Fork in the Road: Aging... Wisely
Unlike when I turned 29 (or any other year prior), instead of merely receiving congrats and birthday wishes, this year, I was given stern advice as to how to live my life to “make the most of it,” not to mention asked about my five year plan(s), which was a bit of a sobering experience that kinda took the fun out of the big day.
To the outside world, it’s as though I’m finally an “adult,” despite the fact that in my view I’ve been living as one (at least on a mental maturity plane) for quite some time. Of course these sentiments from my elders are not completely unwarranted given that we are a society that maintains many traditional views about what’s appropriate as far as “expectations” for each age (and gender), much like the fact that shortly after my hubby and I tied the knot we received an onslaught of inquiry about our plans for making babies. But I digress…
Though I’ve always been one to buck tradition, these questions did however get me thinking – not about what I “should” be doing, but what it now means to be 30.
Twenty-nine was a big year for me: I got promoted at work, I decided to further my education through online studies, I said goodbye to my first car (tear). I got married (happy dance). I, collectively with my spouse, came up with a list of priorities and life goals we hope to achieve together. While none of this changes with the simple ushering in of another year, my outlook surely does. The implication behind what my elders were getting at is true: I’m no longer a kid.
Last month we discussed how through education, your worldview will expand and thereby you will grow as a person, which often necessitates having to say goodbye to those who are no longer on the same wavelength as you. A similar principle can and should be applied to the self.
An essential part of growth and maturity is regularly undergoing a process called, introspection defined by The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary as the “contemplation of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations; self-examination.”
Introspection doesn’t occur by default as part of the aging process, but rather requires one to deliberately (and objectively) direct their mental energies in an effort to establish what’s working, what’s not, what should stay and what should go as far as personal behaviours, thoughts, perceptions and belief systems.
In other words, just as you have to say goodbye to some friends who are no longer serving you (well) as you grow older (and wiser!), so too should you say goodbye to immature behaviour and thought patterns that are simply no longer in your best interest to maintain. For example, while it may prove an effective means of manipulating your parents into purchasing you that extra toy that you absolutely must have when you’re a child, throwing a temper tantrum at your boss because he’s not willing to grant you a given weekend off is probably not going to work out in your favour as an adult.
Though there are some who go through their lives never growing, moreover, never aspiring to grow, they will inevitably hit the proverbial glass ceiling. Those who take the rockier road – the road to maturity and self-actualization – will have more options and more opportunities purely because said individuals have allowed themselves to evolve and develop into well-rounded and well-adapted persons with a variety of transferrable skills and experiences.
So why do some elect to just stay the same? Quite simply, introspection requires effort, and more importantly, the ability to be honest with oneself. You must be willing to assess who you are for the good and the bad, versus who you’d like to be.
And so as I enter my third decade on this planet, I’m already starting to face new experiences, which will undoubtedly allow me to continue to grow and mature, and define me as an “adult.” I’ll be travelling to a foreign continent without my parents for the first time in a few days, I bought my first second car without my parents’ input, and soon my new hubby and I will be in the market for a house. Further, instead of immediately running to my folks in the event of a crisis, I now have a partner with whom I can tackle life’s difficulties.
They say a lot can change in an hour, let alone a day or a year. Whoever “they” was, they were right.
This month’s lesson: Maturity and aging are not inextricably linked. The former requires an ongoing investment of time and effort on your part. In the process, just as we have to say goodbye to old friends, so too should we say goodbye to old habits and behaviours that pierce us to childlike ways.