Do we ever finish growing up? I mean do we ever get to the point where we think ‘right, I’m a grown up, I know all I need to know; I’ve done all I need to do”? Is that what growing up means?
The dictionary defines growing up as a process of maturing, of reaching adulthood. So in theory we’re ‘grown up‘ in the UK when we reach 16 (adult enough to legally have sex/get married) 17 (adult enough to legally drive) 18 (adult enough to vote (NB: now 16 in Wales – this original post is a few years old!)). Across the continents it differs.
I personally don’ think it’s that simple – it’s not a legal decision or a dictionary definition, it’s a state of mind. We spend our whole life growing up. If we’re lucky we’re still growing the day we die.
When I was 13, I thought I was SOOOO grown up. As with all young teens I got pissed at my parents for treating me like a kid. When I was 18 I looked back and laughed. God, I was such a kid; but now; yes now, I was grown up. Engaged at 16, joint mortgage holder and living with my ‘long term’ partner by 18. I knew it all by then. Mature, adult, ready to start a family. Totally grown up. Just living to do, no more growing..
I changed my mind. I might well have been an adult, but at 18/19 I certainly hadn’t experienced enough to settle down. Good decision. However, not without its regrets. Looking back, I was so immature and as such I handled a great person so badly. But I can’t take all the blame, I may have had the body of a grown woman, I may well have had a relatively mature outlook in aspects of life; but dealing with conflict, loss, breakup… no, a was an amateur at that and I still had a lot of growing up to do.
By 26 I’d travelled a bit; had a few different relationships; handled a few complex situations; been nearly broken and somehow, healed. I felt ready to make a career. I’d done my learning. Formed my alliances. I knew who I was; emotionally, socially, professionally and politically. Oh yes. I was a fully fledged, fully grown woman. I knew my mind. For sure.
I met my partner. That was a curve ball. My planned path involved travel , being young and carefree; single and hedonistic. Instead I changed path. I began to follow the house, career and partnership path. At 29 I was desperate for a baby. When I hit 30 I had a 10 day old son. Thirty, in a long-term relationship, with a child – surely now I was a grown up? I mean, the 13-year-old me would have been checking me into a care home at the ancient age of thirty. But I wanted my mum. I didn’t feel grown up and ready for all that responsibility. She’d had kids, I hadn’t. She was the grown up, I was just the child.
Since then there’s been the breakdown; the near breakup; the counselling; the parental guilt; the career crisis(es); the 20th anniversary; the multiple self reinventions. In my 40’s I felt more at peace with myself than ever before. I became more of an activist; sometimes an anarchists, for what I believed. Actively peaceful protesting via my involvement with the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. And now , in my mid 50s I feel even more at home in my own body and mind. I’m more accepting of my flaws; I better understand my limitations; I know when I can push on and when to pull back (most of the time).
I’m a bit more, outspoken, eccentric; confident. I don’t often follow convention. I don’t mind being alone on my own path if I believe it’s the right path. I’m a fully fledged, driven adult with my own opinions and everything. I must have finished growing up now……
…. but sometimes I’m that kid. I’m doubtful, anxious, nervous. I need a real grown up to take the control out of my hands. I need to hide away, cry, stamp my feet, shout out ‘nobody understands’ or ‘you’re ruining my life’!
Does that mean I’m immature? Or just a ‘normal’ fragile human being. Sometimes strong, sometimes less so. Sometimes sure, others doubting. Sometimes a leader, but others a follower. A talker but at times a listener. A healer but sometimes in need of healing. Growing up does not mean learning to cope with everything alone; making every decision, standing by it in isolation, doing everything. Growing up is about learning about yourself; about knowledge, discovery, acceptance. It about being part of humanity; helping each other grow, flourish and reach our individual potential. Having ‘weaker’ moments doesn’t make us less ‘grown up’ ,
So what is grown-up? Do we ever finish growing up? Or do we just grow older (hopefully wiser). I guess ‘grown up’ is a state of mind. Its taking responsibility for your actions; learning from your mistakes; accepting your weaknesses; recognising your strengths. Its being able to ask for help as well as offering it. It’s about being accountable, being considerate, being aware and making decisions (even if it’s not always the right ones). And you never finish. Just because you’re ‘grown-up’ doesn’t mean you’ve finished ‘growing up‘… and thank goodness for that… how dull would life be if we stopped growing.