From Kipling and I

NOTE FROM THEMORRIS: I hate clichés. I like concrete facts and figures and justifications. I suppose that’s the lawyer in me. The following text, however, is cliché city, because some facts and figures and justifications you have to work out for yourself.



If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

The above is the last verse of Rudyard Kipling’s “If” which, if you haven’t already, I implore you to read. The poem is Kipling’s interpretation of what makes a good man, and aside from being one of the most gorgeous things you will ever read, is also arguably accurate.

But if we put Kipling to the side for a moment, not least because – well, times have changed, to say the least: what really does a man out of boy?

In other words, what makes a grown up, a grown up?

I spent the majority of my teenaged years being “older” than my age. I did everything before everybody else, and blamed most of it on my having a September birthday. But the truth is I just wanted to be a grown up, and I really have no clue as to why. Because none of it made me any better, or any wiser than any of my peers – in fact, I rushed into so many things I did them all wrong and had to take countless steps backwards to figure out how to do them right. More than a few years on, a lot of the childish mistakes I made whilst trying to be mature still catch up with me now.

Problem is, we constantly get told as kids that we need to be mature, that we need to grow up, to stop being childish, et cetera. But – how does a fifteen year old be mature? What does that even mean to someone of that age? What an awful amount of pressure to have on your shoulders. Confusing pressure, at that. It’s no wonder that underage girls are now coming home and feeling the need to have a glass of wine – it’s what adults do, isn’t it? We’re made to feel embarrassed about our incompetence: just use your head, they say. Stupid questions get stupid answers.

And yet concretely, children and teenagers are mollycoddled sans cesse, so we actually learn next to nothing about life. Does education really give us the chance to think independently or do we just wait for the teachers to tell us what the correct answers are? It’s why University is such a shock to the system for a lot of us. My first year went horrifically; I scraped a Third, mostly because I was so used to just doing what teachers told me to do to get good grades that I didn’t really bother trying. You get to Uni, and they want you to think for yourself, they want you to come up with ideas and justifications and it’s all just unfamiliar territory. Three years and a whole load of hormones later and I’m at the best law school in Europe with a summer vacation scheme under my belt (N.B.: vac schemes are pretty much the holy grail of law student life). Whilst three years is a long time, I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s three years’ worth of “I get it now”s, “Won’t do that again”s and more than a few “Sorry”s.

I don’t actually think there is such a thing as being “grown-up”, because really it’s just relative. An eight year old can’t be the same type of “grown up” as a fifteen year old, and he can’t be as grown-up as a twenty-one year old, and so on and so forth. Not only that, but adults mess up all the time. So whom do we follow? Who is our role model? People we see on the TV, like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus? I don’t think so. Drake even told us, “All my young boys ‘round me saying, “Get money and fuck these hoes”
Where we learn these values? I do not know what to tell you…” Well Aubrey, it’s probably got something to do with the fact that that’s all they hear about from the likes of you these days. Even when it comes to relationships, youngsters are just incessantly trying to be “older” – taking expensive holidays and eating out in posh restaurants so they can hashtag “#M&C” on Instagram every weekend, but your mum needs to drop you off at the Mailbox because you’re too young to drive? Kind of takes the cool out of it, doesn’t it?

I already admitted to being guilty to it all (had my 16th birthday at Maze in Chelsea…), but I guess I just wanted to forewarn anyone at that vulnerable age that might read this. Because here is how to be a grown up: you have to be wise. And wisdom will only come through experience. But you have to learn things slowly, and properly. Don’t try and skim read your life; you’ll miss an important chapter. Wisdom comes from taking yourself out of your comfort zone and presenting yourself with challenges that you might not really enjoy partaking in. Like getting a shitty job and saving up your pounds and pennies to buy a pair of Nikes – not getting an overdraft to buy a pair of Zanottis. It will all come when it’s meant to. And when you’re there, when you get to where you’re meant to be, you’ll realise that all the times you did something the hard way, you learnt more than you could ever be taught.

So here’s my challenge – do as I say and take yourself out of your comfort zone. If you live in a padded box, you’ll fall over and scrape your knees every time you step outside. If you stay outside, you’ll toughen up, remember where you fell over and avoid it the next time.

Life is about starting off as a blank page, and finishing up as a library full of lessons.