Maturity is for kidsMon, 21st Apr '08, 11:50 pm::
I often like to think that inside me beats the heart of an adventurous young boy, fascinated by the world around him. I don't even realize how much my way of thinking has changed till I cross paths with someone who still sees the world the way I did ten years ago. That's when it hits me that I am not a kid anymore. And fortunately, that's a wonderful feeling. Growing up, I had noticed that most adults were cynical, jaded, and bitter. I never wanted to end up as one of them. So I tried to hold on to my childishness for as long as I could, always careful of not becoming too mature for my own good. Thankfully, over time I have let my fear of maturity go and have gradually changed my point of view to see the world as it is, instead of how I want it to be.
Insecurity was probably my biggest personality flaw for most of my life. I was confident in my abilities but not my personality. I wasn't sure if people really liked me for who I was and so being loved by all was one of my primary concerns at all times. When you're trying to impress every person who walks by you, you rarely get a chance to be yourself. I even dreaded the phrase "be yourself" because I still don't know who myself really is. The difference today is that I am not afraid of trying to be myself, regardless of what people think of me. I don't know when it happened but I simply stopped caring what strangers and infrequent acquaintances thought of me. At the same time, I started noticing people as they were instead of as I wanted them to be.
All of this came about only when I acquired the ability to detach myself from tense situations I would be involved in and analyze the issue as a neutral third-party. Learning not to take anything personally is one of the most difficult things to grasp but once you do, life becomes much easier. If a friend or coworker said something hurtful to me, I would take it to my heart and mull over it for days till I made up my own theory on exactly why the incident took place, unmindful of what the actual cause was. I used to deal with breakups, personal loss, and failure in a similar way - drastically. Now, I just brush it off with nary a frown. I always hoped that someday I would grow up to be stable and staunch in my principles but I never knew how that would actually happen. Turns out, it was really quite simple.
I just had to figure out who I truly wanted to be. Did I want to be the guy who knew all the movers and shakers? Or the guy with six-pack abs? Or the guy who lit up the dinner table with witty remarks? Or the guy who walked into a room and took every girl's breath away? Or the guy who knew the temperature at which Molybdenum boils? I know now that I didn't ever want to be any of these guys but that didn't stop me from trying for all of these roles for well over a decade. I was trying to live someone else's dream. The day I decided to make my own dreams and goals, the image of the person I wanted to be became much clearer. The person I want to be doesn't worry about bad hair days because proper follicle care is pretty low on the priority list. The person I want to be doesn't think life is over because some girl reacted unexpectedly. The person I want to be doesn't worry that someone else is making more money, getting more attention, or receiving more accolades while doing less work. If the person I want to be doesn't care about petty, superficial trivialities, then why should I waste my time on those?
There is a fine but nontrivial distinction between not taking things personally and not giving a damn about what others think of you. I still care about how my actions impact others and try not to be loose with my words. As long as I am honest to the best of my abilities, I have a firm ground to stand on when others judge me. In turn, what this form of disassociation from my own self gives me, is a certain kind of power you only see in martial arts movies from the 1970's, when the old master would stand calmly and just move slightly from side to side while four angry youths jumped all around him, trying their very best but failing to even land a single punch. That's pretty much how I feel around angry, frustrated, stressed out, and disrespectful people now. I no longer have to say anything in retaliation or attempt to prove my righteousness. I simply just move along and leave them to their own dramatic selves.
I feel like I am a work in progress and will be for the rest of my life. It's pretty gratifying to think that despite all my flaws and failures today, as long as I learn something from it, I will be a better person tomorrow. That's the wonderful thing about maturity - you can't lose it. So now when someone tells me that they are worried about their physical appearance in public or how a coworker doesn't act respectfully towards them or how selfish their cousin is, I ask them to think carefully if any of that really, truly matters in the big picture of their lives; is the loss of sleep fretting over minor nuisances really worth the fleeting sense of righteousness? I don't expect anyone to see things the way I do, after all I was caught up in the blame-games myself not too long ago. Yet I hope that they take a little part of what I say and let it soak in. Maturity has a way of slowly creeping up on you unannounced, not unlike dandruff and termites. Alas, there is no remedy for maturity though spreading it around does bring some transient relief.