A few years ago, I began to ponder what it meant to be a grown-up.
For a reason that I was unable to put my finger on, I was certain that I was not yet a grown-up. I was old enough to be tried as an adult in court, old enough to pay my own taxes, old enough to legally marry. At the same time, I was clueless about how to handle conflict, how to have a healthy relationship or what a healthy relationship was, and how to be responsible for all areas of my life.
It took some searching, but eventually I learned about what it means to be a grown-up when I read The Seven Best Things Happy Couples Do by John and Linda Friel, which may as well be entitled “How to be a Grown-Up so You can be Happy and Your Spouse can, too”.
Reading the book was overwhelming at times; it pushed me to look at myself in ways that were uncomfortable and challenging. It became clear that my relationships were my own responsibility, that my life was my own choice and I had to let go of blame. It made me see that in order to be a grown-up, I had to evaluate every aspect of my life. I mean every aspect, including choice of spouse and religious beliefs. That was undoubtedly the hardest part.
In the book, John Friel explains that the process of becoming a grown-up takes at least two years to accomplish once the process has begun. He also explains that in order to become a grown-up, one must pass through a series of phases. A bit disappointed that it would take me this long, I trudged along and gave it my best, anyway. Besides, I had nothing to lose but my childish ways–and these I was more than willing to kiss goodbye.
It has been over two years since I read the book.
I have no more resentments. I have no blame, at least the majority of the time. I am at peace with my past, something that once seemed impossible. I am not even mad at my sixth-grade Social Studies teacher who embarrassed me in front of the class or at my once-BFF who ditched me after being my bridesmaid, never to be seen again. I am grateful for all of my experiences, both painful and joyful. They are pieces of the important journey that has made me the person I am right now: a person that I love and approve of.
Marc and Angel Hacklife say it like this:
“Adulthood is not based age; it’s based strictly on emotional maturity.”
This list is copied directly from Marc and Angel Hacklife, and describes in a nutshell what it means to be a grown-up:
- Realizing that maturity is an ongoing process, not a state, and continuously striving for self improvement.
- Able to manage personal jealousy and feelings of envy.
- Has the ability to listen to and evaluate the viewpoints of others.
- Maintains patience and flexibility on a daily basis.
- Accepts the fact that you can’t always win, and learns from mistakes instead of whining about the outcome.
- Does not overanalyze negative points, but instead looks for the positive points in the subject being analyzed.
- Is able to differentiate between rational decision making and emotional impulse.
- Understands that no skill or talent can overshadow the act of preparation.
- Capable of managing temper and anger.
- Keeps other people’s feeling in mind and limits selfishness.
- Being able to distinguish between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.
- Shows confidence without being overly arrogant.
- Handles pressure with self composure.
- Takes ownership and responsibility of personal actions.
- Manages personal fears.
- Able to see the various shades of grey between the extremes of black and white in every situation.
- Accepts negative feedback as a tool for self improvement.
- Aware of personal insecurities and self-esteem.
- Able to separate true love from transitory infatuation.
- Understanding that open communication is the key to progression.
Above all, true adults do what they have to do when it is required of them, and they do what they want when they can. They are able to distinguish between the two and manage their time and efforts accordingly.”
I am still working on several of these, but I am getting there. It feels great.