"Don't be so childish."
The words cut me like a sword. I remember who said it because it came from someone I least expected to make such a remark, but as the words themselves are more important for the current purpose than their original speaker, let's pretend I've forgotten the source.
I've had this statement thrown at me more than a few times. Most often than not, they're not meant to be hurtful, just descriptive, but at the same time slightly disapproving as I don't necessarily "act my age". That realization made me understand that they often meant "childlike", and not "childish", but the demarcations in their meanings just didn't exist in their vocabulary. (In a nutshell, childlike is seen in a more positive light, while childish behaviour is rather undesirable and immature.)
I find joy in little things. Animals literally make me squeal. I can bend over a shrub and start examining its morphology with exclamations of delight, trying to see how much of my high school knowledge I’ve retained. I love getting drenched in the rain and make it obvious. I goof. I make a fool of myself. My facial expressions are not smothered in an attempt to appear more grown up and mature.
We are expected to fit the mould, behave like everyone else does, especially as we get older. Anybody who doesn't, gets labeled various things, including "childish". It's like they want to stomp out the person's spark, their innocent and uncomplicated approach to life. I have to admit, I've not been immune to that stomping. I don't like the way I sometimes subconsciously (or consciously) control myself and my spontaneous exclamations just so I won't draw further comments of the sort. It has changed me when I'd much rather remain the same.
I spoke about this to my sister (who played a major role in this post), and she too has had similar experiences. Classmates saying she's too "innocent", being nicknamed Kung Fu Panda for her many facial expressions, even getting reprimanded by a professor for "having the facial expressions of a two year old child"! I find that last one especially hurtful and disturbing. Why do some people get bothered by a person who has an uncensored, genuine outlook and expression of life?
I believe that you have enough time to get older, and irrevocably, you will. Being young though, is irretrievably moving further and further away from us each passing day. I'd rather remain young inside for as long as I can than give in to society's guidelines on the desired and expected level of "maturity", involving perfectly controlled expressions, well-manicured conversations, zero spontaneity, poker faces and no display of authentic emotions once you cross your mid-teens.
Like I once said, unfortunately oblivious to the alternative interpretation, “One must nourish the child within oneself.”