“People say men grow up after coming back from the army, but I promise myself I won’t grow up ever.”

This quote is the first line on one of my journal entries I wrote just before I got off from the military service. What I meant by “growing up” at that time was about doing whatever I want to do and believe in what I think, no matter what others in the society do or think.

Two years passed. Ever since, I have been following my promise and living as a very idealistic person.

As a result, last two years was a period of countless trials and errors in every aspect of my life — study, career, relationships, etc. I made uneasy decisions, try different approaches in dealing with people, work on various projects, and study unfamiliar areas.

Eventually, I had to experience so many failures. Looking back, I can count anything deemed as “success” with only one hand, but as for “failures” even including my toes is not enough.

I still remember the words of my parents when I just graduated from high school.

“Son, I am worried that you still haven’t experienced any significant failure in your life.”

I was 19, and my dad thought I probably got everything a 19-year-old can reach (which was partly true, excluding all the stupid problems I wasted energy on, and what my mom provided me was nothing insufficient).

Now I am 25. I want to tell my parents: “It really sucks to fail. Why do you want your son’s life to be more miserable?” To be honest, failure, no matter how big or small, feels like shit. Sometimes I feel like my efforts are being wasted in vain, and I should really grow up and stop making these mistakes. Maybe I should compromise my ideal and be realistic (and be happy).

Becoming a carrot farmer may be a solution

I have been thinking a lot about this problem recently, but one of my wisest friends gave me a hint to the answer. His advice was simple: “Look at the society and yourself more objectively.”

So far, I have been thinking this issue as a dichotomy. Ideal vs. reality or Grown-up vs. Not-grown-up. Maybe my thoughts were like hot air in a balloon, which disappears when I pop the balloon.

I realized I should objectively think about where I am right now, be proud and grateful for it, and find room for growth. This does not necessarily mean that I am giving up my ideal. Observing the reality and moving forward is different from accepting it and compromising.

After all, I live in a real world, and lack of understanding of reality just makes me blind and unhappy. I must know what ground I am standing on, but at the same time look at the sky and keep on going forward.