Last week was the start of our football season. I teach two freshmen classes, so the day after the game, I observed every single freshmen football player trying to smooze up the ladies by “stretching their sore calf muscles” and “nursing their sore bruises” and, basically, boasting their own egos and bragging, in an indirect way, of their status as a student athlete. It is quite entertaining from my perspective, especially because I know I totally was the same way when I was in high school.
I have been thinking lately about the concept of maturity. I thought I was an extremely mature individual. Then, a few things happened in my life, I learned from them, and realized the person I was before was not as mature as I originally gave myself credit for. I go back and read my high school journals and realize I was a disaster back then. I had this angelic perception of myself–that I was ‘hard working’ and ‘didn’t let people get to me’ and ‘was not into boys at all’. I can only imagine what my peers actually thought about me.
This week, I have been thinking about this idea of maturity. What does it mean exactly to mature? How does one know they are maturing? What kind of landmarks demonstrate maturity? Even at the ripe age of 23, I am realizing that I have much more maturing to do.
For one, I think a sign of maturity is when you stop boosting about yourself and you do things just because. You are not looking for recognition, you are not looking for revenge, you are not looking to brown nose someone and receive a promotion. There is no need to brag about yourself all over social media. You stop taking pictures of how big your boobs and how flat your abs are and how much fun you are having with many of your friends Your actions are genuine and sincere. You start doing nice things for people just because you know it will brighten their day. You start taking pictures, not to post all over for people to see, but because you want to look back and remember those good times.
I think another sign of maturity is when you can observe yourself from a clinical or unbiased standpoint, pick out your flaws, and figure out how to make them better. This takes a lot of self confidence, respect, and love–our minds are not wired to find the flaws in ourselves, but rather, as a defense mechanism, we want to believe we are all the best people ever; what we are doing is 100% the correct way to do it, because, otherwise, it is uncomfortable to believe that we might have made a mistake.
The older I get, the more I realize that there is no such thing as ‘perfect’, but rather differences and different fits. There is no ‘perfect’ date to go on, but perhaps there are a variety of dates that would fit different couples better. There is no ‘perfect’ job, because we can all find faults in the places we work (for me, it is the copy machine). There is no ‘perfect’ birthday, because there are so many factors we cannot control. I think a sign of maturity is when you can take what life gives you, accept it, and make the best of what you have. This is something teaching has especially taught me. I cannot control a kid cussing during my evaluation. I cannot control the girl’s feelings who gets bullied. I cannot control the kid not wanting to turn in his work. A sign of maturity is when you can accept this fate and learn to make the best of whatever you got.
Another step of maturity is choosing your battles and being able to give yourself up for the better cause of society. I definitely experienced this in college with room mates. Of course, I thought I was the most mature person ever. When I think back on it, there were definitely some moments that I did immature things, such as put my room mate’s dishes on her bed since she never cleaned them. Our neighbors recently opened our door and left a pile of dog poop on the step. A kid in my class, while listening to a sensitive topic, had to pull his shirt over his mouth because he was not mature enough to handle the presentation.
This list is obviously to be continued as I continue contemplating, observing the world, and interviewing my fellow colleagues on their steps towards maturity.
Maturity is a journey that we all must learn by experience. I can remember my dad telling me so many times, “Don’t worry about that person, they are just insecure”, or “Just let it go–don’t let it get to you”. It is easier said than done. I hear myself saying the same things to my high schoolers. But, I think until you tackle those stages yourself and learn through experience, you never quite understand the full complexity of the term.