Ever since we have been able to think, we’ve been looking towards the future. We imagine how we will look when we grow up, the sort of people we are going to become. Without even knowing it, we set these expectations for ourselves because everything seems possible. From a young age we hear time and time again, “you can do anything that you set your mind to.” Untainted by the harshness of the world, we believe it.
The idea of growing older whispers promises of freedom. At this age you’ll be able to drive, at that age you’ll be able to vote. Eventually you’ll go on to pursue a career or a particular lifestyle. You think that when you’re older, you can be whoever you want. As a child I was always very fond of drumming and always wanted to be a drummer. But I was told it’s better for me to focus on my study before I pursue my passion in music. So I knew that I had to wait until I was bigger to be the self-proclaimed drummer I longed to be.
But as we do start to get older, those who have been facing adulthood long before us warn us to enjoy our youth. Take advantage of the freedom that we have now. Freedom? But we thought freedom came with adulthood; when we make the choices for our future. That is because we romanticize the idea of growing older, not growing up. Advantages come with age, but so do responsibility. Sadly, we don’t know until it comes.
Growing old doesn’t always mean growing up
So why the rush? What makes us want to skip ahead in time? The imaginary privilege and advantage I guess.
While we’re young, adults seem to have it all. Throughout growing up we are told to abide by certain restrictions based on our age, such as drinking coffee or dying our hair. There is no actual law stating this, but social norms dictate how old you must be for certain practices.
Then there are the benchmarks that are dictated by law for certain practices such as gambling, drinking, or driving. Unable to do this at our own free will while “under-aged” we long for a time when we are in charge of our choices.
Growing up should be defined by experience, not age
Let’s face it. Adulthood sucks, and we all know it. How did it get this way? Where did we go wrong? The truth is, adulthood seems to such because the expectation does not match the reality.
Growing up is different than growing old, because getting old is inevitable. The presence of maturity brought on the wisdom and experience is what signifies growing up. Your experiences have shaped you, define the person that you are, and the person you continue to grow into. Maturity is defined by the way how you perceive experiences, how you react to them, self-reflection after the fact, and the way that you carry on after the fact.
Any obstacle or experience is a chance to shape yourself. You only have two choices really, let the outcome make you a stronger, better person; or let it break you. Face responsibility, and sort out a solution. These are actions of a grown-up individual.
The idea “we can do more when we are older” is just an illusion
Just like realizing Santa Clause isn’t real (spoiler alert) we grow up to realize that adulthood really isn’t all that it’s hopped up to be. It’s a hard knock life. Instead of freedom, we get restrictions, lots of it. There are tons of rules and social standards to abide by as an adult; and we are vulnerable to judgment if we dismiss these standards.
In the working world, you are not judged by who you are as an adult. Instead you are judged by how adult you are. Are you responsible? Organized? Punctual? Articulate? You need to appear and sound like you have it all together. And the older we get, the more responsibilities and expectations get thrown at us. The best part? No one is going to help or show you the way.
You’re an adult, figure it out.
No one really knows how to “adult”
When it comes to adulting, no one really knows what they’re doing. We are all just trying our best. Many people appear to be really good at it, but deep down they are probably questioning themselves as well. The best we can do is ask for advice from our wiser, older friends and family. No one can really tell you what to do in any given situation, but they can only tell you what they would do. We all want something different out of life, therefore we all make different decisions to support our cause. We spend our whole lives trying to figure it out, taking chances and hoping for the best.
Growing up is similar to parenting. No one is ready, and no one really knows what they’re doing. As you grow, you realize all of the corny anecdotes your parents tortured you with hold some truth. You’re actually very much like them. The older you get, the more you start to respect your parents and realize that they are just people doing the best that they can do.
You really need to make time for the things you want to do.
Otherwise they’re not going to happen. Don’t keep telling yourself, “when you get older.” Cause eventually you will realize that time has escaped you, and all you have left are your dreams. The more you age, the faster time seems to go. That is because your time is already consumed.
Let’s say that you sleep for 8 hours a night, work 8 hours a day. Let’s omit 3 hours for eating, commuting, and showering. Now, you are only left with 5 hours of your day. You’re not as young as you used to be, and you might not feel so energized and motivated to pursue your own interests. It’s difficult to find the time to do the things that interest you when you have a set routine. Don’t rely on a promise of the future. You need to make the time for it now.
Nobody is thinking about you (or that meme you shared).
Now that we’re older, we are consumed by responsibilities. We all are. And that’s why most people are incredibly self-focused. Because we have to be. Times are very different when we were just teenagers, when we had all of the time in the world to just hang around and gossip.
We don’t have the freedom to be so carefree as we age. We have ourselves to look after. Those of us who have spouses and children have even more obligations. “Hanging out” is no longer a priority, instead it’s been replaced with goals and responsibilities. Our attention is directed towards more worldly matters as displayed on the news and the media. Most people share the same opinions and interests as us, so we tend to lose interest in those people and their lives.
Adulthood is a grey area, there is no right and wrong
Life is very straightforward as a child. Adults are constantly telling us the difference between right and wrong. But as we grow up, things are not unidirectional. And things that you may have grown up to believe start to show another side to them. There are two sides to every opinion or fact, and we have to choose which side we stand on.
Example: You are raised to believe the C02 emissions are bad, and very detrimental to the environment. While the former is true, we struggle to have reliable transportation without it. For your information, this conflict is known as Cognitive Dissonance.
Working for your dream= 99% suffering + 1% chance to succeed
When we’re young, it’s so easy to picture ourselves exactly where we want to be. Our parents and teachers encourage us to chase these dreams because of the benefits. If we decide to be a doctor, then we get to save lives. If we decide to be an architect, we can design beautiful buildings and bridges so people can travel and live comfortably.
What they don’t tell you is how hard it is to achieve these dreams. It takes tons of work and self-sacrifice, and in the end might not work out. This is the part that adults like to leave out. What they should tell us, is that if we want to be a doctor then we need to study super hard, no holidays, you need to work shifts in the hospital while you study which makes it very difficult to maintain a work/life balance. And worst of all, you can’t save all of your patients.
These days we can’t blame ourselves for giving up so easily. We were led to believe that if we wanted someone hard enough it would be ours, but we were never shown how to work for it. We were never told how much suffering comes along with chasing a dream.
Growing old is easy, but growing up is painful
To be the best person you can be, you need to experience as much as you can. Take those experiences, and let them shape you into being stronger, smarter, and better. Things are going to constantly blindside you, so learn to adapt. Keep your mind open, always be receptive to more knowledge. The moment that you stop learning is the moment that you stop growing.