TED Conversations

Valerie Esmeralda

intern, Jakarta Globe

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Is growing up (mentally) too fast a good thing or a bad thing?

Just a quick background: I'm 16 years old, I have an elder sister and we're 10 years apart. I spend a lot of (or probably too much) time hanging out with much older people (mentors, older siblings, etc), and I enjoy being around them. And somehow, I enjoy it when they share their issues to me. (Work, money, etc)
I didn't realize about this, until I tried to talk to a friend of the same age about an issue I'm concerned about, and the only thing she said was, "Really? You worry about those kinds of stuff?"
Day by day, the more I realize that I don't enjoy hanging out with friends of the same age group that much. My friends are all wondering how come I know a lot about the current issues, especially politics, and I told them I watch a lot of news on TV and read the paper, and they said, "Really? You can stand that?"
An older friend told me that I really should keep hanging out with friends of the same age group as well, just to "keep me in the ballpark".

I like being a few pages ahead of my friends, but do you think it's a good thing or a bad thing? I appreciate your opinions. Thanks a lot!

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    Jul 18 2013: I think, understanding "adult issues" can make your life a lot easier. It helps immensely to see motivations and reasons for other people's words, actions, and requirements. Teenagers often perceive adults from their "fishbowl". They don't understand why adults make them do this and that, why adults are upset by their attitude, what is expected from them and why. When you understand other people, it's easier to find things in common with them and give them what they want. This skill, by the way, is, usually, well paid for.

    Many people carry their teenage angry and defiant attitudes into the adulthood and they don't understand why "the whole world is against them" - why their boss is such a jerk, why they don't get a job offer after an interview. It often is a result of lack of understanding of other people's issues and problems.

    It took me a while to "get it". Even after 10 years into my career, I, sometimes, was upset with decisions made by the management of the company I work for. I manage quality. So, sometimes, there was a feeling of frustration about aggressive schedules for new products which did not allow for proper development, testing, and debug which resulted in quality issues, customer returns, etc. Many people in the company were upset because their requests for new test equipment were turned down, people were laid off in the midst of aggressive new product development. etc.

    But then, I learned to "put myself in their shoes" and my perception and attitude changed. Life became a lot easier at work. It's important to understand how those executive decisions are made, why policies exist, etc. When there is a request from your boss, if you understand the purpose behind the request, it empowers you to give back what is needed without asking unnecessary questions.

    If you understand that when you start your career, your career will be very successful
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      Jul 18 2013: Arkady,
      Reading your comment reminds me of one of my favorite life philosophies, which I think about often...

      "Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference".

      I say it to myself, because I do not believe anyone can give us the gifts of serenity, acceptance, courage, or wisdom to know the difference. We need to find that for ourselves, in ourselves.

      Seems like you have discovered it with your ability to put yourself in their shoes (compassion), which caused a change in perception and attitude. Well done my friend:>)
      • Jul 19 2013: I also love this quote:

        “You can't change other people. You can only change yourself. Everyone's got problems. You learn from them, you live with them, you move on. It's choice you make if you want to have a happy life. Nobody's perfect. People are different and that's what makes them so interesting. You only get one father. The quicker you accept him for who he is, the better your life will be. Your father is who he is. Nobody can change that. Find your self esteem from the inside.”

        :)
    • Jul 19 2013: Yep, I'm always trying to put myself in other people's shoes. It's very hard to do, but I know that by doing it often, I'll be good at it, and it will all pay off :)
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      Jul 21 2013: Arkady, I have to ask, did you put yourself in the shoes of the people that were laid off or only the executives? Lay off, sounds like a good decision for selfish reasons.

      If I understand correctly, there is only so much someone can change? We should believe there are somethings we can not change? Sorry, sounds fatal. :) It sounds like we should let fate/hope decide rather than suffer to make change of anything for the better. Or maybe it's jsut a measurement of self courage up for your interpretation?

      People can change people. Look into history. Some were for the better and some for the horrific worst. Galileo! It takes time, only a matter of time. On an individual basis, no one is exactly like the other and if they are one of them is faking it. Accepting the differences and compromising is what matters the most. Find out how two people can benefit in two different ways.
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        Jul 21 2013: I am in the shoes of the people who are being laid off. When you are a CEO of a company, you are NOT the owner. If it's a large public company, the owners are shareholders - venture capitalists and investors of all kinds. CEO reports to the board of directors. CEO can lose his job as everyone else. Laying off people is rarely a selfish decision made because an executive is greedy. Very often, the people are much needed, but if the company does not make enough money, you need to cut costs. It sucks for all sides involved.

        People can change people - yes. But, usually, it's through personal example, not through advice, nagging, or complaining, with deliberate purpose of changing someone.
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        Jul 22 2013: This is going into the "us" vs. "them" direction. My point is that understanding the point of view of senior people - be it parents or your boss is beneficial. I'm not discussing who is right or wrong.

        When times were tough at the company where I work, the company laid off 10% people AND all executives took a 25% pay cut. So, I do know, at least, one.
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          Jul 23 2013: Na, it's pointing out the "us" vs. "us" direction "we" go farther and farther into. And feelings hardly ever win.

          "not through advice, nagging, or complaining"

          Nope, through empathy. It's always always about the best for "the company" rather than best for "the people". It's best for the company to lay off. It's best for the people to work less without change in pay and everyone benefits from the technology aid or advancement. Everyone has more time with family or whatever. They ALL worked hard as a TEAM. Would a soccer game be any good if the only player on the team that scored a point benefit from that point? Why in the hell does it happen in the workforce? Because there is no more "team" (don't know if ever was). Same as pay cuts, everyone shares the hardships, just the opposite direction. Who or what is the company, really? The people!
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    Jul 11 2013: Valerie, You actions are common to "only" children. They "share" their parents life. They watch news, read papers, books, etc ... because that is what they all do together. When company comes they are included.

    In the last few years we have experienced "latch key" kids who are given money, games and a TV as a baby sitter. However, what you explained would lead me to believe you were included in your parents life.

    What is to fast for one may not be for another. My opinion is that what is important is to adjust and grow socially as well.

    I wish you well. Bob.
    • Jul 18 2013: Hi Robert/Bob

      Thank you for your response, and thanks for making me realize that actually by watching news and reading papers because my parents do so, it means that I am included in my parents' lives.

      I am very grateful that my mom is not the type of mom who gives me gadgets and all those cool stuffs as a "shut-up device", because a lot of my friends' parents do that.

      I wish you well too,
      Valerie
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    Jul 11 2013: Ideal is probably to spend time with people of a variety of ages rather than only older people or only people your age. The diversity of points of view and life experiences typically has a great deal to offer.

    You may be able with a bit of effort to find young people your age who actually do share your interests. Young people who feel very different from their peers are often not as different as they think. For example, politics and current events are quite common interests among people your age where I live.
    • Jul 18 2013: Hi Fritzie, thanks for your response.

      Yes, finding a peer who has the same interest is a lot of effort, since politics and current events/issues don't get that much attention from people my age here. But I'll certainly try my best to hang out with people of all ages.

      Thank you!
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    Jul 11 2013: Hi again Valerie:>)
    Who is to say what is "too fast"?

    A quick background...
    I have 7 siblings and the youngest of the 7 is 9 years older than I am, so when I was a kid, it felt like I had 9 parents...LOL!

    I started working and buying all my own cloths and supplies when I was 13. At 17, I worked in the operating room as an OR technician....assisting for major surgeries, in the summer between my junior and senior year in high school and throughout my senior year on call evenings and weekends. I absolutely LOVED it...the responsibility and education was incredible!

    Sometimes, it was difficult to talk with my friends, because I was witnessing life and death situations in the operating room, and my friend's biggest concerns were who was at the dance....what they're going to wear to school the next day, etc. I sometimes felt impatient, and reminded myself that our lives are all different.

    I learned to enjoy the sport, music, dancing, dating times with my friends, and also learned to appreciate and value the intense situations in other aspects of my life adventure. I suggest not labeling any experience good or bad. Enjoy it all, because every moment of the life experience is an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve. Have fun, be involved and engaged with everything you do, and everyone you interact with......enjoy the process my friend:>)
    • Jul 18 2013: Hi again Colleen!

      I feel you! I feel like I have 2 moms! :)

      Thank you so much for your response, Colleen. I will certainly have fun and enjoy the process.
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        Jul 18 2013: Hi again Valerie!

        I feel you too, and am very honored....thank you! Believe in yourself:>)
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    Jul 18 2013: It can be both, all depends on YOUR perspective.

    For me, hanging out with your seniors is no big deal. In fact, these seniors do a whole lot to help you become more mature. To me, 16 is an appropriate age to start thinking about global issues, because you will have to go to university or college soon. In my school, which is a British international school, students from 14 years old can choose to study Business, Economics and History. And all these subjects really get them involved in a lot of these so-called adults' problems.

    Personally, I believe that the most important thing you need to remember is that being mature, which you are now, is good but don't lose the young side of yourself. Believe it or not, kids and teenagers have precious treasures that the grown-ups have lost. You have healthy, imagination, creativity, curiosity, quest for learning, ambition and not being afraid to explore and discover. And as you might have realised, Einstein is a great scientist yet he still has a mind of a child.

    I hope this help (:
    • Jul 19 2013: Hi Son,
      I agree with you. A lot of my older friends have been helping me a lot with my problems, and listening to their advice and stories has always been a comfort. And yes, I as a teenager have precious treasures to be cherished before I grow older.

      You sure helped a lot! Thank you :)
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    Jul 18 2013: This is who you are - everyone is different.

    I have a 6-year old son who taught himself how to read from watching TV at the age of 4 and could read Dr. Seuss books all by himself. At the age of 5, he was supposed to go to the kindergarten where they learn alphabet. Having a 15-year old son who was identified as talented and gifted in Elementary school, but struggles to complete homework in high school because he is not used to work and is bored in classes, we decided to enroll the 6-year old into the first grade, skipping kidergarten - and that in a French immersion school. Got his report card last week with all "meets and exceeds". Never regret the decision.

    We have friends who have very strong opinions about starting education early. They believe, kids need time to be kids - play and stuff. There are concerns that children feel more confident among peers when they are older than the rest. They also may feel awkward when all their peers get driver's licenses and they don't. So, some of these friends keep their children in kindergarten for 2 years - one year in a private, then send them to a public school when they are 6. Every child is different. My 6-year old son is very assertive and is fairly popular among peers. He often comes up with ideas for games and appears to be very comfortable and welcome among older peers.

    I myself have been always "different" than my peers. I remember, at high school, some of my friends were eager to be "accepted" by the group of the "popular guys". I learned to be comfortable with myself and not to bother with such things.

    I think, there is an advantage of being perceived more mature than your age - people will trust you with more responsibility and ask your advice. It's, definitely, good for career.

    There is a Russian saying "if you know too much, you'll get old sooner". This is a typical answer for questions that people don't want to answer. It does not seem to have much to do with reality.
    • Jul 19 2013: Hi, Arkady,
      Great story and advice. Thank you so much!
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    Jul 18 2013: Not sure about good or bad, but I guess pretty normal. Just be yourself.
    I say this because I experienced the same thing my entire life. The first ever woman I was romantically inclined to was 9 years older than me. The thing happened through letters when I was 16 and she was 25! When we met she was like, oh! I thought you were much older! :)
    Even now, when I am 52, I have been told by many that i sound at least like 70, lol!
    Not dumb down, but over the years I have learnt to get in the vibe of people of all ages. I am pretty sure you will too.
    Best wishes.
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      Jul 18 2013: Good advise Pabitra....be yourself! You my friend, are ageless:>)

      I also have always connected with friends of all ages, and one thing that facilitates that, in my perception, is genuine curiosity about people and the life adventure:>)
  • Jul 16 2013: I am in the same situation as you are, I too love politics (as well as philosophy) and in addition also tend to gravitate towards adults and older people (I'm also 16). My advice to you would be to continue to develop yourself mentally, that way you'll be as happy as you can be. I once tried to dumb myself down for my friends but it really only made me depressed and bored. The one thing that you have to be aware of, is that you might become socially awkward, it happened to me, I was rarely spending time with people my age and instead would spend time alone when there wasn't an adult to have an interesting conversation with, eventually when I would have to spend time with other teens I came off as a nerdy loner, so my advice to you would be to still maintain relationships with average people so you know how to deal with and manipulate them if necessary, as such social skills may serve to benefit you in the long run, its already benefited me and I'm considered normal by my peers now. Honestly though, don't think your wasting your childhood by being mature, as teens, we both have little responsibility and a lot more freedom than we will have as adults, as long as you take advantage of that freedom doing whatever you want, that's good and you'll be happy, so never feel the need to act like a bozo like the rest of them.
    Best wishes,
    Rajiv
    • Jul 18 2013: Hi Rajiv,
      I'm so glad that I'm talking to a person who's in the same boat!
      Don't dumb yourself down, it's true that it makes you suffer. and I'm glad that you're now being considered as 'normal' by your friends.
      I totally agree with you. Thanks for your advice and for sharing!

      Best,
      Valerie
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    Jul 13 2013: Whatever happens, happens, whether it's too fast or slow.

    But there's always new shit to do. The only thing that stops that enjoyment is when your creativity is killed. By words of Tupac Shakur, "Jails kill creativity."
    • Jul 18 2013: Hi James,

      I see that being creative is the key to life full of enjoyment. Thanks a lot for your response!
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        Jul 18 2013: No, I've learned that even being creative can be a HORRIBLE thing.

        If it's not fun, then there's something wrong.
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      Jul 18 2013: Re: "Tupac Shakur, "Jails kill creativity.""

      Wait... this sounds familiar. Where did I hear this?.. Oh! Ken Robinson "Schools kiill creativity"... I wonder if there is any connection between those two quotes...
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        Jul 21 2013: The split is becoming wider. They are either becoming more military(ish) or more creative. I'm referring to schools.
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    Jul 13 2013: Be a kid. Live in your reality. Do the dumb things, learn. Keep in mind consideration and moderation. Know when to be and not to be. Take a risk!
    • Jul 18 2013: Hi Vincent,
      Thanks for your advice! I'm trying my best to do what you said.
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    Jul 13 2013: I admire you asking the question and I wish I had given it more thought when I was your age.

    Your question, however, sets you up for an either/or answer. Either it is good or it is bad. I would strenuously insist that it is BOTH good and bad. Somethings you may not be ready for; it takes time to really digest things. On the other hand, if you've given more thought to things, like what you want out of life, you might be more likely to identify and grasp the right opportunities.

    Those 'few pages ahead' you like to be? I bet you and your friends have days in life, important experiences, that move you a full chapter ahead. Think of how thin a page is, that's all the further mature or aware or whatever you may actually be.

    Here's something I really think you might appreciate as an answer of good AND bad to your question:

    I'm not Jewish but I was reading yesterday about this idea in Judaism called 'the orchard of learning' and the benefits and risks of venturing into that orchard. The authors, Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger, write that "the orchard of learning, was both a metaphor and an acronym for a steep scale of intellectual challenge and psychological danger. Venturing deeper into the orchard meant you could pose and ponder tougher questions, peruse secret wisdom, but also risk losing your life or your mind in the process."

    Elsewhere, they write: "One viable interpretation of the orchard parable is that the innermost depths of Jewish learning are not for everyone. There are grades of intellect and faith requisite to delve deep, deeper, deepest. In ascending order, death, lunacy, and the loss of faith await those unable to deal with the inner core of wisdom."

    I think this applies to many forms of learning, not just Jewish learning. Emotional and spiritual maturity is absolutely necessary in dealing with some of the things in this world, some of the knowledge you learn and can't unlearn
    • Jul 18 2013: Hi Daniel,
      I agree to The Orchard Of Learning; everything about it it's true, especially the "Venturing deeper into the orchard meant you could pose and ponder tougher questions, peruse secret wisdom, but also risk losing your life or your mind in the process." part.

      Thanks for sharing it with me and us!
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  • Jul 12 2013: Your older friend's advice is good, as is some of the advice you are being given by some of your new on-line friends below.

    You only get to be a child once in your life. Enjoy it! Dream big dreams! There is nothing wrong at all with listening to your young friends' dreams and having some of your own. Having the attitude of a forty year old when your a teenager can stifle your ideas and cause you to be cynical, conservative, or something similar by association, rather than by life experience. The difference might sound small, but in the latter case, a person has enjoyed many years of free-choice, trying new things, sharing of thoughts and ideas with friends, and successes from different ventures. Being predisposed to a 40 year old viewpoint without a 40 year old life experience might take away from the breadth of things you do in life.

    Another point to make here is that you are just observing the actions of older people, not burdened with the responsibilities that cause these concerns, decisions, and attitudes. Use this freedom to chart your destiny based on your own interests and free-will. However, the knowledge that you gain from watching older people do the things that they do should enable you to instinctively make a decision that would be right for a 40 year old person, which in many instances might be the best decision for anyone. This is a VERY valuable insight to have at a young age. Use it to your advantage to make good decisions for you!

    Finally, one of the primary things to do in life is to seek a mate. Having a young heart and fresh attitude when seeking a young mate might be something that helps you find the right person. If you act like a 40 year old when seeking to persuade a 20 year old to become your wife, she may not find you attractive. On the flip side, if a mate finds you attractive because you act like a 40 year old, and it is disingenuous, then she may grow unhappy with you as she realizes it is a learned behavior and not really you.
    • Jul 18 2013: Hi Robert!
      What you said in the 2nd graf is spot on. My mom once told me that too, and I'm always holding onto it.
      I totally agree to what you said on the 3rd graf. I will enjoy my life and dream big. Thank you so much for your response!
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  • Jul 18 2013: Hi Pabitra!
    You and I share the same experience! I once liked a man who was 10 years older than me, and he also thought I was much older! :D
    Thanks for sharing and for your advice, Pabitra!

    Best,
    Valerie
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    Jul 12 2013: There is time for everything; you only live once, and you can only be young for a season of life. I think Fritzie has summed it all in insightful and practical terms. There is need for balance.
    • Jul 18 2013: I agree with you! Thank you for your response, Feyisayo.