Growing up is like playing a game of Super Mario. We land on one experience, test it out for a while, learn to defeat it, and move on. We pick up gear that equips us, so that when we encounter that particular level again, we can confidently say, “Oh, I’ve been here before, here’s how it all works”, we tackle that level, and we move on. In the game of Super Mario, when I first stumble across the turtle shell, it, at first, seems like the most difficult obstacle, and I might spend a few lives until I’m finally able to understand the timing (do a little Google research) and can defeat the level. Then, I may see the turtle shell come up in a different level, and since I understand the nature of the turtle shell–I’ve packed on the gear that equips me–when I see the turtle shell come up five levels later, it is no longer the most difficult obstacle for me, I easily defeat it, and now, Bowser’s castle is the most daunting challenge to overcome (until I spend a few lives, understand the timing, do a little Google research and defeat the level to move onto something a little bigger, a little more challenging, a little more intimidating).
Except for, in life, these levels might translate to: working your first job and navigating the world of crabby bosses, direct deposit, workplace procedures–renting your first apartment, and learning how to deal with slum-lords, security deposits and loud neighbors, slovenly room mates and traversing with household rules and expectations–attending, planning, and participating in your friends weddings, managing a budget (learning to say NO to being a bridesmaid)–the first time you encounter each of these levels seems challenging, overwhelming, a major roadblock, but once you’ve been there and successfully finished ‘the level’, the next time you see it, you know: I must be firm with my work schedule (otherwise my boss will schedule me for times I can’t work), make sure that I read ALL of the fine print in that lease so I’m not stuck paying for the previous tenant’s hole in the wall, and maybe it’s just better to be my own room mate…
As I discussed on a previous post, the transition into my 30’s caused me to reflect back on the matters of my 20’s, and to reject the seemingly trivial matters that once occupied my life–The Bachelor, tan skin and long, silky hair, dating–but more thematically, dealing with Mean Girls, finding a sense of identity, FOMO–and I think the recognition of, and rejection in shows a sense of ‘leveling up’–of gaining the tools and knowledge to successfully navigate obstacles, such as Mean Girls, identity, FOMO–so I wonder, as I go forth into my 30’s, what new levels must I conquer in the realm of maturity?
By analyzing, observing, and interviewing the most mature people I know, these are the new levels I predict to encounter:
Thank You, Next, Recognizing This is No Longer for Me: Have you ever divested yourself into something–a person, an activity, a hobby, an author, a style–and one day, you show up and realize, while that experience served importance and value, you never need to do that, go there, be that ever again?
I can think of a few times in my life this has occurred to me. Of course, like most of us, my post-21 year old days included some very late nights, tearing up dance floors at local social establishments. I remember very distinctly, walking out of one of those establishments and thinking to myself, “That was fun, I’ve never danced so hard to Bruno Mars, and I think I never have to do that again”. This happened again to me when I travelled to London. 10/10, I’d return to London, but after several museums, crowded exhibits, and exhaustive audio tours, I’m not sure I ever need to peruse The British Museum, the Natural History Museum, or really The Louvre ever again (virtual museum tours should suffice).
For me, in smaller ways, this could occur in smaller ways–I might watch a movie, and while I may appreciate the value in the movie, I may determine I never need to watch it again; never have to read that book, never have to solve that puzzle, never need to play that game, never need to attend that class. I think the emotional maturity occurs when you are able to walk away and recognize the importance of whatever it was and the role played in your life for a period of time, and then to recognize that you will never have to go back to it again, as if your soul already investigated, engaged in, enjoyed, squeezed out everything necessary, you will carry those experiences with you forever, and yet you realize you never have to do it again.
I’m Not There Yet: Another part of maturity, I think, can also occur when we recognize that, while there are things we want for ourselves, we are able to celebrate those same desires occurring for someone else without imparting our own longing for–the ability to being able to recognize, support, and celebrate good things happening for other people–and then simultaneously, recognizing and separating those things from yourself.
For many of us, it stings when there is something we yearn for–when we were in our teens, these items may include a cool new pair of Jordans (or Steve Maddens–whatever shoe is in style) our classmate came to school sporting, the latest iPhone upgrade (in my high school days, it was the Razor) our friend just called us on, or the brand new car that our cousin’s parents bought her. When we were in our 20’s, these desires shifted to the brand new firm our classmate was just hired at, the hip new apartment with a brewery in the community center our friend just moved into, the massive engagement ring and elaborate proposal our cousin just had. And, as we grow into our 30’s, these ventures may include the agreeable and adorning spouse our friend somehow acquired, the InstaGram worth baby our coworker just popped out, the Pinterest worthy house our cousin (who wrecked that brand new car her parents bought her) now resides in.
Generally, when we look at the things that other people have that we want, we do not say, “I’m really happy that she has that!”–our mind does not go to, “She worked really hard for those Jordans and they look great on her!”, or, “My friend is going to have so much fun at this new apartment!”, or even, “This house my cousin lives in is perfect for her!”. Instead, when other people have the things that we desire, we think, “I bet she used a coupon and found those Jordans on clearance”, or, “Can she even afford to live here”, or, “You know what they say, a pristine outward appearance means there is something wrong in the marriage!”.
So, I think we know we have leveled up in maturity when we are able to say, “I’m not there yet in my own life, and I am happy that you are!”–when we can effectively, honestly, and outwardly celebrate when the desires of our own heart happen to someone else.
Divorce the person from the opinion: We all know someone in our lives that we loved, enjoyed spending time with, appreciated their efforts, and then we learn something about them (usually over social media or via adult beverages) that is unrecoverable. Because they hold this one particular belief or opinion that is SO far away from our own, we realize we can never see that person in the same way ever again, and we can no longer enjoy their company. We have to sever the relationship.
This happened to me recently. I held an occasional acquaintance–let’s call her Karen–would text with them periodically, see them at social gatherings a couple times a month, bump into them intermittently around town, and we would always chat and catch up. Then, at one social gathering, I learned that Karen did not think To Kill a Mockingbird is an essential novel for every American to read and the conversation continued into some opinions regarding teacher bashing. I was appalled. All the time we spent together, it was clear Karen never took enough interest to know that I was a teacher, and To Kill a Mockingbird is perhaps my favorite novel to teach, and I could never see, or associate with, Karen ever again.
Because, inevitably what happened in my head, was I took this ONE opinion Karen shared and wrapped it around the entire schema I had built of her in my head; IF Karen believed this about teachers, then it ALSO meant she watches THIS TV network, voted for THIS president, has THESE kinds of neighbors.
But of course, this is not necessarily true, and leveling up in maturity could mean having the ability to divorce the opinion from the person. Karen COULD have those beliefs, but as it is true with myself, I may hold some beliefs, but then reject others. Maybe she felt THAT way about teachers, but she also felt this other way about minimum wage increases, taking your kids to church, the environment, etc. And, the beliefs that Karen holds does not define her entire being. Maybe she has the one belief, but then she also runs a nationwide non profit and spends her weekends administering vaccines to homeless people (she doesn’t, but she could)….
For those of you who are past your 30’s (and are still reading this very long reflection), please share with me your thoughts on maturity!