Grow up! – On ‘being mature’ and growth

I can’t even begin to count the number of times people have told me to ‘grow up’. I’ve always thought it was stupid. It made no sense to me that being playful would be immature. Honestly, I don’t even know when someone is ‘mature’ or not. The closest thing I can come up with would be ‘having traits that you attain through years of life experience’… Or something. Not all acquired traits are good things though, so I don’t really understand why people attribute so much value to ‘being mature’. It’s a hollow statement. The concept of constantly maturing and growing is more important than avoiding people’s disapproval for being playful.

The strangest thing about growing up might be that I realize more and more how much growing I want to do. I remember a conversation from when I was around 18, talking to someone who was around 24. I said something along the lines of being pretty mature and that I did not expect to change much in the years after that. She laughed and told me that she had said the same in the past, and that I would definitely change over the years. I laughed it off at the time, thinking to myself that “she just didn’t know me that well”. Of course I changed over the years in many ways. I read somewhere that as a general rule of thumb, people psychologically change a lot until they are somewhere around 35 years old. I don’t remember the source and if my memory serves me right, this statement was related to big events severely impacting someone psychologically. Regardless how accurate it is, it definitely sounds more logical than an 18 year old thinking “he’s there” despite the fact that he just left high school.

Here’s a fun example of learning and knowing a lot about something and still messing it up. I’m a bachelor of social work meaning that I have 4 years of psychology and social skills drilled into my head, but in my daily life I’m still the same person who makes stupid comments, gets misunderstood and more, just like anyone else. Just this saturday at a bar, I was talking to an old friend when his girlfriend came up to us. She told us how she got her ass grabbed and flipped out over it. My friend told her “Wow, you normally don’t get so worked up about something like this.” I responded with something along the lines of “Well, being easy in that sense can be a good thing.” What I tried to say was that it can be a great asset (pun not intended) not to get angry or worked up so easily. What she heard was more along the lines of “being easy and letting guys grope you can be a good thing” so she felt pretty insulted. I felt so stupid at that moment that I started tripping over my own words while trying to explain myself and apologize, something that hardly ever happens with me. There you go, years of training in knowing what to say and I mess up.

Sure, this was just a minor, stupid (and in hindsight hilarious) thing, but this thing happens to us all the time, in every aspect of our life even if we don’t (want to) realize it. I know perfectly well how calorie counting works when dieting, yet a while back I made the mistake of putting too much peanut butter on my sandwiches, resulting in so many extra calories that I remained stagnant in my fat loss progress. I wish I was exaggerating or joking but I’m not. I’m sure we all have things we think we know, but once we block out the idea that maybe, just maybe, we are mistaken or have to adjust our stance on something, we stop learning. We stop growing. We stop growing up. We set ourselves up for making the same mistake over and over. This could be in terms of sports performance, health, relationships with people, career or anything else. It’s easier to tell ourselves that we know exactly how things are than admitting that we need to grow or mature, but that’s not going to help us. Besides being a somewhat arbitrary trait, being mature or immature suddenly doesn’t seem that relevant anymore, or at the very least it’s infinitely less important than striving for constant growth.

So what’s more important? Possessing some arbitrarily defined traits and habits like being serious, not watching children’s cartoons and not making perverted jokes? Or having the realization that maturing is a constant process without a specific endpoint, that we don’t know everything and that we would do well to learn and grow?

 

“You can’t grow without burning. I don’t like to be too comfortable. I like to stay hungry.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger as Joe Santo