Never Too Old To Grow Up
Once upon a time, about sixty years ago, my mother yelled in anger and frustration at me, “Raymond, you have to grow up and get up in the mornings. The school bus won’t wait for you to get out of bed. I won’t call you again!” My mother was true to her word as she was done with my chronic reluctance to get up when she called me. She got me an alarm clock and said, “Set your alarm and get yourself up.” In high school, getting up in time to catch the bus was hard to do, but I did master it with the help of my alarm clock.
Life keeps giving us things that are hard to do. Some of us were alive in 1962. Okay, at least a few of us were young then, and we were convinced by a singer named Neil Sedaka that breaking up was hard to do. On Aug. 11, 1962, his song, ‘Breaking Up is Hard to Do,’ was #1 on the Pop Music Billboard. Maybe you had to be there and a high schooler to be thrilled with the scat that began the song and the liveliness of the music to know Sedaka made a sad truth not only bearable but positively tolerable.
Some of us were alive in 1975 when Sedaka recorded the same song in a different version. It was a slower and more tender rendering. Again, the song was a hit, and once again, he assured the world breaking up is hard to do. I still believed his message as I had in high school. Some things are worth repeating.
If you are reading this, you are, as you know, alive in 2022. Being alive is a subject that can be debated, but it means, for me, being a slower version of myself than I was in high school. In 1962 as a teenager, I had valid excuses for not growing up completely. I was a slow learner. Because adolescents go to high school and complete it does not mean they have grown up into full-flavored adults. We could also debate how many adults long passed high school or college behave as scattered-brained adolescents or over-sized children.
I’m not accusing any one adult of being childish or having less than a fully functioning brain on any given day. I am saying that growing up and becoming more and more mature is hard to do at any age. We speak of growing older and wiser. We assume everyone that reaches the end of biological growth continues to become even more mature throughout their lives. What I consider mature may not be what you believe is maturity in an adult.
In my advanced age, I see a need for me to grow and become more level-headed, reliable, discerning, judicious, intelligent, and ever ripening up in more wisdom. Unfortunately, in my seventy-five-plus years, I still have a temper that gets lost, and I say things that will worsen situations. For example, what I bark out in anger makes me sound like I’m attacking rather than discussing an issue rationally. It is easy to justify my occasional outburst of anger, but my actions, my angry words, speak the truth. I need to grow up in my anger management skills and become more level-headed.
It is so easy to talk without intelligence, to voice what is feelings, not reliable or judicious facts. Why am I so foolish to think I can discern all there is to know? Because I am an adult of legal age, I must balance the reality that I am not the only person in the world that counts. As a child, it is easy to demand, "Give me that! It's mine! I want it!" As children, it's also a question of what’s in it for me? “Do I have to? Why should I?” Anyone can be self-centered. It takes continuous effort to be intelligent and see facts and reasons beyond our own.
How easy to become an extremist claiming I have a right to believe anything I want. As a person of faith, I may lose the perspective that I am not God. While what I think may reflect holy scripture, and I may indeed feel what I believe is true, the rest of the world cannot be forced to accept my confession of faith and way of life. There is no shortage of people who feel the world must be a certain way and will not accept that there can be any other interests or values other than theirs.
It is not enough for me to have the maturity not to be entangled in religious militancy. Our culture is more secularized now and has moved to extremism in political protests, demonstrations, and blockades. These become fanatically and radically focused on intimidating innocent civilians. The protestors clamor for freedom, but their actions have no respect for the liberty of others who disagree with them. It’s an easy slide from extremism to terrorism, and both ruin everything around them. I am self-centered enough on my own without joining others who only champion themselves.
Many of us didn’t learn how to share with others or care for others in kindergarten. There was no kindergarten when I was a child. Things have changed dramatically since then and will continue to do so. We are more connected with family, friends, and strangers through computers and social media than ever before, but at the same time, more isolated and unprotected.
Families in 1962 were larger on the whole because birth control was just beginning to limit family size to one or two children. Six in my family meant sharing and caring and with no illusions about entitlement. Hard work, honesty, and paying your bills were a given. Life was simpler, not better. People were expected to tell the truth, obey the laws, and at least appear respectable to their neighbors. People working hard, being honest, and paying their bills made life good for everybody.
Growing up and becoming mature for me today means I must leave the past and remember I need to become mature about the ever-changing present. It is not 1962 or 1975. It is 2022. How do I act in caring for our children who have grown to their mid-lives? How do I connect with our adult grandchildren and the younger ones? I need to respect their generation of video gamers with individual phones, computers, and tablets. I must encourage them to discuss with me and others how they feel they can pursue their life so it is good for others, not just themselves. How can I help them see life as a balance of pleasure, comfort, challenges, disappointment, and pain?
Alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, and casual sex all appear harmless in movies, television programs, and social media in 2022. They each promise great pleasure, but the pleasure is temporary, and they all have great potential to ruin and destroy those that use them. Maturity means my actions speak loudest, and my example as a father and grandfather is to be an example to help influence what is the best for my family and what makes life better for everyone. Saying “No or Yes!” are personal choices for each of us regarding what is popular and harmless. Making life choices is always hard to do, but it can mean acting in maturity for the benefit of everyone.