Legally, I’ve been an “adult” for over a decade. I file my taxes each year, respond to important emails, and own a vacuum machine and paper shredder. Even if it took some time to adjust, by the age of 24 I thought that I had finally reached the level of emotional maturity adulthood demanded of me. It felt like my aunts and uncles and grandparents were right – I will, as they say, figure it out as I get older.
Now, with two years of a pandemic behind me, nothing feels the same. I’ve reached the Dunning-Kruger valley of adulthood, the place where it becomes clear that “you’ll figure it out” was a Get Out Of Tough Conversation Free card around children. Growing up is so much more than the menial chores and phone calls and jobs adults have – it’s embracing responsibility, having a long-term vision and a plan to achieve it, and finding yourself in the bigger picture of the world around you. It’s probably more things, too.
In acknowledging how little I know, I must also acknowledge that the advice I have to offer on this subject probably isn’t worth a lot. Nonetheless, a digital garden is a space to learn in public, and I want (no, need) to learn more about growing up. So, with all pretense of authority behind me, here are some of the prerequisites for growing up I’ve identified:
- Putting in the work. There are no idioms at play here; “work” is just whatever you need to do, be it a day job, a stressful phone call, or a serious life decision only you can make. For most of human history, putting in the work was an act of survival, and the idea that an adult could simply neglect to do this is a relatively recent affordance by modern society (a privilege, if you will).
- Humility & ambition. I group these together because I think the goal is to strike a balance between these two principles. Humility without ambition leads to a dull & stagnant life; ambition without humility leads to an ego-driven life. I’ve experienced both of these imbalances over the course of my 20s, and different aspects of my life are presently skewed in both directions.
I probably don’t need to mention that this two-item list isn’t comprehensive. I’m far from grown-up, and I expect it’ll take years of concentrated effort (including areas of growth I haven’t yet identified) before I can claim otherwise.
Growing up is an act of holistic self-care.