“Growing Up” by Chihiro Iwasaki
People often talk of their youth as the best time of their lives—especially women, at the height of their youthful beauty. Yet when I look back on my own childhood, it doesn’t seem all that wonderful to me, which is not to say that I had a particularly unhappy childhood. Aside from the war, I had what must have seemed to be an ordinary, happy youth—I took lessons in painting which I loved, I enjoyed music, participated in sports, and generally had plenty of fun. But I had no way of knowing the hardships my parents endured to provide me with that sort of life. I took most things for granted; I probably offended others without ever being aware of it, and I followed my caprices blindly. Looking back, my youthful days must have been a disgracefully frivolous time. No matter how much my favorite pink dress may have suited me, or how sweet I may have looked in my bonnet with ribbons, I have no desire now to live that part of my life over again. And even worse would be to return to living as the poor artist that I was in my youth. For me, that would be like suicide.
Of course, I don’t mean to imply that I am such a wonderful person, but at least I think I’m better now than I used to be. It has taken more than twenty years of hard work for me to become a better person. I suffered one bitter disappointment after another and, little by little, I began to understand what life was really all about. How could I possibly want to go back?
“Learn while you are young,” goes the saying, “for to grow old is easy, but to learn is hard.” But even as we grow older, we may not learn. If, however, we persevere with the job that we have started, progressing step by step without faltering, it’s almost strange how much life seems worth living. When I was young and carefree, a feeling of emptiness would sometimes blow over me like a sudden gust of wind. While my parents loved me, I could not forgive them for their small faults. Now the roles are reversed: I love my son with all of his faults, which are so like my own when I was young; I am devoted to my difficult husband; and I want to do everything I can for my invalid mother. I guess that I have finally become an adult and am able to make my way in the world on my own. I believe that growing up is learning to love others in the face of various hardships.