I’m getting older. Every year. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. This much is indisputable.
But I often find myself questioning whether I’m actually growing up as time endlessly marches onward.
What does it mean to grow up?
To have adult responsibilities? I have a few of those. To be objectively mature? I probably have a ways to go; I still think prank calls are hilarious and my friends and I still laugh at things that adults shouldn’t find funny. To wake up early, work a nine-to-five, and come back to a homemade dinner and the 10:00 news? That’s definitely not me.
So what is growing up? The older I get, the more I realize that growing up is, in itself, a fallacy. Ask yourself, right now, if you really feel that much different than you did five years ago. Five years ago I was a sophomore in undergrad; I was naive, I had a few less responsibilities, and I had a very different idea of what my long-term future would look like. But was I really all that different? I was not. I still have the same interests. I still have the same personality. I still have my strengths, and I still have my shortcomings.
People never truly change. So much of who you are as a human being is hardwired into you through your genetics, your upbringing, and the core beliefs you’ve always held, that true, drastic change is often improbable or impossible. Does it mean you’ve grown up any less if, at your core, you’re the same person at 24 that you were at 14? I think not.
I believe that growing up is something we never truly do, at least not in the sense that we believe we eventually will when we’re young. Growing up is knowing how to act in different situations. Growing up is what parts of your inner self you share with others. Growing up is knowing your audience and tailoring yourself to accommodate that audience’s expectations. But growing up is not changing who you truly are.
And is that a bad thing? I think not. The big difference between being an adult and being a kid lies in acting like an adult instead of a kid. Maybe you’re a total jokester at heart but you know that you can’t exhibit that tendency freely in front of your boss. Maybe you’re a hopeless romantic at heart but you know that you can’t fall head-over-heels for every girl you sleep with. Maybe you’re insecure and unconfident but you know that you sure as hell aren’t getting that job unless you act otherwise.
We’re all actors and actresses, twisting and turning and reciting the lines that we need to in order to get the parts that we want on the great stage of life. What being an adult means is just nailing the auditions.
So if you ever think that you’re just getting older, and not really growing up, relax. You should never have to be anyone but yourself. The you that your boss sees, the you that your parents see, the you that your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend sees, the you that your friends see, the you that your colleagues see – that only matters so much. Because, while you may have to act like a grown-up in different situations, that facade might just crumble when you look into the mirror before you go to bed.
And that’s fine.
When you look into that mirror and see the same person you’ve always seen, that means you’re still YOU. You’ve always been you. You will always be you. And nothing should change that – especially not getting older and feeling the pressure to grow up.