Growing Up: What Does That Really Mean?

growing-upDear Reader,

I have a conflict. I am trying to grow up while not fully understanding what that term means. What is a “grown up”? And how is that different from an “attempting grown up” or a “young adult” or a “late teenager”? Growing up is somewhat like describing the color green: all who can see the color know what it is, but being able to put that color, a natural non-word element of life, into words is quite a challenge. How do you describe colors to someone who has never seen more than black and white? Or who has never even seen light?

I could take the easy way, and say that growing up means you reach a certain age. In most countries, this is (at the most) 21. But I know that age does not equal wisdom. There are some very smart seven-year-olds and some very stupid thirty-seven-year-olds out there. There must be something more besides physical maturation. Sure, we can say that one gets older because they are more emotionally complex, but what does that mean? How can that be measured? The problem is that it really cannot be measured. To add some hope, I am trying to come up with a checklist.

–Is involved not only in helping their own matters, but helping those around them.

–Is able to pay all of their utilities on time.

–Can be, and is, financially responsible.

–Does not perform random dances in the middle of the street.

–Keeps emotions to a reasonable degree and does not let these emotions become responsible for risk-taking, dangerous behavior or decisions.

–Has stopped drunk-dialing their friends.

–Considered/is considering long-term relationships with romantic partners.

–Knows how to act in a professional manner and uses this type of behavior for most settings.


However, the problem with this check-list is that it assumes that growing up is the end goal and, perhaps more dangerous of an idea, that this goal is reachable. I do not belong to the people who think this way. To some, growing up is like driving cross-country with limited gas: in the end, you either make it to your destination promptly, or you run out of gas, break down, get stuck, and stay that way forever. For me, growing up is a lifelong journey, a road that forever gets traveled on. Sometimes people do well, sometimes they fail, but always they are headed in some direction. This journey does not stop until our lives do. And, really, if growing up means having to resort to some checklist of social conformity and never exploring life outside of such boundaries, I never want to grow up.

Where are you on the journey of growing up?


Jumbled Writer

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18 Responses to Growing Up: What Does That Really Mean?

  1. I would boil it down to the virtue of discretion. At any given time or place, a “grown up” has the right tools to make a sound decision. With that in mind, these moments will be taken as they come. Blowing bubbles off the roof of your house may not always be an indicator of immaturity. Dancing in the middle of the street might not either. It depends on the circumstances surrounding the decision and the use of one’s best judgement.

    • I suppose that is the best answer, which is that there is not one true answer. It’s all case-by-case, scenario-by-scenario. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Great questions, I thought I was grown up at 19 when I got married. Now I’ve been married 38 years and I’m now not sure what that means at all. Thanks for visiting my blog. I appreciate your time.

  3. I am with you – growing up is something we do everyday. It is the sum of of life experiences that make us who we are and influence and change us. There is no ideal. There is a point that we reach physical maturation, true. But emotionally there are no absolutes. If I had to define it a grown-up is someone who has to make the tough decisions in life. Their is a difference between being a responsible adult and a grown up, isn’t there? Oh, I think you said it better than I ever could!

  4. The word “grown up” is inherently past tense, indicating something completed, which, as you’ve illustrated isn’t really true, so I think we’re starting off on the wrong foot even as we begin to discuss the term. 🙂

    I agree it is a process, not a destination. To me, it’s more about how big your personal “field of awareness” is. Whenever you make a decision, is has the potential to impact others to a certain degree, depending on what the decision is, of course. Children constantly make decisions without regard for the impact those decisions will have on anyone else — sometimes without regard to impact on themselves even! Once we learn to be aware of, and take into consideration, the impact of the things we do and say on others, I think we begin to grow up.

    • That’s a great analysis of it. I like your theory of the field of awareness. Maybe the more that expands, the more we grow up? Granted, we will slip up from time to time, as to be expected. It is a process.

  5. As my friend says, “Growing up is hard to do no matter how old you are.” If growing up was a do this, do that accomplishment we would all arrive one day. Instead, it is more like common sense- if you have it you can get more, if you don’t have it you can get some but it will take awhile. There is no age limit on that.
    Thank you for liking my blog! I like yours too!

    • I like that comparison of common sense. Growing up and growing common sense can sometimes come in pairs, I think. The more you have of one, the more you have of the other.

  6. Don’t ever grow up! It’s something society expects you to be. Stay young, angry, happy, careless and carefree for as long a syou draw breath. It’s not for nothing that the elderly invariably will say: I wish I was young again!
    Thanks for following me.

  7. I was a little concerned when I went through the checks on your list (namely: Does not perform random dances in the middle of the street) but then you addressed my concerns in your conclusion and I’m happy to say I agree that if your last statement is the case, then I’d never want to grow up either 🙂

  8. Great post! I struggle with this all the time. I think growing up is putting other’s needs before yours and also realizing that when you look around and think you need an adult’s help or someone who knows what they are doing, that adult is inside of you and the only person you need is yourself! As for randomly dancing in the street, I intend to keep on doing that 🙂

    • I do think it is important to ask for help when needed (though I am a bad model for that one), but I can also see how growing up means depending more on yourself to get you through difficult times. Or maybe knowing the difference between the two. Thanks for responding!

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