Growing up and Growing Old

I have a friend i call LF, she is the one person in my life i have the highest level of respect for, as a person, her level of personal growth and self-awareness. The other day we were having a disagreement on a silly rule i came up with in 2012, back then she thought it was silly and now she wants to enforce it. In the middle of the argument, the question came up ‘why am i opposing a rule I initially came up with’ and my answer was i grew up. She said to me ‘there is a difference between growing up and growing old’

‘growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional, and a state of mind’

Growing old and growing up are very easy to differentiate. As the years go by you know you are growing older, maybe not so much in your teenage years, but definitely once you cross over the quarter of a century mark. Approaching my 25th birthday has really made me realize more than anything that another year of life, on its own means just that, an extra year as a living, breathing person….and that is growing old.

So what is growing up? In the simplest form when you tell someone to ‘grow up’ you are basically telling them to behave in a more mature way. I read somewhere that being a “grown-up” demands that one has learned something from experience and continues to learn more as experience unfolds, and a very important indicator of maturity is balance. This is to mean that people who are mature and have ‘grown-up’ live a balanced life, find a balance between heart and head, logic and feeling, needs and wants, desire and necessity, society and self. LF would say growing up is realizing that as we grow old we have a responsibility to ourselves.

Growing up in Africa( and i do see how general i have been), i wonder if we are raised in a way that allows us to grow up or to grow old. WE have responsibilities to our society and we have what i would call ‘boxes’ to tick. It is pretty standard for every African no matter the culture or country, do well in school, go to university, get a job get married and create the next generation to start the cycle all over again. Somewhere in the process some people find themselves and manage to grow up, whilst the rest only find a way to meet the deadline for each of those boxes.

I suppose in the end it all comes down to one thing, emotions. The importance of feelings is something that is minimized and in-signified in our culture. There is no room for how you feel, just for what needs to be done. Some people can do this, and i admire them, i envy them because that is the easiest way to live. But for the rest of us, who have strong emotions and are possibly run by them it becomes a struggle and this is a part where you need balance. While it may seem difficult and at time impossible, finding a balance between your heart and your head is possible, finding a balance between your family/society and yourself is doable.

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