Wednesday, January 21, 2009

29 going on 30? 17? 22? 5?

I've been watching 13 Going on 30, which is very silly, but got me thinking about what it means to be grown up. It was rather comforting to be watching something where 30 is the ultimate age of sophistication and grown-up-ness. I'm going to be 30 in October, and it's scaring me a little.

There's all those things you expect to have done by the time you're 30. Got married (nope), bought a house (er, no and not likely to, judging by current house prices), had a child or two (see above), launched oneself into a glittering career (not really. Unless by career you mean headlong out of control rush with no clear direction). In the film Jenna Rink wishes to be "thirty, flirty and thriving!" And she gets what she wishes for. Of course, one of the points of the story is that the person she's become to get exactly what she wants isn't someone she recognises or even likes. She's dumped her best friend for the in-crowd and built a career out of back-stabbing and bitching. All that apparently good stuff came at a price she comes to realise wasn't worth it.

So where does that leave me? What did I wish for aged 13? I honestly don't think I ever thought beyond going to university, meeting my husband and starting a family. I thought there'd be a job somewhere in there, probably in physics (aged 13, I think I wanted to be a quantum physicist) but I wasn't really bothered about what it was, or whether it paid well or not. Sometimes I feel like I've failed on all fronts. I didn't meet the man of my dreams at university (not the first time, or the second time or the third time). I didn't get a job in physics and right now I'm a temp, with no clue where she's going next.

On the other hand, I'm still me. I think my 13 year old self would recognise me and like me. Maybe she'd be surprised at my confidence (on a good day) and some of the things I'd done. Maybe she'd be sad that I'm still single. I don't know.

I do know that jobs and possessions and husbands aren't the measure of maturity. That's a pretty hard thing to hold onto when rather a lot of the world around you is telling you that they are. I'm not always sure what is. What do I mean by mature? Do I mean being taken seriously as an adult person? Yes, probably. Sometimes I feel about 15. Or 21, newly graduated and applying for my first job. Or 7. (Especially when choosing clothes. I think I have the dress sense of a small child. When I'm relaxed and happy that's a good thing: when I'm trying to look professional for work, less so). I don't quite expect people to think of me as an adult, when an adult in my mind is probably someone with a proper job, a spouse, a house, a car. But actually, lots of 'proper grown-ups' I know don't have all or any of those things. They do have the ability to take on responsibility for themselves and for others and confidence in who they are.

I'm reading Hebrews at the moment and this morning I got to this: "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:14, ESV). That's a totally different definition of maturity. Not about stuff, not even about how old you are, but about how tuned in you are to what is good and of God and what is not. Am I mature in that sense, the one that counts? Like everyone, I'm a work in progress. Am I more mature than I was? Yes, I think so. But I've still got a long way to go.

So, how grown up am I? Sometimes, not very. At my most vulnerable, hardly more than a kid. When I'm relaxed and happy, a giggly teenager. Sometimes, on a very good day, a sophisticated 20-something, soon to be 30-something. Mostly, I don't know. But I'm still growing and still learning to love being me.


Lauren said...

I think you're mature. I look up to a lot of what you write even though we've never met.

When I was 16ish I thought I was so mature and I looked down on people self-righteously because they weren't doing what I thought they should be doing (teenagers!). Now as an adult (25) I enjoy life rather than think about how I think other ought to live. When I was 16 I thought that when I grew to be their age I would be so much better off. But by the grace of God I discovered that God doesn't measure us by how mature the world thinks we are (husband, family, house, car, 2 dogs and a cat), but by what he thinks is mature (peacefulness, kindness, integrity, joy, and most importantly love).

Nathan said...

This set me thinking last night, and I think my 13-year-old self would have probably thought me quite cool. I get to play with language all day long, I've been in bands, I'm, if not actually funny, then funny in a way that geeky 13-year-olds like, and I'm fairly happy. He would be quite encouraged that he'd manage all that, I think.

Most of all, I think he'd instinctively see the humility and dependency on God that come with age (though he might not name them as such) as the good thing they are, rather than the weakness they can sometimes feel like when one's doing them.

I imagine yours would feel similarly. She'd notice you'd sung in bands, she'd *love* your clothes, she'd devour your book collection (which would in itself cause temporal anomalies but we'll let the space-time continuum deal with itself for now), and she'd see that you're kind, which goes a long way for a teenager.



Pig wot flies said...

Aw! Thank you guys!

I think my 13 year old self would probably get more of a kick out my library than I do at the moment, but the ability to read serious books is coming back, slowly.

Nathan said...

Well good. Shame for them to go to waste. You could probably have her in a fight so you could get them back whenever you wanted.