Growing Up Again
With Regards to Kipling
William Stapleton

At nearly 32 years of age it came as a shock to me, when, in response to the questioning of a mentor, I realized I still thought of myself as a boy.  Not that I hadn’t matured or grown in my intellectual and physical self.  But, closing my eyes and considering the thing, it was really still that 11 year old I saw, whose shame was never really hidden, and yet not answered with any resounding forgiveness.  I had put those memories away back then, “things I did that I’m not proud of,” is how I referred to them in my self-talk.  20 years, and I’d still never addressed them, or those events, or that guilty shame directly.  And there they still stood, keeping watch over my innermost thoughts: 32 going on 12.  Through tears, shaking from the pain of going back, I looked straightforward into the words, the thoughts, the things that had happened those many years before.  And I realized then that they weren’t “things I did,” but things done to me.  I’d carried shame and bitter guilt all those years, and it was not even mine, but someone else’s.   I had been the injured party; a molested boy lingering improperly on in a young man’s life.  Kipling’s words were a constant companion those next few years, and I realized that life isn’t all just about the future.  Forgiveness didn’t come easily, but it came, and I began to grow again; to stretch out my arms and embrace, not only my future, but my past.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will that says to them: "Hold on!"

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 – what’s more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

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Growing Up Again by William Stapleton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.