It is a journey of change, of a person’s transition from a child into an adult. However, despite having such definition, this term ‘Growing Up’, still seems rather ambiguous to me. It indeed begins when we are born. But when does it reach conclusion? What is the culmination of this arduous process? Where exactly on our timeline do we know that we are grown up? Many of you would quote to me the legal definition phrased by the world’s governments, ‘any person of 18 years of age or over is to be considered an adult’. But is that what you sincerely believe? Is just a passing of time enough to define the maturity of beings as complicated as humans? Does spending 18 years on this earth by default make you up to par on all fronts be it physical, emotional or spiritual?
Once upon a time, there lived a child. Let us call him James. He was a kindred and carefree spirit born under the sign of the Twins. By nature, he was inquisitive, insatiably curious about the happenings around him. The boy was a quick study, eager to learn, eager to please. His parents found great joy and pride in the growth of their little boy as he developed a happy personality, finding friends even in the unlikeliest of places. He had an effect on others that made them follow him and he in turn reveled in their companionship. However, as all human beings are, James too was not a simple person. He had multiple levels to his self; one that he showed to the public at large, another that was reserved for his close friends, another for his intimate family and yet a last one, entirely for himself. James excelled at all that was expected of him as he grew through his early years of childhood, be it academic or social or personal. This made society perceive him as an exceptionally mature individual, a child who was very wise for his age. However, as all things do, James perfect childhood too ran into
some turbulence as the boy descended into adolescence.
An important point to be noted here is that as varied were the levels to James’s personality, so was the development of each of them. We all know about the outermost public level. The innermost however, the one reserved solely for himself, was not so caught up with James’s ‘growth’. On the rare occasions that he found himself alone, he would interact with this facet of his personality. This person who came out only in times of solitude knew the actual truth of James’s being, the boy was only doing what was expected of him and there was truly nothing he did that was of his own will. He had only encountered one true love, a deep-seated passion for reading. Adolescence saw him through the awakening of new perspectives and new emotions. The previously happy and extroverted child grew into a quiet teenager, speaking when necessary, acting when needed. True, he still had his friends from childhood, he even made some new ones. He also still possessed that quality to inspire fellowship in those around him, even though his inner self knew it was only by treading the expectations of his society. As he approached the cusp of ‘adulthood’, his outer-self grew more independent while his inner self became more attached to his past, clinging tightly to the vestiges of his
childhood, the adulation of his parents, the company of his friends. Adolescence also saw him through the rigors of love and infatuation, the unbridled joy of finding a partner as well as the terrible anguish of a lost love. The day he turned 18 was a day of joyous celebration for the boy was now a man, an adult so to say. But James’s inner self knew the truth, ‘adulthood’ was just a word and he was still, just a child.
James knew that despite the broad spectra of emotions that had beseeched him in puberty, all his experiences as a teenager, he had yet to mature. He did not know yet, what it meant to be an adult, what it meant to be considered mature. He fell in love once more, but something was different this time. The feelings in him, the reactions of his body and mind seemed somewhat dulled around the edges, lacking the sharpness of his adolescent experience. The emotions were indeed strongly felt and the relationship was on a happy path but this too was not meant to be. Seeing his love smile for another man, laughing in the other man’s arms once again brought him pain. But this was not the anguish he had known before. It was a pain mingled with a happiness of seeing his love feeling happy and content, even if it was with another man. At that point in his life James knew, he had indeed grown a little, that he had taken a step closer to ‘adulthood’.
Going away to college had started James on the path to independence and self-reliance.
The musings of his inner self had started to surface, to manifest them as his desires and
actions that he could truly call his own. The man that he was growing into was even more quiet than his teenage self. James was exploring his inner self for the first time uninhibited, and as all things do, this too came at a price, the price being the loss of his ‘companions’, the loss of his parents’ adulations. Not to say his parents didn’t love him anymore, for a parent always loves their offspring. But James knew that their relationship had changed and he was no longer their lovely little boy. And once more, James knew, he had grown a little more.
As the months passed by in college, he involved himself in his studies and pursuits of his own choosing. The demands on his time started reaching a crescendo, every waking moment being given to further his progress. Sleep became a luxury, food only a necessity to survive and true love and friendship a coveted dream just beyond his reach. A few months passed in this manner and his body and mind began to feel the consequences. The stress of living started catching up to him at times and would always leave him worse for the wear. Life for James had devolved into a never-ending rush, an existence of constant trials and challenges. The sweet memories of childhood had begun growing dull and the sharpness of adolescence too had lost its edge. Always having lived close to his parents as a child, always having the company of friends, he had never truly felt alone. And yet at this point in his life, it had been more than a year since he last saw his parents, since he last had their arms wrapped around him, over a year since he had last talked to his best friend. At this stage, James finally had an epiphany. He had finally realized that he had reached the culmination something; a journey that had begun long ago had finally ended. And James finally knew, that he had become an adult. He now understood what it meant to be mature. He now finally knew, the true essence of growing up.
– By Tanmay Aggarwal