How are you? I'm mostly fine. While I am not exactly a furry (I still don't know if I am or not, but I am well informed of what does being a furry imply) I have enjoyed reading your column since a few time ago, and I like the way you help people with their problems. Unfortunately, this is the exact reason I'm writing this letter, I have a problem.
Now, my problem isn't that I'm not sure if I'm a furry or what to do if I really am a furry (I have had this question since I was 14). I can figure that out as I continue to live life. The real problem is that in a few hours I will turn 18. It might sound a bit dramatic for me to worry about my birthday, but the real problem is that I'm afraid to grow up.
I have always enjoyed the present, and don't yearn for the future as other teens do, however that has caused me to dislike growing up. I feel I'm just right at this age, plus being 18 means a lot of responsibilities (legal age in my country).
I knew I had a phobia because I have been distressed all month because of this. Then I thought I was okay, until my parents celebrated my birthday a day before the actual date (my dad cannot celebrate tomorrow, he loves me though). The moment I saw the 18 candles in the cake, and everyone congratulating me for "being an adult" I almost break to tears.
I know it is not the end of the world or my life, and that the legal responsibilities aren't my real fear, it's just an excuse I made up for anyone who asked, and I know changes are mostly for the better. While I can adapt almost to every situation, this feels different, I'm really feel scared, upset, and sad.
I remember I have always wanted to stay young, almost like the kids in the series "kids next door" in which adults were villains, and that growing up is something bad. That could describe my situation (of course I don't see adults as villains)
I still feel like a kid (I'm really mature though, don't believe I act like a little kid) and this transition in my life really scares me. I feel I'm not ready.
I have a loving family which I also feel I'm leaving behind, not only because I'm growing, but because they are getting older too.
I also don't know what I'm afraid of exactly, because even though I'm afraid of growing up, I don't know why.
I could really use a good advice now, and if this letter manages to reach you, I would like to thank you for taking some time to read it. It would mean a lot to me.
Always your fan, either furry or not furry, with the heart of a child
Not quite a Furry
(maybe someday I can choose a more suitable pseudonym)
* * *
Dear Not Quite,
I believe that the reason a lot of people are furries is because, like you, they don’t want to “grow up.” This can be a good or bad thing, depending upon your approach. I’m going to borrow my mate Yogi’s story as an example. He likes to say, “I tried growing up once, but it didn’t work out.” This is in reference to his brief career selling insurance (he’s a radio and TV news professional). At a down point in his career, he took the job to make money, but quickly gave it up because it was so boring and not fun at all. More recently, when the broadcast media world changed for the worse, he lost his job as a news director and on-air personality. Instead of taking another dull-as-nails job, he started his own Internet radio station. It’s terribly hard work and the pay is not great (yet), but he is pursuing what he loves and makes him happy.
Many people fear growing up because they think it’s the end of fun. This is where choosing a career is vitally important. As they say, if you do something for a living that you enjoy, you’ll never work a day in your life. My early career in publishing was like that. I absolutely loved my days as an assistant and associate editor and looked forward to going to work (that changed as the business changed). When it became too corporatized for my taste, I went freelance. It’s been hard, but I get to sit at home (love the commute!) and read interesting books.
My first advice to you, therefore, is to find something you love to do and then turn it into your career passion. Don’t worry about what that passion is. People make careers out of all sorts of things! There are people who, for example, make custom skateboards or become dress designers or pursue sports professionally or train dolphins. Here’s an article about that you might like to read: http://www.more.com/reinvention-money/second-acts/turning-your-private-passion-career.
The point is, finding something you love to do and making money at it will make you look forward to the future instead of the past.
Another issue is the fear of responsibilities: earning an income, paying taxes, taking care of your bills, buying a car, getting insurance, buying groceries and cooking for yourself, doing the laundry, worrying about local and world politics, etc. etc. etc. People want to be taken care of by their parents or other family; some people even get married because they hope their spouse will take care of them. They don’t want to have to deal with all the stuff that comes with taking care of yourself.
You mention that you feel unprepared for adulthood. I know how that can be. When I finished high school, my parents pushed me to go to a big university, so I was accepted at the University of Michigan. Absolutely. Hated. It. I have never felt so much like an anonymous number in my life. I was emotionally and psychologically unprepared for taking care of myself and never felt so lonely and afraid in my life. I was, sincerely, terrified. I had a meltdown and ended up going home and taking nearly a year off. Then, I went to a small local college and did much better.
I believe the problem, in part, was that my parents were overprotective and I was a shy and kind of hermit-like guy (I’m very different now LOL). My parents didn’t really teach me the fundamentals, such as taking care of a bank account, how to make new friends in an unfamiliar environment, how to handle and navigate a large bureaucracy such as a mega-university, etc.
My second piece of advice, therefore, is to ask your parents (I’m thinking this hasn’t happened yet) about such basics as managing money, cooking, cleaning, taxes, holding down a job, navigating through social life, and other issues involved in independent living. They should be your instructors on how to become a self-supporting adult. They can do a lot to ease the transition for you from dependent child to confident, independent adult. Use your parents (and any other family who might help, such as older siblings, uncles, aunts....) as a resource.
Growing up doesn’t mean you have to become boring (as Yogi found out). You don’t have to play bridge with the neighbors, complaining about taxes and your latest medical procedure. This is where the furry comes in! A big part of being furry is hugging the kid inside you. I can’t wait for Halloween, for example. I am putting on my Grubbs fursuit and handing out candy to the neighbor kids, making sure they get hugs and photo ops! Had a blast last year! Then, after that, I’m going downtown to see the costume contests and party. I’m 49 and still feel like a kid inside.
The transition from child to adult means you have to stop being childish, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop being childlike! Childish things include being selfish, not taking responsibility for your actions, and refusing to do the things that need to be done. But if you are childlike you maintain the wonder and joy of life. It is the childlike people in the world who make life special. People, for me, who come to mind in this area would be Jim Henson, Steve Irwin, John Denver, Jim Carrey, Carl Sagan, Jim Parsons, and Robin Williams. Did they have problems in their lives and have to act like adults? Certainly, but what amazing lives they lead (or led). (You might think Robin Williams is a bad example, given his suicide, but I don’t; his mental issues were another matter, sadly, but he still had that magnificent air of wonder about him).
In summary: find a passion in life; learn the ropes of being an adult; but don’t lose your grasp of your inner child. And stay furry! It helps!
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