Meandering Into Adulthood
When I was little, I remember looking up to the adults in and around my life. They all seemed to know what they were doing. If it was broken, they could fix it. They had the answer to almost any question, and when they didn’t know they were ready to show you how you could go find out.
I have to confess, as a man in his early forties, I’ve never been able to see myself as one of those adults. I completely lack that sense of certainty. My ability to fix a broken toy is fairly limited. It surprises me when others seek me out for wisdom or advice. I may appear to be a grown man, but inside is an unsure teenager trying to convince everyone that he’s really not an unremarkable screw-up.
I can’t figure it out. Why does my head start from that small, weak place in my past, rather than the larger place built on my experience and success? Why don’t I automatically see myself as an adult? Does everyone suffer in the same way? Maybe, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
1 Corinthians 13:11
I think the problem is how we’ve abused the word adult. It no longer paints a clear picture of the attributes and responsibilities that make up what being an adult is. Think about the things we associate the word with.
See, because I’m an adult, I can go down to the adult bookstore and purchase some adult entertainment to enjoy while I consume an adult beverage. Later in life I can move into an adult community and participate in an active adult lifestyle.
None of those things has anything to do with being a responsible adult. All of them could actually be classified as childish activities. (Yes, even retirement communities. Don’t get me started.)
You also don’t magically become an adult by earning a degree, holding down a job, getting married, or having children. I’ve done all of those things, and you could still find me up all night playing video games while my kids get tucked into bed without me. I’ve seen grown men play beer pong in the garage while their wives had to watch the kids and grill the burgers for everyone in the backyard. These aren’t the acts of adults.
Children do what feels good. Adults devise a plan and follow it.
– Dave Ramsey
We need to be presented with a brighter dividing line between adolescence and adulthood. Young men and women need mentors and leaders to teach the clear goals they (and we) should be striving for to become amazing adults. They need a target off in the distance that they’re eventually heading for, even if the path isn’t direct.
Because life is wonderfully messy. We curve this way and that as we encounter new ideas and experiences, and that’s a good thing. Our individual pains and joys make us uniquely us. Yet, we need that target, that flag waving high off in the distance, to know when we’ve curved too far in the opposite direction. We need it so we know what progress in the right direction looks like and to know when we’ve arrived.
So, this is my short list, representing the ground that my flag in the distance is planted in.
- Adults are proactive. They are not passive bystanders.
- Adults accept responsibility. They interact with others directly and with honesty.
- Adults lead with courage. They recognize and embrace their influence.
- Adults live for a greater reward. They sacrifice today for an incredible tomorrow.
What’s missing? What would you add? What makes you an adult?
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