Trouble, and the Stages of Human Life
All living organisms undergo some type of life cycle. For many creatures, the stages of the life cycle are clearly delineated and easy to see. There is an obvious difference between a caterpillar, a pupae, and a fully-fledged Flutterbye. No one would expect a caterpillar to fly. It is clearly not grown up yet. It is easy to tell an adult bear from a cub, and no one expects the cub to catch his own salmon.
Where a creature is in its life cycle helps us determine our expectations. Humans are creatures too, and we pass through stages in life, but those stages are not as distinct as they are for other creatures. Being an adult human requires more than just physiological maturity. There is a social component to human adulthood. As I am sure you have noticed, there are plenty of people who look like adults but behave like children, and plenty of adolescents who are far more sophisticated than their elders. If looks can be deceiving, then how can you tell if a human is really a child, or an adolescent, or an adult? You can start with how the person in question feels about trouble.
Trouble is not the same things as crime. Being in trouble is a vague thing, but it basically means causing problems for the people around you. As a result of the problem-causing, other people won’t like troublesome folks. Getting in trouble means you are bad at interacting, which is something no human really wants to be.
All human children, whether they are three year old prodigies or 30 year old disappointments, share one thing in common. They are afraid of getting in trouble. Trouble is a nuanced thing, and children don’t posses the emotional maturity to deal with such nuances. They don’t know what trouble really is, but they do know it is vaguely scary, and so they are afraid when threatened by it.
If you see a child misbehaving and you say, “you’d better stop that, or you’ll get in trouble,” that child will respond with a fear in their eyes they simply cannot hide. That’s how you know they are a child. If you threaten a fully grown human with trouble, and they respond with the same fear, you will know they are really just a child, too.
After childhood comes adolescence. Adolescent humans are easier to spot than children, but much more difficult to deal with. When threatened with trouble, adolescent humans act like they don’t care. Adolescents have enough experience to know many threats of trouble are empty, and are foolhardy enough to think this makes them immune to all consequences.
If you see someone behaving poorly, and they make a big show about how they don’t care what anyone thinks or what is done to them, then you have encountered an adolescent human. Adolescent humans are idiots who think the rules don’t apply to them.
If you see a grown person swearing at a cop, then they are really an adolescent. If you hear a old person say they don’t care what anyone thinks, then they are really an adolescent. If you see any person being petulant in any way, then they are an adolescent Adolescence for humans is horrible. It is quite long, and a great many of us never actually make it trough to the other side. They just stay adolescents forever, which they think is cool, but is really very sad.
The few of us who get past our fear and get over ourselves are the actual adult humans. If human children are afraid of trouble, and adolescents act like they don’t care about it, then adult humans are the ones who avoid trouble altogether. Avoiding trouble doesn’t mean you never do anything controversial, it just means you are knowledgeable enough about society to know when to push and when to retreat.
Adult humans are capable of fulfilling their desires and expressing themselves, and they can do so without making a scene or getting in the way. If you threaten an adult human with trouble, they won’t be afraid, and they won’t lash out. If they are really misbehaving, then they will apologize and stop. They are likely to apologize even if they aren’t really misbehaving, because they know apologies cost nothing. It is rare to have to threaten an adult human with trouble, though, because adults know what trouble really is and they know how to stay out of it.
All creatures have life cycles, but you can’t always tell what stage a human is in just by looking at them. If a person is afraid of trouble, then they are a child. No matter how old they are. If they act like they don’t care about trouble, then they are adolescents. It doesn’t matter if it is a teenager sulking in the corner or a respectable business person yelling in the airport. Making a scene demonstrates that you are not a socially capable individual, and therefore are not an actual adult human. If a person is able to get through their days without causing problems for others while still pursuing their own interests, then they are an adult.
So, however old you are, be an adult. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be uncaring. And, most importantly, stay out of trouble!