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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 6 (September 2, 1935)

Growing up. Development of Dorothea

Growing up. Development of Dorothea.

Timely Notes and Useful Hints.

When Dorothea was ten, the world was rather a wonderful place, except for those moments, soon forgotten, when small duties such as dish-drying or scale-practising delayed her from absorbing games in her own or a neighbour's garden; or those rarer times when some small sin (ranking large in Dorothea's own eyes) roused the displeasure of mother, father or school-teacher. No other grown-ups loomed in Dorothea's world. As she was a bright and tractable child, school was as carefree as the rest of her existence. Her few desires—good food, comfortable clothes, healthy exercise, activity for an eager brain, affection—were easily satisfied. In fact, she did not consciously know that she desired these things. Like that of the majority of children, Dorothea's childhood was happy.

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At fifteen, Dorothea's conscious wants had increased. She had now begun to realize in part how her own desires might conflict with those of other people. Even with her mother, Dorothea had had one or two little battles. On one occasion a school-friend, unknown to her mother, had invited Dorothea to a party. Dorothea, all excitement, expected to go, and was cast into a state of tearful rebellion by her mother's refusal. Dorothea was realizing herself as a person and was proving herself rather mutinous to commands. It was only after a strained thirty minutes that her mother's reasoning overcame Dorothea's resentment.

During the next year or two only the tact and love of the mother, and the natural reasonableness and friendly disposition of Dorothea, prevented such little upsets from breaking the loving and trusting mother-and-daughter relationship, which had meant, and was to mean, so much to both of them.

Dorothea, at this time, was leading a full life at high-school. Her hours and her thoughts were mostly employed with lessons, sports and social activities. Only in the holidays and in occasional hours of “do-nothing” at week-ends, usually on a Sunday, did the developing Dorothea start to make acquaintance with herself. Even then, her thoughts as to herself were not very coherent. She was inclined to drift into day-dreams of herself grownup, a different Dorothea in all essentials from this Dorothea gazing so unseeingly before her. Often a vague melancholy assailed her—a melancholy she did not attempt to analyse, for the analytical side of her brain developed only in later years. From this mood of self-pity, she would presently emerge to bury herself in a book. Any interruption by her family during these moods was resented by a Dorothea who was for the first time seeking solitude.

* * *

The years of leaving school, of being regarded as “grown-up,” of mixing with the adult world, were years of quick change. The “grown-up” Dorothea had to sort a kaleidoscope of impressions. She began to realize the meaning of “responsibility”—the duty of the individual to choose from alternatives offering, that one which, after consideration, seems to be for the good of the individual. Dorothea's reading was helping her here. A course at the University, and a curious mind, had brought her into contact with the writings of economists, psychologists, philosophers. She had become interested in the world and its citizens and in herself as an individual as well as a citizen of the world.

In deciding matters for her own “good” she had to have some idea of what this “good” was. Her upbringing, her thinking, her reading, aided her in this. Dorothea found that her task was to live fully. So many writers professed to offer help in this business of “living,” but Dorothea found that one cannot accept a ready-made philosophy. To each the task of formulating his own guide to living.

* * *

After much mental turmoil Dorothea settled a few points. She decided, as have others, lowly or of great repute, that the aim is to adjust desire to reality. A lot of her desires, she realized, would not really be of benefit to her if fulfilled; others she would outgrow. So she began pruning, her brain all the time developing in alertness and in power of analysis. Some desires, she found, might conflict with those of others. There, adjustment was necessary, and only experience and dispassionate consideration would show how much to adjust. Still other desires could not possibly be fulfilled, so it was best to jettison them.

All this, of course, was a gradual development aided by experience, and this was the stage reached by Dorothea at twenty-five. And at twenty-five. Dorothea realized that one is never finished with “growing-up.” The business of adjusting desire to reality must continue to the end of life. Desires are not static. They change and grow. Life is continual adjustment. Throughout history those who have come nearest to real happiness are those who have most ably made this adjustment. Dorothea, even now, has more serenity than many of her contemporaries. Does she realize that she is moving in the steps of the masters of living—Christ, Epictetus, Confucius—and other humble ones who have managed to “grow up” a little more than the rest of mankind?

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