Since I wrote a book entitled, “Growing Up After Fifty,” wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume I know what “growing up” entails? That might be reasonable, but not the way it is. That’s right, I still don’t have a concise definition, but I can describe some of the important aspects of my own experience.
First, notice that I am focusing on growing up, not on being grown up. As far as I can tell, growing up is a process that just keeps occurring as long as we are open to new and evolving information and experience. With an open heart and mind, there is always more new territory in being and understanding. On the other hand, if one gets to the point of no longer being open to different interpretations and aspects of life, there may no longer be growing. So the first important aspect is to remain open and avoid inflexible assumptions about knowing THE TRUTH.
This brings up the importance of relationships with others. The obvious connection is the need for friendship, collaboration, and love. Early in my life, I assumed that I had to do everything myself, that I couldn’t depend on others. A critical part of growing up involved learning to trust and depend on others. It also involves understanding and respecting the viewpoints of others even when I disagree with them. As I see it, any chance we have at knowing THE TRUTH involves understanding and integrating the viewpoints of others. As an individual, I know only relative truth, or paraphrasing Ken Wilber, we all know the truth……partially. It takes a big dose of humility to live practicing that principle. I am 79 years old now, and there is much less that I know to be true now than I thought I knew when I was 25.
Another important aspect for me is accepting responsibility of all parts of my life. Notice that I used the present tense here, “another important aspect for me is accepting responsibility.” This is also a continuing process. I find I always have a tendency to focus outside myself when I am displeased with an outcome, putting the blame on another person. While others certainly can influence my outcomes, I have absolutely no control over them, and focusing primarily on them is a little like barking at the moon.
Introducing the word “blame” in the previous paragraph brings up another point. It is important to focus on responsibility and not blame, a word that implies that something is wrong here that requires punishment. Focusing on blame and punishment doesn’t forward the action toward my intended outcome. On the other hand, if I take the stance of being responsible for all aspects of my life, I can focus on what works and doesn’t work, learning from my disappointments and making adjustments to advance my intended outcomes. So much time is wasted by assigning blame instead of learning what works and what doesn’t, and subsequently making adjustments.
Finally, as I see it growing up involves placing more and more emphasis on being as contrasted with doing. As used here being involves embracing the subjective as well as the objective aspects of life. In western culture we are strongly oriented toward objective reality, the part that we can identify and label because it is outside ourselves. However, another part of reality is the interior experience of each person, including feelings, emotions, opinions, biases, ego, soul, and consciousness itself. Integrating subjective and objective realities is a lifetime endeavor.
For me growing up is a complex process. No wonder it takes so long. Much more can be said about it, but perhaps this is enough to stimulate your own thoughts about your growing up process.