In my last post, I expressed the idea that to be grown-up, a person must be happy with themselves and know who they are. I still think this, but that idea is just scratching the surface of what being an adult really is. A few highly respected adults in my life responded to my last posts with their own thoughts on the concept, and I wholeheartedly agree.
First, my mom said, “Part of being “grown up” is acting and being responsible and respectful.” Yes! That was something I had in my head while writing the last post, but got carried away with one facet of my idea. Being confident and self-aware makes it easier to be responsible, being committed to responsibilities and seeing the fruit of those decisions builds confidence in yourself, and being respectful makes everyone around you happy, which makes you happy… It’s a cycle. All of these things work together. But yes, responsibility and respectability are definitely what make someone an adult, even before being happy. Or maybe what I meant was, being joyful. Finding joy in the things around you because you’re not worried about the here and now but about the future. Staying calm and hopeful in the darkest of times because you can see the bigger picture.
Once you have become self-reliant and can do things for yourself, and actually do those things, like pay bills on time and work hard at your job, school, or whatever you’re doing right now to progress in life, you are an adult. When no one has to tell you to do what to do because you know and you do it happily. When you treat everyone with respect, because then people will start to respect you, and it’s pretty hard to think of someone as an adult when they’re not acting respectable.
And then there’s my dad. My dad had a wonderful point about realizing how much influence you have over people and using that influence in a respectable way. Or maybe he was making the point that growing up is a thing you actively do by making a choice and not a place where you find yourself suddenly. Or even that it’s never too late to grow up! I got all of that from this story:
“When your brother, Eli, was about four years old he asked me a question (I don’t remember the question) that I didn’t know the answer to, but I answered him with some nonsense that was over his head but delivered as if I knew exactly what I was talking about; He believed every word I said even though he didn’t understand it. He just trusted that I was Dad and Dad knows. I was just goofing around but he didn’t know that and he believed me. Immediately I had a very sobering thought: “My kids will absolutely believe anything I say. I could wreck them. I need to grow up right now.” I was 40 years old at the time.”
So, another thing to add to my definition: Using your influence wisely and caring for others. You could be 40 years old with children and a full-time job, but if you’re not carefully aware of the consequences of how you treat others and acting accordingly, then are you really grown-up? I don’t think so.When I was young I couldn’t wait to grow up, to be older. I was in a hurry to escape childhood. I tried to act older and even became embarrassed by the way other children my age acted. Looking back now I am saddened by my haste to be an adult.
Lastly, my father-in-law, Bob also left a comment, with a great point that I have been advocating for years: “The wonderment of childhood and the feeling that anything is possible is a trait that would serve ‘grown-ups’ well.” When we lose that childlike wonder, life becomes a routine, a daily grind, a chore. Being a responsible, respectful (and respectable!) adult who uses their influence wisely does not have to mean never having anymore fun or never learning anything new. That would be so dull!
Bob starts out with, “When I was young I couldn’t wait to grow up, to be older. I was in a hurry to escape childhood. I tried to act older and even became embarrassed by the way other children my age acted. Looking back now I am saddened by my haste to be an adult.” I, too, had a time in my childhood when I yearned to be older, when I would have more independence. Not quite to his degree, though. Now, I love my independence, but I don’t miss having so few worries or cares, like I did as a child. I try to maintain a childlike view of the world, accented by the truths I know and the experiences I’ve had, and it makes me more positive. Children are so trusting. They have no preconceived notions of different kinds of people, they don’t even need a conversation first to start playing together, they are honest to a fault, and they find joy in the littlest things, like ladybugs and dandelions. I think, if we all let our inner child out to play more often, while still maintaining the important things that make us grown-ups, being grown-up will not have to be a social construct that means no more fun. It will mean the best years of your life.