Zen Habits: Adulthood

url“I am convinced that most people do not grow up…We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” – Maya Angelou

I have been told my entire life to grow-up and be an adult. I did all the things I thought grown-ups did. I got a boring jobs working for boring corporations. I got married. I had dinner parties. I settled down. But I guess I did it wrong because people kept telling me to “grow up”. It was confusing to me because I thought I was grown up. Looking back I see that I was doing just fine. I was just stuck trying to live someone else’s idea of a “grown up” life.

For me, being an adult has been a gradual process. And I have fought it kicking and screaming the entire way. Okay, not really, but I never bought into the picture of what adulthood looked like. I never really wanted to be a home owner or have the same job for twenty years, or have kids. No one ever told me that there are many different pictures of what adulthood looks like. Not all grown-ups are married. Not all grown-ups have kids. Not all adults go to college, or work a 9-5 job, or own a home, or stay in one place their whole lives.

One of the first signs of adulthood I noticed in myself was realizing that no job or person was beneath me. It came early for me. I’ve had to work since I was about twelve years old, and I’ve had some super unglamorous jobs: Domino’s Pizza phone girl, waitress, cocktail waitress, tour guide, teacher and karaoke host in Prague. These are just a few of the not so glamorous jobs I’ve had. I realized fairly young that working a not so sexy job isn’t the worst thing in the world. Being broke and calling mom and dad for money is. I know how to manage my finances, however small they are.

Real adults are able to let go of bitterness and resentment. We don’t hold on to the past, or wear our bitterness like a badge honor. We don’t hold grudges. Adults are able to take life as it comes without tossing blame onto others. We make mistakes and we cop to them. We don’t expect others to always listen to us, and we know when to keep our mouths shut. Sometimes, your advice isn’t wanted. And that’s okay. Adults know how to respond to life rather than react to it. Adults can say ‘NO’ to their boss, or partner, or friends without fear of repercussion or guilt. Adults know that time and energy are not mutually exclusive.

Being a grown up isn’t about what kind of job you have, or who you know. It’s about facing reality head on. I bet you know a few people who live in a hypothetical world. They imagine that people are always judging them, and always thinking the worst of them. That thought turns into an assumption, and that assumption becomes your ‘truth’. It’s nuts to live that way. What a waste of time!

An adult doesn’t care what people think about her, and she certainly doesn’t sit around thinking about the people who think she’s a loser. And trust me, there are people out there that think you are a loser. I promise, there are people who don’t like you. And that’s okay! Heck, just this morning I got a lovely comment on my blog that said “Fuck You” about eight different times and called me an asshole. Did I cry and wonder why this person is so mean? Nope. I even posted the comment. (It’s on the ABOUT ME PAGE comment section. Look for Shaggy6913)  Then I laughed that folks in Austin are still pissy over something I wrote over a year ago, and simultaneously proving my point about how warm and welcoming they are. Grow up.

Personally, I think the best way to cultivate maturity is to invest in relationships with different types of people. Surrounding yourself with people your same age, same political views, likes and dislikes will only stint your growth. We all need peers, and people who will help us down the road, and knowing people both younger and older than you can be your ticket to understanding yourself. When you invest in people younger than yourself, it’ll help them grow and help you mature. I have friends who are nineteen, and I have friends who are fifty. Age doesn’t matter to me. What matters is the kind of person you are.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you want the world to treat you like an adult, start acting like one. I’m not saying “Get a real job!” or “Stop going out and partying!” I’m saying, treat others with respect and compassion. Don’t think your opinion is the right one, or the only one. Be open-minded and practice by meeting new and different people. Be in charge of your finances and take care of yourself and the people who care about you. Enjoy life, travel often and If people still tell you to grow up, just smile and say thanks. That’s what I do.

I like my life.