Contemplations for the New Year - Part 5: It's time to start being the Grown Up
But in the last few months I've been struck by the difference between "adulting" and being a grown up. Here's how I play out the difference between them in my head.
Adulting is just doing the things - keeping your kitchen sink pretty clear of dirty dishes, washing your clothes often enough that you've got something clean to wear (most days), getting to work on time, paying all the bills, generally making sure all those functional "shoulds" get done.
It's often more like work than play, it's sometimes really hard to muster up the energy for it and it can sometimes feel like there's just a never-ending list of these types of to-do's in your life. Specially once you have a family.
On the other hand, being a grown-up is about maturity. Adulting to-do's can be carried out without any maturity. Being a grown-up can't.
And maturity is a funny thing to define. I've been told I am "mature for my age" from the time I was a teenager. Perhaps this was maturity, or perhaps just an over-developed sense of responsibility. They can look similar, specially in the young.
But real maturity is an emotional maturity.
While "adulting" deals with hard things outside oneself, emotional maturity is the dealing with hard things within oneself. And the hardest things we have to deal with, within ourselves, are emotions.
Learning to feel your feelings (which doesn't mean acting on them, necessarily) is hard. Feeling the hard feelings is one of the core elements of maturity, and growth, and wisdom.
Perhaps we need to get to at least middle age before we care about developing maturity and wisdom...perhaps it takes this long to have lived enough life to see what immaturity really looks like, how it plays out in workplaces, relationships, finances, addictions and any other major part of life.
I wrote yesterday about spiritual health being fundamentally rooted in emotional health. This could also have been written as seeking to be a grown-up.
I'm facing some areas of my life where I can see I have opted to not be a grown-up, and which have taken their toll on me because of it. It was easier, lighter (for a while) and had some superficial pay-offs. But those choices always cost you more in the end...and in relationships, they can cost you dearly.
So I find myself looking into 2023 with my inner grown-up saying "It's time, Naomi. You know the path, it's the hard but healthy one, and you know that being the grown-up will feel so much better, even if it hurts to feel those feelings, for a while."
Can you identify areas of your life that need a little more of your inner grown-up?