I thought I would throw this out to my blog readers, as it was something that stumped me this week and I had to give it some real thought. I am working with our Senior High Youth Group at church, and we have all kinds of discussions. Some are more faith oriented, some are about issues the kids face on a daily basis. I am untrained, so basically I am all over the map and whatever strikes my fancy is what I decide to work with that week.
After a conversation with someone I had recently, I thought I would make our discussion tomorrow night about "When do you know you are an adult?". I am not thinking of the typical markers of our passage into adulthood, like obtaining a drivers license, drinking a beer or voting. What I am really gearing this towards are those moments when you recognize you have taken another step towards maturity. I have come up with a few ideas, but I am hoping all of you might have some interesting insights to share with me as well.
We all can look back on our teenage years and see how we thought we were so grown up when, in fact, we finally really grew up in our 20's...or for some of us even longer than that. I remember several moments when I suddenly felt I had taken another step out of childhood and into adulthood, even if I wasn't fully there yet.
I remember my freshman year in high school when one of my friends had a sister who became pregnant. She told me one night at band practice when she could barely contain her grief over what her sister had done with her life. With stark clarity, as I sat there with my arm around her shoulder I can recall thinking to myself "You are no longer a child, the problems you will face from now on can not all be fixed by running to mom and dad."
The night before Dominick left for technical school in Arizona we stood outside his home under the dim streetlight pledging our undying love for one another. I was barely 16 years old, and yet somehow recognized that what I was feeling was deeper than your typical teenage love affair. I knew I was saying goodbye for several months to the man I pictured myself married to, and that he was going off to prepare himself for a career which would eventually support us. We both stood there on the precipice of our future, knowing we didn't want to be separated and yet realizing we needed to do this. I think I knew I had hit another landmark in growing up when we turned away from one another and yet still had supreme confidence in our relationship. We both knew this was not going to falter as we knew we each were incredibly committed to one another. I had somehow turned a corner in my mind, as had Dominick, from "dating" to "preparation for marriage", and with that turn I grew up a little bit more.
Then there was the gradual change that came in seeing myself as part of the world, rather than the world revolving around me. It wasn't an instant change, and in fact it is a lesson that to this day I continue to learn on an ever deepening level. Somewhere along the line, I found a greater joy in focusing outside myself rather than only on myself. With that came maturity.
It is hard to grow up, be it now in the 2000's or when I did in the 80's, or when our parents did in the 50's. Trying to figure out who we are, why we are here, and what our purpose is can be scary and challenging. Leaving our childhood behind in bits and pieces as it falls away from us with each new event that occurs can be heartbreaking as we hold on with all our might to the children we once were but find ourselves waving goodbye to. We rush headlong into adulthood, wishing the remainder of our childhood away as we look forward to new privileges and new signs of our impending completion of the process of growing into adulthood.
And perhaps the truest sign that we have indeed achieved adulthood is when we recognize that we never stop growing and learning, that we are never a finished product.
So what about you all? What do you see as a sign that someone has matured into an adult? What made you begin to see yourself differently from when you were younger? When did you know YOU were an adult, and what made you see yourself that way?
It is a harder question to answer that it initially appears to be.