Growing old, growing up

“And when I grow up
I will eat sweets every day
on the way to work and I
will go to bed late every night!

And I will wake up
when the sun comes up and I
will watch cartoons till my eyes go square
and I won’t care cause I’ll be all grown up!”

Matilda the Musical reminded me of how much we look forward to growing up and doing all the things that adults wouldn’t let us do when we were young. Little did we know that growing up is a trap and the only thing you wish when you’ve grown up is that you never had.

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At one of the boys’ birthday party

My friend from San Francisco once told me that guys in the Bay Area are known to have “Peter Pan syndrome”, a pop-psychology concept of an adult who is socially immature. While it can affect both sexes, it appears more often among men. Some characteristics of the disorder are the inability of individuals to take on responsibilities and to commit themselves. Humbelina Robles Ortega, an expert in emotional disorders, points out that, “Sometimes they can have serious adaptation problems at work or in personal relationships.”

Psychologist Dan Kelly also used the term “Wendy Syndrome” to describe women who act like mothers with their partners or people close to them. Like Wendy, they make every one of their partner’s decisions and take on various responsibilities, thus justifying their significant others’ unreliability. Researchers state that you don’t have to look far for Wendy, “We can find [her] even within the immediate family – the over protecting mother,” – and sister I would add (guilty!)

Here in the UK, studies show that Britons do not believe they are fully grown up until they reach the age of 29. Living at home longer, playing computer games and watching children’s films are some of the most common reasons for people not feeling like an adult. Sociologist Dr. Frank Furedi stated that, “More adults than ever before are leaving it later in life to move out from the parental home, get married or have children. This is having a knock-on effect to how ‘grown-up’ people actually perceive themselves to be.”

So when do we actually grow up? Research shows that what people really believe constitutes being an “adult” are actually significant life events that give them adult responsibilities, such as buying a house, getting married, becoming a parent, and, interestingly, looking forward to a night in (I’ve definitely grown up then if by the last indication lol).

Growing old is inevitable. Growing up is optional. It is less about age and more about reaching milestones in life. As we celebrate my friend’s 26th birthday, she looked back on those carefree days of her childhood wistfully, but at the same time is excited about what lies ahead in life.

Originally written for The Cambridge Student newspaper

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