Maturity shouldn’t be described like it’s some personality trait, because maturity is imperative to your personal success. [Click To Tweet!]
As a child I was too childish. My enthusiasm was met with a roll of the eyes from peers, and my habit of being a little too loud was a nuisance. Now, much older, I can see why it was annoying. Nonetheless it’s a weird paradox, being called childish as a child.
It wasn’t infrequent, being asked why the hell I couldn’t just “grow up!” by people who, honestly, probably couldn’t even grasp the concept of maturity themselves. I used to respond with a blank stare, but now I know exactly how to respond to the accusation.
Being childish and immature isn’t the same thing. I know why because I am childish in a lot of ways, but I’m a helluva lot more grow-up than most people I went to middle-school with.
Immature people care about seeming mature. Now, having come to a point in my life where I can compare myself to the person I was yesterday instead of those around me, I’ll tell you why this has changed me in a way that truly, honestly made me into a real “adult”
And it involves a bit of Disney.
I was talking to my cousin, who is a freshman in high school, and she still marvels at the fact that when I was around the same age as her about half a decade ago, I was still playing pretend with her. Princesses, mermaids, the works. I was, in her words, “so immature”. She just couldn’t believe it.
In the face of these words I just glanced at my little brother, twelve years old with 1200+ followers on Instagram and counting, then shrugged it off.
The thing is I didn’t really have any role models older or close enough in age to me to relate to. I am the first born on both sides of my family. Anyone even a year older than my age intimidated me. Thinking about it, the girls in my grade who seemed older also intimidated me. They still do, and we’re long out of grade school. My cousins and little brother, on the other hand, had me to relate to. I was childish, yes, but I was still older, and that meant that they “grew up” much faster than I did.
In middle school I was pretty infamous for being childish. An old friend of mine from that stage of life had told me recently, she perceived me to have a “childish spirit”. This is a kind description – the reality was that I was loud about what I loved, I got excited, and I had a rampant imagination.
I still dreamed about princesses and dragons in a land far, far away. I wore pompoms in my hair. I had gaps in my teeth until I was fourteen. I loved Harry Potter – I posted about it on Facebook all the time. I’m surprised people didn’t block me, honestly. THey probably did, actually.
Yes, I still played pretend with my little cousins up until I was in high school. After that I had to pretend like I didn’t want to engage in any of the stuff I used to in order to fit in. It was just a whole new game of pretend, so it’s not like I technically even stopped.
The thing about maturity is that it is so easily judged by people who tend to lack it. [Click To Tweet!]
Still, looking back I think it’s a little rich for fellow 12-year-olds to call me childish, when they would probably never admit that they would go home and coddle up to their parents the same way I did. Maybe we watched different shows (I never watched High School Musical until I was in high school so the charm of nostalgia was lost on me), but we all still begged to watch it past our bedtimes. We had bedrooms with bright colors in it, because no one is a minimalist at twelve years old.
On the flip side, these days I am praised for seeming beyond my years. At twenty, people frequently think I am at least five to seven years older because of the way I carry myself. I should be out, partying, drinking, with stars in my eyes. Instead I look like I’m struggling to pay off a mortgage.
That being said, I still don’t have a driver’s license. I live with my parents. My savings are okay, but probably not enough to be comfortable? I still don’t know. I can’t cook. Literally. I cannot cook to save my life. Maybe pasta, or bowl of cereal… my most advanced has been a tin of tuna on toast.
The same cousin I played pretend with half a decade ago has a secure job, savings galore, and her driving license – and she’s a teenager! We’re neck to neck when it comes to the “maturity races” apparently, but I would beg to differ. Maturity is more than a number, whether that’s your age or your bank balance. If that were the case I should by all means be rich, and fifty years old.
But I’m not.
What does maturity mean? It depends on who you’re asking. Maybe it has something to do with wisdom, or self-sufficiency. Maybe it’s about how good your credit score is, in which case I automatically fail because I don’t even have that – I just applied to my first credit card this week.
I’ve always struggled a little bit with growing up. I never fit in. For most of my life I struggled to take responsibility for anything – my lunchbox, my homework, my actions. Only recently did I truly face what I had been evading for so long, which is taking responsibility for myself. I started planning my life out, changing old bad habits, and starting fresh with my lifestyle.
The thing about maturity is that it is so easily judged by people who tend to lack it. Maturity to the immature is whether or not you have have certain trademark “grown-up” experiences, but maturity is something that runs much deeper than whether or not you enjoy coffee or not. Maturity shouldn’t be described like it’s some personality trait, because maturity is imperative to your personal success. You don’t ever “achieve” maturity. You just gain it, like points every time you become more self-aware, responsible, and achieve foresight.
How Disney Helped In Growing Me Up
I think maturity should be based on how much you relate to Ariel from “The Little Mermaid”.
When I watch Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, I used to feel indignant for Ariel when her father accused her of not knowing better. Eventually I began to scoff when she’d defy her father with a classic “but Daddy, I love him!!!” Sweetie, you’re 16. You’re just a teenager who has the hots for a boy. You’ll be over it in, like, a week. Chill.
…maturity is something that runs much deeper than whether or not you enjoy coffee or not. [Click To Tweet!]
These days I’m more astonished at how much of an idiot King Triton is for taking his daughter seriously instead of just… I don’t know, fathering? He destroys all her precious stuff and denounces her instead of taking a second to think that he is the adult and should try to understand her motives for building a secret lair with things that symbolize the very thing he hates so much. Instead he practically pushes her into getting tricked into a contract she couldn’t foresee (foresight, another quality of maturity both Ariel and her sea-king father lack). Had it occurred to him that a) she was clearly looking for outlets of rebellion against him as a teenager would and b) had a guppy crush on some guy from an utterly different species than her, maybe Ariel would have grown out of it and settled down with a sensible merman and carry out her duties as the princess of three quarters of the Earth’s surface.
It takes a lot more plot before anything really settles. In the end, we see King Triton finally understand his daughter a little more, and I think that’s the happiest part of that happily ever after.
Like Triton, I think my priorities have changed, but for me, my sea-witch experience ended with a lesson in self-awareness. As a teenager I was blissfully unaware of the havoc I was wreaking onto myself and the people around me, and it took a lot of fast growing up to a) face the fact that I was being toxic, b) overcome that behaviour, and c) continue on with life not as if nothing happened, but as someone who realizes her responsibility in my own life. It’s impossible to ignore that those events had passed and go on doing what I done before this experience.
I had matured. I matured enough to get past it and become aware of how my behaviours affect others, therefore also becoming self-sufficient enough to be classified as ‘a real grown-up’ adult. I don’t look at those younger than me and brand them as immature, because an affinity for fart noises doesn’t make you any less of an experienced person.
If you’re confused, just take a glance at Dr. Phil’s YouTube channel. It isn’t hard for some middle aged “adults” to act like a baby because of their lack of self awareness. On the other hand, some teenagers are well beyond their years in the face of difficulty, even though they are wearing braces and have pubescent acne.
Age truly is a number when it comes to maturity. You and I are no different.
The Bridge Between Childishness And Maturity
I still have that same “childish spirit” that astonishes my cousin so much, but I retain it with a new flavor of awareness. Yes, I still love Harry Potter, I unironically listen to Owl City, and hey, I live with my parents. I’m not in a huge rush because I have plenty of time to figure it out.
Yet I also know better than to post true feelings online. I know not to dig myself into a hole of lies, and to look at any problem that I have objectively before I take on any course of action. When I’m angry, I take a walk and don’t engage until I am level-headed. When I want attention, I ask for it and don’t act out in spite. When I am in a conflict, I am simperingly compassionate and walk away when things begin to become personal. Silent treatment? I don’t know her.
The point is, I’m taking my sweet time with growing up. We live in an age where not giving a shit about anything is apparently cool and 13-year-olds on Instagram look like they could put a down payment on a car. I continue to love the heck out of what I choose to and wear bows in my hair every now and then. I am seized by wonderment in the face of anything colorful, beautiful, loud, adventurous. I find dad jokes funny.
Slow and steady wins the race. Ultimately, it’s not the superficial things that make me an adult, it’s the behaviours I choose. It’s about making sacrifices where you have to and working hard for the future. It’s… a lot of things, and I’m still learning.
So. What do I say when someone asks me why I can’t just “grow up”? Simple. I answer with a question of my own: