It doesn’t take a genius to realize that our modern society values youth very highly. Turn on the TV or flip through any magazine & you will be greeted with a veritable host of ads showcasing products that proclaim they can “erase wrinkles,” “cover up greys,” or “give you the energy of youth,” etc, etc. In the media we are constantly assaulted with pictures of young hot celebrities & on a more day-to-day level we inevitably hear people making comments about how much getting old & growing up sucks. Since graduating from college I have even noticed a difference in the things I see on Facebook. I now see a lot of statuses about how much “real life” sucks & there seems to be a ridiculous amount of nostalgia going around for the innocence & simplicity of childhood. Now I for one spent a great deal of my childhood & adolescence pining for adulthood & the freedoms it would bring. Perhaps in some ways it’s sad that I didn’t just enjoy my life to the fullest at those stages as I suppose most kids/teens do. But I have to say that even though being an adult is hard, I for one am not disappointed at all. I am happier now than I’ve ever been. One of my greatest goals in life is to always retain the energy & vibrancy of youth while balancing this with the wisdom & serenity of getting older. So today I thought I’d compile a list of reasons why growing up doesn’t actually suck. In truth there are a lot of things I LOVE about getting older & I think our society could certainly use a reminder of these things from time to time, so here we go:
- Growing up means no longer having to obsess over every facet of your appearance. I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but when I was a teenager I spent entirely too much time worrying about every tiny bit of my appearance. If even one hair was out of line, I was sure I looked horrible & that everyone was secretly laughing at me. Though I’ve never been the type to really follow fashion trends, I still felt the need to be as “in style” as possible. Well, one of the great things about getting older is the ability to just not give a crap about such things. And to know that you are better off because of it. I don’t mean that I don’t care about looking my best; I certainly do. But if I have a “bad hair day” or a day when my acne is acting up & making my face look like a teenager’s all over again, I have the maturity to know that this too shall pass. I also know that if anyone thinks less of me for not wearing the trendiest clothes or not having perfect skin or anything superficial like that, then those people aren’t worth worrying about anyway. I’m far from the confident person I hope to be someday but I’ve also come a long way from the girl I used to be, & I’m proud of that.
- Growing up means realizing that your mom was right when she said it was more important to be respected than to be liked. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a born people-pleaser. It just comes naturally to me to want to make others happy & to be well-liked by everyone. But I have learned to temper that when necessary because I have discovered that it truly is impossible to please everyone all the time. And that’s ok. It’s just life.
- Stemming from the last point, getting older means having the courage to say no to people who are just trying to use you to their own advantage. It means having enough self-respect to not waste your valuable time on people who don’t actually care about you. Getting older means realizing that your worth is not diminished by those who do not recognize or appreciate you. This gives you the confidence to say no to those who do not actually have your best interests at heart.
- Getting older means not having to panic every time something doesn’t go “your way.” It means realizing that just because you’ve had a bad day or even a bad week, month, or year, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have a bad life. And getting older means realizing that your attitude is the greatest determinant in your own happiness. (This is both scary & enlightening. I could write a whole blog post on this subject & I probably will soon.)
- Getting older means learning how to agree to disagree. It means building friendships with people who are vastly different from you & instead of trying to “convert” them you are content to learn from each other & use your differences to build a stronger relationship.
- Getting older means independence. Ah, what a glorious word! This is what I longed for so much as a child. I know most people end up regretting such longings because they say the price of freedom is too great. But I disagree. I think if you make good decisions in life, you will set yourself up for success & you’ll be able to reap the rewards of independence to the fullest. I love that as an adult I can choose my career, my spouse, where I live, what house to buy, what to wear, who to be friends with, where to go to school, what to eat, basically everything!
- Growing up means realizing that there is no one right way for everyone in life. There’s nothing more freeing than understanding that there is no exact prescription for success that every person must follow. Growing up means having the freedom to make mistakes & learn from them.
- Growing up means realizing that sometimes life sucks. It means looking evil in the face & realizing that this world is a cold & scary place. (That wasn’t supposed to rhyme…) I know this must seem like a bad thing. And it’s this loss of innocence that so many people mourn so greatly. But I’ve never understood why people celebrate innocence so much. It’s nothing more than an illusion. For of what value is happiness if it’s based on something that is fake? To me that’s what “innocence” is. It’s the happiness that comes from not realizing how bad the world can really be. I think the happiness we can experience as adults is all the greater because we have had to see so many of the dark sides of life too. Which is of greater value: the happiness of a child who does not yet understand the world or the happiness of an adult who has looked into the pit of hell, faced the monsters of the world, & come out alive? Maybe I was a weird child (ok, who am I kidding, I was DEFINITELY a weird child for a number of reasons), but I don’t ever remember feeling the type of blissfully ignorant happiness that people always talk about children experiencing. In any case, I believe the happiness & love we can experience as adults is all the greater because it’s a real choice. We have chosen to seek joy even though we have seen that life is often cruel & unfair. We have chosen to seek peace even though we know that life can be violent to even the meekest of us. This thought process requires a bit of mental gymnastics at times but I truly believe I am happier now than I’ve ever been. Yes, I have days when I look at the world & feel like there’s no hope. But those days aren’t the norm & when they do happen I have the wisdom to know those feelings will pass. Whew, that was a deep one.
- Growing up means realizing that the journey is as important as the destination. It means understanding that life is short & we truly must live every day like it’s our last, as cliché as that may be.
- Getting older means realizing that just because your life isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t great. It’s so easy to look in the mirror & think “I’d be so much prettier if my nose were just a little straighter” or “I’d be so much happier if I could afford that fancy car I’ve always wanted” or any number of such things. It’s so easy to compare yourself to your friends, coworkers, or even celebrities & feel like your life just doesn’t measure up. But growing up means realizing that everyone’s life isn’t measured against the same yardstick. We all have our own meter for success & happiness & that’s the only one that really matters.
As an addendum, if anyone wants to help me create better titles for my blog posts, that would be awesome. I like to think I’m a pretty decent writer but when it comes to creating titles for papers, essays, poems, or blog posts, I’m always at a loss, as you can clearly see by the super clever title of this post. 😉