Being a mere 19, I can hardly call myself old, but at the very least I’d like to think that I could describe myself as mature (apart from when I’m around Will, of course). I’m definitely growing up, becoming a man, and – let’s face it – not getting any younger, even at this early stage of life. What that means is that there’s already been a point at which I’ve noticed my rapid ascent into adulthood, and that observations have been made about how I’m looking, talking, thinking and acting as a result of this. It’s not just me that the observations have come from, however, because the wider world has offered them too – and sometimes in very random and unexpected places. I don’t even necessarily have to look for them, because in an instant they’re as clear as day and right under my nose.
Let me tell you about one particular example that I noticed. It’s something very run of the mill, and not at all like the earth-shattering realisation of all the adult responsibilities you’ll soon have as you get older, but I nevertheless found it interesting as well as mildly amusing. During my lunch breaks at my recent place of work, I’d take my wheelchair up to a patch of grass in a public space to eat my sandwiches, and this meant that I could peoplewatch to my heart’s content whilst I was at it. Peoplewatching is one of the simplest pleasures that life can offer, so long as it’s done discreetly and without a weird hidden agenda, and in some cases even observing from a distance can reveal quite a lot about life and those in front of you. On one occasion, I was minding my own business with my ham, lettuce and mayonnaise sarnie when my eyes darted across to the ice-cream which was often nearby – and which always seemed to be there when it wasn’t sunny and there were few people around to buy from it! Sure enough, business was very slow, but the treats on offer did have one taker.
This was it – one of the moments where the innocence of youth very briefly gave way to a cynical, straight-faced, humourless adult. Standing before this ice-cream van, waiting to receive his Mr Whippy, was a little boy – and not a toddler. He was at least seven and certainly didn’t seem to be ill, and it wasn’t exactly the height of holiday season at this point either. Therefore, my brain came to an immediate but unexpected conclusion, namely one that automatically led me to silently utter five immortal words:
“Shouldn’t you be in school?”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was the moment when I truly shocked myself into realising that despite being in the spring of my years, I was definitely getting older and had encountered the titular “first sign of maturity”. My reaction to the sight of this little boy surprised me because I thought it unlike me to be so judgemental, and of course I knew very well that there could have been any number of legitimate reasons why he was eating ice-cream instead of sitting in class. In that case, then, perhaps it wasn’t a conscious exclamation at all, but the sort of outlook that arrives unannounced as you gradually experience all that life has to throw at you. If that’s true, then maybe it’s even more of an incentive to stay positive, open-minded and chirpy – and to be a bit more considerate when peoplewatching!