Getting Too Old For This

| | Comments (9)

I was pretty surprised that a newly turned ten year old boy had such a great view on the world in Billy Collins' poem, On Turning Ten. The lines, "it seems only yesterday I used to believe/ there was nothing under my skin but light"(Collins, 76-77) illustrates how little we really think about the world until we grow up and discover what is supposedly inside of us as well as what is happening on the outside.  The idea that when we grow up we suddenly have to be serious really comes out in this poem. Part of the charm is that the material deals with a serious subject, but uses humor in that a ten year old boy thinks he is too old to be a prince and have imaginary friend which will inevitably only lead to sadness. Therefore indicating that even when a person grows up, the individual doesn't necessarily have to stop being all the things one was as well as believing that only doom or sadness can happen in the future. This poem beautifully captures the contrast between how growing up feels, but also implies how silly it is at the same time.


Josie Rush said:

I agree. One's first reaction is to laugh at the ridiculousness of a ten year old boy bemoaning his lost youth. But then we have to ask ourselves what is the cut-off age for having seemingly unreachable dreams?

Jessica Orlowski said:

I loved this poem. It is written on such a serious subject, but I'm glad that Collins used humor to portray the sadness; it makes it easier to handle.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Josie - I think the whole point of the poem is to show that it is never too late to believe in impossible dreams.

Kayla Lesko said:

Yeah, the poem is kind of depressing isn't it?

Maybe it's just me, but I didn't find the poem humorous at all. I thought it was beautifully written, but I didn't catch the humor in it. Perhaps this is because of the fact that I possessed a similar outlook on life as I got older. I don't think I actually ever gave up on my imagination or my optimism, but it was a hard blow once I realized that it was time to grow up on the outside. I couldn't play mermaids with my best friend in her pool. I couldn't talk to Peter (as in Pan) out loud without people thinking it was strange. I had to realize that the set of 3 crosses on the hill near my house wasn't the place where Jesus died and that I wasn't special for living near it. At that time, I was crushed every time I discovered that something close to my heart was something I'd have to leave behind. I guess I was just way too attached to the boy and his plight in the poem to look at it and see the humor.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Karyssa - When you give all of your examples about having to grow up and all of the things that you have to leave behind it makes the poem seem a little more depressing and sad from a perspective like that. I can definitely understand why you thought that. However, my initial reaction was still humor at the ridiculousness of a little boy thinking he had to give everything up. Maybe I'm just the weird one for not thinking that getting rid of imaginary friends or still wanting to play prince (or princess) is a bad thing that doesn't necessarily have to be given up, but just stashed away in a different area of yourself. All of those memories that you expressed show that they're still with you. Although slightly depressing in some cases, they're still good and maybe in other cases humorous to look back on. Regardless, I see your point, but I still find it funny.

Aja Hannah said:

I agree with Karyssa. I felt the same way about the poem at first, but I do see your point with the humor.

Ya know what though? We don't have to give up our imagination (one of the great things about being a writer) or our childhood or youth, innocence, or playing pretend. Our bodies may get older, but we can keep our minds the same. Sure, we may mature, but we can still flip on that childhood switch if we just have the guts.

Many parents find this switch when their children engage them in a battle of pretend. I was lucky enough to remember my imagination in just these past two months. (It helps that I work at a child center.) I've pretended to be a dinosaur, a dino in disguise (or de skies), a princess, and a pirate. And it was awesome.

Josie Rush said:

Melissa- I completely agree that that's the point of the poem. I think that's why Collins choses to have a 10 year old lament his lost youth and not a 50 year old. So when we laugh and say, "but he's only 10!" a part of our minds will challenge us and say, "but you're only 20...or 30 or 40..." whatever age. aja's right, there's no expiration date on the imagination.
and karyssa- i laughed for about ten minutes at the example about the crosses not being where jesus died, bcuz i totally thought the same kind of stuff as a child.

Melissa: No, I completely agree with you that you should still keep those playful parts in you. It's just in the moment, when you're the person about to grow up and are unaware of what's really coming, you think you're going to have to leave them behind. It's not until later that you realize you can still hold onto optimism and imagination. Nevertheless, in the moment, it's terrifying - and that's why I found the poem to be sad instead of humorous. I put myself in the place of this little boy. What might seem like a trivial concern to an adult, is something that can really frighten a child.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.


Recent Comments

Karyssa Blair on Getting Too Old For This: Melissa: No, I completely agre
Josie Rush on Getting Too Old For This: Melissa- I completely agree th
Aja Hannah on Getting Too Old For This: I agree with Karyssa. I felt t
Melissa Schwenk on Getting Too Old For This: Karyssa - When you give all of
Karyssa Blair on Getting Too Old For This: Maybe it's just me, but I didn
Kayla Lesko on Getting Too Old For This: Yeah, the poem is kind of depr
Melissa Schwenk on Getting Too Old For This: Josie - I think the whole poin
Jessica Orlowski on Getting Too Old For This: I loved this poem. It is writt
Josie Rush on Getting Too Old For This: I agree. One's first reaction