it is a personality trait not too revealing that I’m comfortable sharing.
In thinking about how I have lived my life, I know for certain that there are times that I have deviated way,way far away from the natural part of myself in preference to indulging what I’ve been nurtured into, and at times there have been moments I have noticed that I have allowed this natural part of myself to stand in the way of a very promising part of myself that nurture could have spared.
It’s nothing new that I, and so, so many of us seek balance. I want balance more than anything. I also very much want to understand everything. My interests hardly ever end. Often this has been a bless, but sometimes it’s a curse disguised as a blessing: I am hardly ever truly convinced that I’m living accordingly to how I am “meant” to be. It isn’t that I don’t feel I can’t – I feel it is a waiting game that requires putting time in and patience. (I suck at patience.)
I suspect, in some sense that is the plight of the millennial. I read articles upon articles that speculate what millennials truly want, why we are the worst, the best, the most idealist…….whatever you want to call it. Being a millennial, and a defiant person by nature, I will say this: fuck those articles. I am not some woman-child running around with a lot of debt and a new iphone and mac book and car from this decade. I don’t even know who those kids are! Where are they? The millennials I know have cracked phone screens from older generation androids (like I) drive cars that are from, like 2002, and Toshiba’s that make a weird noise when you move them like screws are loose. It isn’t that I can’t afford these things, like I can’t have the nice things, it’s that there is better use for my money and I am not going to have my parents bail me out of my woes anymore than they have already graciously done. I’m saving that conversation for truly rainy days. *JK*
I’ve rambled awhile now, I just mean to say that I’m late to the game – of balancing the ego and the id. Maybe I’m luck I haven’t felt rushed, in fact that is a hidden blessing of living in the midwest – we’re given time to observe ourselves more than other places. Time to speculate. Or perhaps we aren’t, and I’ve just demanded it. Who knows.
But I think of this as the big take away: don’t place a pressure upon yourself. More pressure to reach something by a certain time will create more opportunities to rush, to chase an idea that you’re unsure if you truly want or think you want. I want to live like the man who had no expectations of himself and was allowed to live as he pleased and seemed truly content with himself and his relationships in life.
In getting older I realize that has to be the most important thing in the world: Are YOU happy with your life on your terms?
I wanna be.