I see my buddy quite a bit. We play basketball and talk about shit and eat and give each other real answers to real questions. He is cool and smart and hilarious, and sometimes super, super obnoxious. He's my 4-year old nephew Reggie.
Being 4 ("and 3/4s!"), Reggie carries with him the risk of, at any of time, bursting into major, emotional flames. His tantrums, like those of most kids his age, have the ability to completely annihilate the semblance of order that we all contribute to and exist within on a daily basis. In comparison to his 1-year old brother, though, Reggie is way more chill, and has become that way gradually as he's aged.
His growth, while about as normal as shitty diapers (but way more welcome by all of us), is intriguing to me for two reasons.
First, it means that he is responding to his environment in a way that makes him more successful. Just like his brother, who upon finding his own two legs can now walk and access the world as never before, Reggie has realized that there is some social benefit to "going with the flow". Reggie is getting socialized before our very eyes.
Which brings us to the second reason that Reggie (and any kid) is interesting: socialization is always accompanied by a special sort of human torture called "fitting in". All of us, at all of our stages, are trying to figure out how to fit into the world around us--our jobs, our families, our work--just like Reggie. But fitting is always about trying to reconcile what makes us different from each other with what makes us the same. When a kid, any kid, stops herself from crying, or sits quietly at the table, she is both becoming a citizen in the grand social project and silencing her own incredible, unique personality. The problem is: we all need both, from ourselves and from each other, to thrive.
As Martha Graham said once in reference to artists (but actually about life):
“There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissastifaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive...”