>Every once in a while, in the course of my pondering, I become hung up on one concept or idea for which I cannot define the terms. The first rule of Rhetoric is "He who controls the terms controls the debate." I am not sure against whom I am debating, but there is an internal struggle there and I am positive that I am not in control.
I am tired of going over and over it in my head to decide just exactly what "grown up" is. I know that, first of all, it is a goal which at a young age we areOh sure we will reach eventually, and which as we get older we see become more and more elusive. We watch birthdays come and go and we graduate from Kindergarten and High School and eventually College and we will repeatedly ask ourselves "am I grown up yet?"
I think after our senior year in High school, in that time between complete freedom, the excitement of new possibilities and a completely blank slate we get our first glimpse of what it could feel like. There is this moment of "I am in control" (even though it is not nearly as complete as we think it is at the time) which seems to overtake all of the general thought processes going on at the time. People will change their clothing styles, their reading habits, their television tastes, their friend groups and they will call it all the beginning of the rest of their lives. Is this when you are grown up? Good Lord, I hope not.
So I decided against the "time" aspect being what makes one "grown up." I then thought that perhaps it was less the unfolding of time itself but rather what took place as time was doing its thing. I'm talking about even the most innocuous little decisions that we make during the course of our days, like which shoe we put on first or whether we hit the snooze button twice before we wake up, that have more of a bearing on being a "grown up" than time itself. The little things form the habits by which you live, the standard against which you measure all of the big decisions you make, like where you will go to college or what you will do to be able to eat. The little things are what you use to remind yourself that you are still there, like pinching yourself to make sure you aren't dreaming. I figure that something even as trivial as this that bears such a lasting consequence has to play a major role in shaping who you are. The "up" version of you.
But this didn't give me an answer as to how you know when you are grown up... The best I could ever do is compile a list of things that are either growing you up (making you who you will become) or making you look like a fool. You won't walk across a stage to receive a diploma that declares you officially grown up, nor will you wake up one day feeling instantly accomplished. I think, little by little, you will discover things about yourself that you recognize as reaching towards becoming the person you are destined to become:
You will become comfortable with yourself. You will have gone through a painful process of recognition of your flaws and weaknesses but you will learn to deal with them. You will become less and less dependent on other people for validation or companionship and you will start to savor the little moments when you are completely alone. You will find yourself drinking them deep, storing them on a hard-to-reach shelf in the back of your mind that you can only tap into when absolutely necessary. When the storm around us consumes all of the tranquility we manage to squeeze out and sip like the last warm drops of water in the hot desert sun.
You will learn the difference between necessary and unnecessary. You won't see yourself on this one point on the timeline of the third dimension but you will instead see from above how little things you experience will ripple out and effect things to come.
Because you have this newfound broad view, you will learn to do the things that you have to do, even though you may not want to do them. Doing it now is always better than doing it later. On the other hand, one more cup of coffee with a friend will be more meaningful to you in a week than getting home twenty minutes later than you would have otherwise. Stopping and smelling the roses will make your trip a lot more memorable than if you just blow through, only looking forward.
Each of the things above will lead you to a realization that there is something bigger than you and your little group of friends and your family and the people in your community and in your county and in the state and in the country and in the world. You are blind to not see a plan unfolding before your eyes - blind by either ignorance, naiveté, or prejudice. The recognition of this plan is what drives philosophers to think on and what makes songwriters sing on and what makes lovers love on, knowing that they are searching for something even if they are not entirely sure what it is they are searching for. Even in reading this, you know that on some level, even if you disagree with my methods or my pre-established beliefs, unless you have filled what is missing with the only thing that is big enough to last forever, nothing seems to stick. You feel some sort of longing to reach farther down the path on which you travel in hopes that you will eventually reach the point where enough is enough.
Perhaps it is not that we are meant to know when enough is enough. We may not ever recognize that we are "grown up." There might not be a moment of recognition that tells us we have reached everything we are capable of reaching... but maybe that's the plan.
Maybe we are meant to press on forever and strive each day to be better than the day before and learn that the only way we'll ever know what is sufficient is by trusting in the only One that ever could be.