An imperative phrase I rarely hear these days is "grow up," not because I have grown up but mostly because I'm often surrounded by my peers rather than "real adults" in my Chicago social life. My expectations are that as I transition back to my hometown of Irvine and I'm surrounded by my family as well as other "real adults" in my broader social life, the phrase will come back again to my life. Equating the act of growing up to becoming mature may not be perfect apples to apples comparison, but for the purposes of this post I will be using the two interchangeably (as we learned in 4th grade English that using the same word repeatedly in an essay is minus points).
As with most boys, I'd argue that I am a late bloomer in the art of leaving immaturity behind and in some ways I want to stay "young forever." I don't necessarily mean that I'd like to have spotless skin of be fine after eating midnight snack, but more so that I'd like to not compromise and be understanding of others. If the previous sentence prompted you to have an allergic reaction, you've either matured or you think you are mature based on what adults have told you what maturity is all about. In the shortest way, I think maturity is genuinely believing that losing is actually winning - and I'm not entirely sure if I want to do that just yet (or ever).
This can't be limited to just your loved ones either, if anything those are just baby steps. If you're able to admit your wrongs first or compromise on a rather important decision by taking the initiative mid-conversation with someone you care about, you've taken the first step towards maturity. If you can foresee the reactions or actions of those around you that you know well and can hold your tongue although saying something outright could provide you that instantaneous relief, you're on your way to maturity. But true maturity, as with any skill and trade, comes when you're able to apply such practices universally, whether the recipient is someone you love or hate and regardless of your current condition or time of day. If you're able to swallow your anger as you barely miss the gate being closed at Gate A34 at JFK, talk to the gate attendant with a smile and can walk away from the gate desk calm and collected as you wait for the slightly less convenient flight 4 hours later, then you're at least a level 45 mage at maturity. I'll admit that I'm nowhere close and have seen plenty of old men in suits unable to do so as well.
Perhaps my perception of maturity is skewed by what society tells us maturity is and furthermore this definition of maturity could also not be a redeeming quality. Maybe fighting until the end in whatever belief or opinion you hold at the time or yelling back at the flight attendant to allow you to get on that plane is relatively (even marginally) more of a valuable and redeeming human quality to have than swallowing your words. As morals and ethics continue to be questioned in this progressive day and age, I often question - if we are the result of 6 billion+ years of biological chance with prokaryotes as ancestors, who gets to say what is decent and what is not? Does being decent even matter?
To not get off topic with one of my sarcastic rants, I do think that there are longer term benefits of following the loosely accepted definition of maturity and not much to gain by continuing to be immature. Problems are rarely solved by yelling or having a short fuse and even if they are from time to time, no one involved comes away from it with a pleasant perception of you or the situation. While being aggressive when necessary is an important trait in society (especially in the world of business), there's ways to do so by adhering to the grown up code. I think my biggest points of tension with this is that we ultimately result to speaking a beat-around-the-bush language where everyone knows exactly what all parties are actually saying, with just the shell of what is being spoken out loud depicted in "decent" and "mature" forms. This irritation could be a telling sign that I'm not mature (or ever will be mature), but at its current form and my personal values, I'm continuing to stick with the side that views this to be fake rather than mature.
Like all aspects of human culture and interaction, it's hard to say definitively whether or not a certain path towards maturity is correct or necessary. It's even harder to say that being mature faster or firmer will allow you for greater success (if we limit success to encapture financial and status-driven results), as we see ample examples of immature individuals at the top. If anything, it seems as though we're now in an age that being mature could prompt as a setback rather than a kickstarter and exhibiting immature behavior gets you where you need to go.
I'm excited to see how and when I end up growing up - perhaps the best telling sign of when one does so is when they start to tell others the same.