It’s that time of year when graduation photos, expressions of gratitude, and congratulatory commentary from friends and family flood social media. It truly is an exciting time: that final payout and payoff after years of hard work, study, and mayyybe a bit of party, too.
While scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, I noticed a few comments that, although different in verbiage, were similar in flavour:
“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”
I was instantly irked.
Why are we so afraid of growing up? At what point does the flip switch and we quit yearning for independence and start lamenting about responsibility?
This wikiHow article distills “adulting” into six simple elements. The authors also coined (or at least referenced) the term “adultolescence,” something I hadn’t seen before but that is both funny and true. Surely you know an adultolescent: they wax poetically about how they’re “never going to grow up,” casting subtle – and sometimes not-so-subtle – judgments about others who have, in their “expert” opinion, submitted to societal norms and “adulted.” (That was a lot of quotation marks, wasn’t it?)
The six steps indicative of a transition into adulthood are:
1. You actually think about the future.
2. You care about your weight and health.
3. You start appreciating the finer things in life.
4. You reminisce about “the good times.”
5. You’re content with less sleep.
6. You love staying home.
Is it just me, or are these not so bad? Which begs the question: why all the fuss and negativity?
Growing old is mandatory, yes, in that you have little control over physical changes to your person. I hate to break it to you, but your body will change; you will develop wrinkles; and you won’t be able to run and jump like you used to. Most days I find that I fret more over growing old than I do over growing up.
But while we lack control over biological changes, we do have control over lifestyle changes. I guess it all starts with how you define “growing up:” is it a partner, two kids, and a beagle? A mortgage with your name on it? A career? All of the above?
I’m not out on a mission to operationally define the term “grown-up,” but I figure it’s worth mentioning that, over time, it seems the term has adopted some very negative connotations. Shirking responsibility, rejecting social conventions, and refusing to accept or even understand the choices of others are all marketed as viable ways to evade “adulting.”
In 28 and a half years, I’ve had some shit experiences and some stellar experience and some run-of-the-mill, plain old experiences. The kids and the dog and the white picket fence aren’t on my plate right now, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never develop an appetite for them and it certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t meet the criteria for an adult without them.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: let’s quit making such a big damn deal about “growing up” and enjoy growing. Simple as that.