The fallacy of being ‘grown up’

When I was little, I held a lot of presumptions about being a ‘grown up’ and just how that would go. Many were shaped by what I viewed going on around me in my family and the families of close friends. Some were undoubtedly influenced by Disney. Some I’ve little idea of the origins. I daresay we all end up with childhood fantasies of how we think our life’s going to pan out.

That fantastic sentence which begins ‘When I’m grown up…’ probably needs to come with a manual for children. Or perhaps we should allow them their naivities (though these are what got me into this  in the first instance) and indulge the innocence which allows children to look forward with such rose-tinted glasses.

That said, even if an adult had sat me down and told me that my perceptions of ‘being a grown up’ were vastly different from the reality, I doubt I would have listened or really understood. Maybe children are meant to be like that; perhaps their lack of cognisance is intentional, both to get them through life and to make us like them and work harder as adults to make as much of their fantasy come true as possible.

So, some of the things I anticipated would just somehow *happen* when I achieved that magical state of ‘grown up-ness’:

  • Marriage by my mid 20s. Not sure how this was going to be achieved, but I was certain (as a small child) that the right man would find me and we’d fall madly in love and have a wonderful wedding (colour-changing wedding dress optional – “Pink. Blue. Pink. Blue.“)
  • A great job. Admittedly I never knew what as. That hasn’t really changed much. I now have a germ of an idea. But no-one tells you that you won’t just automatically know what you want to do when you grow up, or that this state of unknowing can last many years. Somehow as a child I had the impression that a fulfilling job I loved was just one of those things that would happen, like getting taller or growing adult teeth.
  • Having children before I was 30. Quite why this age, I’m not sure, but it went hand in hand with #1 and stood absolutely to reason. I think at about age 10 I had it all timelined – meet the guy aged 21 or 22, court for a couple of years, be married by 25, have a year or so of marriage to ourselves then have our first child (of many) by 27. I can probably attribute this timing back to my Mum, who had me at 27. I must’ve assumed (in my childishness) that this was the Best Way to Do Things. Cos she’s my Mum therefore she must be right, right?
  • I’d live in a lovely house. Probably almost identical to the one I grew up in. And it too would have a great garden where my kids could spend hours playing.
  • Life would be straightforward. Again, I don’t know how or why I thought this, but I guess with the perfect husband, house, job and family, everything would be tickerty-boo and problems would be easily overcome.

I believe that the disparities between my childish ideals and the reality I face are in part resultant of the influence of other people as I was growing up, but also that overall, the way life has turned out is not a negative, but is part of a larger, better plan than I had imagined. Perhaps much of the discontent I’ve felt as an adult is a result of not understanding or having a lack of faith in that plan.

As it is, I can count my blessings. Nothing on that list has happened the way I expected, but I can only assume that the differences and challenges I’ve encountered along the way have served to mould my character and either improve me as a person or prepare me to face future struggles with success.

Being a ‘grown up’ has been turbulent and (as a teenager and again lately) feels a bit like  picking myself up from one catastrophe and pulling myself together just in time to deal with the next one. At the moment, a significant proportion of my friends-and-relations are being similarly put through the mill.

The question remains though, why did I think those things? What led me to believe that this perfect life would just happen to me? Was it stories I read as a child? Was it Disney? Was it an unconscious assumption that I would follow in my parents’ footsteps? Was it a lack of interest in challenging my own preconceived ideas? Perhaps had my schooling or life experiences taught me to think critically at a younger age, I would be less puzzled these days. Or perhaps it’s unfair to hold education or my early experiences to account for the way I ordered things in my mind.

If I could go back in time to speak to my young self, I doubt I’d tell her the challenges ahead. I suppose I might offer some sage advice or try to pre-empt some of her later doubts by telling her the truth in the matter, but I expect I’d let her enjoy her fantasies (though I may suggest that she makes back-up plans).

Romans 5: 3-5 says

Not only so, but we<sup class="footnote" value="[a]”>[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Hope, I may need to work on, but I tell you what; I’ve got bags of character.

This is being revitalised as part of ‘Going Green’

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8 thoughts on “The fallacy of being ‘grown up’

  1. It's a very handy verse for the days when we feel like we've no idea what's going on! I think pretty much everything is different than I imagined it to be, other than that I'm older….

    Oh well – life is interesting, if nothing else.

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  2. I love that verse. My best friend just sent me a text with that verse a few days ago. Being a grown up is no fun sometimes, and the ideas and dreams we have in our mind when we're little come out differently. Not bad, just different. Real. I know being 35, looks nothing like i'd imagined it would, but I love my life. It's a strange emotion to have knowing it's nothing like what I expected.

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  3. Yes – critical thinking about one's own life is an exercise sadly lacking in the curriculum – I guess they expect parents to have it together enough to teach this outside school…oh well!

    Thank you for the dose of good and hopeful wishes.

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  4. This whole grown up thing is not at all as I imagined it would be. I think a lack of critical thinking when it came to life planning would be a good place to start as to why – but it certainly isn't the entire story.

    Hope is a beautiful thing. I hope you find it in increasing measure today.

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  5. Being an adult isn't all it's cracked up to be, for sure. I always thought I would not marry or have any children, and yet I ended up doing both at a relatively young age. I also thought I would be a 'career woman'. Why I thought this I have no idea, as I have always been more than a bit of a slacker at heart in spite of apparently having a high IQ. All in all, when I think of my life I view it a bit like a patchwork quilt – lots of bits and pieces, many contrasting with one another, sewn together entirely randomly. Sometimes I look at my life and feel ashamed of it…but actually, the more elderly people I speak to (and I'm mixing with more of them these days), the more I realise that, in fact, many of them have lived patchwork lives as well.

    This comment has inspired a blog post of my own, which I will be writing as soon as I can be bothered and/or have finished the essay that's due in two days that I haven't started or studied for yet.

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