A couple weeks before the wedding, I was having dinner with my uncle (who officiated our wedding). He mentioned that one of his daughters/my cousins had asked him about what kinds of moments or milestones make you realize you’ve grown up or are older than you used to be. My uncle passed this question onto me, wondering if I had any response for it myself. In all honesty, I had no idea what to say.
You know how you expect the world to look different or something after you have a “major” birthday or have some kind of big life achievement? And then… it doesn’t? Do you think there’s really an objective, universal milestone that makes everyone actually feel like an adult? I haven’t have kids yet, so I can’t speak for everything, but so far big birthdays, graduation, and marriage doesn’t make me feel any different. However, I’ve been contemplating my cousin’s question since this conversation, and there are a couple things that I do think mark some level of maturity, whether or not they actually make us adults or make us feel grown-up.
Personally, I have to say that one of those things is realizing the good things in my life situation. It’s definitely taken me some time to realize just how much I have to be thankful for in my life. Things like my parents still being together, having graduated from high school and college, and not being in any kind of debt. I’ve definitely taken all of these things for granted at some point or another, and just in the past year have I gained the perspective of just how blessed I am to have all of them.
The next thing that I think is an important aspect of maturity is pretty simple: appreciating your parents’ affection for each other. If you still roll your eyes or act grossed-out when your parents kiss in front of you, you should probably consider a reality check. Do you know how many people in the world would be straight-up shocked if their parents acted loving towards each other? Be super happy, super proud, and super thankful if you have loving and supportive parents that are on each other’s team.
Another important perspective to have, I think, is realizing that it’s really not all about you. It’s not healthy if you take other people (family, parents, friends) and your relationships for granted, and sooner or later you’ll probably find that they’ll stop putting up with your selfish behavior. Every relationship takes compromise and give-and-take. You’ll have to bite your tongue sometimes, and learn how to be vulnerable, and you’ll have to make sure others are okay and do things for them because you love them (romantically or otherwise) even if it’s not fun and you don’t seem to get anything out of it. Some people are fortunate enough to be raised by parents who are good about teaching them this, but it’s sure gotta be rough for kids who have to figure this one out on their own.
One of the biggest marks of maturity/growing up, to me, is learning that everyone’s lives, purposes, and values are so different and widely varying that there’s no way to be “the popular girl” or any way to be better than anyone else in the real world. There’s a couple quotes I love that talk about this. The first one goes something like, “The way you treat other people says more about you than it does about them.” Seriously, this isn’t high school anymore (thank God, am I right?). If you’re rude and condescending to someone else, there’s no one giggling about it with you – you’re just an awful person. And that’s all there is to it. The other favorite quote is, “In this life, people will love you and people will hate you, and none of that will have anything to do with you.”
Along the same lines, I’m going to add the realization that the opinions of others do not affect who you are. This one was a hard one for me to learn, that I don’t have to live to please anyone else. In real life, you have to know who you want to be and how you want to live, and have the self-awareness to know when you are measuring up to being that person. Know that this is all that matters (within reason – basically, as long as you don’t, like, enjoy treating other people badly or other measures that actually do make you a bad person). If someone else thinks you’re shallow or unintelligent because you post selfies (which, let’s face it, is stupid – I basically don’t trust you if you don’t post selfies), or if someone thinks you’re a bad person because a skirt you totally dig is shorter than what they’d wear themselves, or they assume anything negative about you because of anything you like, the problem is them. You’re enough for yourself. Why even bother letting other people have any kind of power over how you feel about yourself? You rock.
And that leads me to another important aspect of being a grown-up: it’s time to stop thinking it’s important to try to make anyone else feel bad about something they like. And along the same lines, stop thinking that you’re better than anyone else because you don’t like something they do. I know people who make me feel like I can’t even open up about things I like in conversations with them because they immediately shoot down anything I say or act like they’re too cool for whatever it is. Being friends (or even friendly) with some one else doesn’t require agreeing that some band is the best thing to ever happen to planet Earth or agreeing that something (or someone) else is stupid. For example, I got a lot of crap on Facebook for mentioning in a discussion that I didn’t care for the music in Frozen (a couple people even told me they weren’t sure they could still be friends with me. They were ultimately joking, of course, but why try to make me feel like I have to defend my tastes or preferences to you? I don’t have to explain myself or the things I like to anyone else, and neither do you). It’s taken me a long time to come to a place where I can respond to someone telling me, “OMG you do/don’t like this or that?? I don’t even understand,” with a simple, “That’s fine.” And I’m proud that I can.
In all honesty, I wasn’t 100% sure what kinds of things I would end up talking about when I began this post, but ultimately it looks like I believe that being an adult/mature means being humble, grateful, considerate, and completely owning yourself.
What kind of things make you know that you’re more grown-up than you used to be? Are any of those things bigger than “well, now I have to pay taxes,” or “now, I have an extra mouth to feed”?