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Adulthood, Maturity and Wisdom

Updated on December 26, 2009

The Big 18!! Finally An Adult!!

When I turned 18, you could legally vote, buy a six-pack of beer, and get killed for your country. There was no draft, thank God, because they wouldn't have wanted any of my friends in the military, although it would have done all of us a great deal of good to have the discipline that the armed forces would have instilled in us. We thought we were grown, but, oh how wrong we were. I got married a week after high school graduation (no, not pregnant, just IN LOVE...) and it lasted 4 years after 2 years of dating.  The best thing I got out of that marriage was my first son, Jeremy. He and I kind of grew up together, me being 20 when I had him, and we have remained very close since. He is now married to a little spitfire named April who has tamed him down, and they have two beautiful daughters. Abbie, the oldest at 6, and Allie, nearly 2 years old. I love them all dearly and believe they love me. 

But what this is about is the difference between being legally an adult, being mature, and finally developing true wisdom. I believe people of all ages confuse these three all the time. As a result we begin to expect more or less out of people because of the level in life we think they have reached based on what age they are. I know that when I reached 18 I thought I knew everything. Looking back now, I realize just how dumb I really was. I thought that just because I had all these "legal" rights, that made me more mature. Maturity has nothing to do with any of that. Maturity comes from living and experiencing difficulties that life throws at you, and how you deal with those difficulties. I made most of my stupidest decisions when I thought I was both an adult and mature.

By the time I was 24 I had two children, a husband, and had been out on my own since the age of 17. I had learned how to function as an adult, such as running a household and being a mother and wife, but still I made  a lot of mistakes in life because I made decisions based on emotion most of the time instead of logic. Looking back now, a cool head and taking some time before I acted could have saved both myself and others a lot of pain. From the time I was 18 to about the age of 38 or 40 is when having wisdom as well as becoming more mature could have saved me and others in my life a lot of pain and difficulties in life. The bad part was I thought I WAS acting with wisdom because I had been out on my own for so long. Again, I was sadly mistaken.

Life Begins At 40??

When I turned 40, I was divorced, my oldest son was grown and on his own, and my 13 year old son was living with his father, by his own choice. I had decided to not drag him through the agonies of a court proceeding, trying to get custody of him, because I didn't want to put him through the pain of all that. But still I made mistakes. I still, at the age of 40, was not as mature as I thought I was, nor did I have the true wisdom to see all the effects some of my decisions would have on my youngest son's life and his feelings towards me. I still made some decisions based on my own emotional weaknesses and did not always put his feelings first, which I regret more than he or anyone will ever know. I let others dictate my actions, which shows that I still was lacking in emotional maturity and true wisdom even at that age. At the age of 40, I still don't think I was truly mature and was far from being wise. This is the age where people think you should surely be mature, but I wasn't, and many others aren't mature at this age either. I, having children of my own that still needed me, was still not mature enough to really be there for them like I should have. I made so many mistakes that I am still trying to mend a difficult relationship between myself and my youngest child, because I made the terrible mistake of losing his trust and respect from my own actions. I guess I still didn't have the real emotional maturity needed to be a truly good mother, and sadly, it was after they were both grown and gone from home, did I really begin to acquire this wisdom, and because of that, I have had to work very hard to try to regain his trust. 

The thing about the world today is that it seems as though it doesn't demand as much maturity and inner strength from people to get through life that past eras have required. I have had the pleasure of becoming close to people from the WWII days, and they have had so much more wisdom and inner fortitude than most of the generations that have come after them. I believe that our lives have become so much easier, because of the sacrifices of these prior generations that have fought for our freedoms, as well as the ever-changing new technologies we have available today, that in some ways we have become almost lazy. For instance, we can't imagine life without dishwashers and microwaves. I no longer have a dishwasher, and now when people hear that I have to actually wash my own dishes they are suprised! It's like it is some big sacrifice I am making because of the fact that I have to hand wash my own dishes. I used to use a clothes line to air dry a lot of my clothes and sheets to save on electricity, plus I love the smell of air dried clothes. I could afford the electric bill, but why spend the money if you don't have to?

To sum all of this up, I believe that we achieve adulthood long before we mature. Then, we may be mature to a degree, but still not have true wisdom. Wisdom requires tolerance, compassion, making emotions based on logic and not emotions, and being able to see the big picture of what kind of long term effect your decisions are going to have down the road. We learn from life every day, as long as we keep our eyes open and are willing to be open to admitting our mistakes. We are only human, and we are always going to make wrong decisions, or decisions that may hurt others as we go through life. Only when we are willing to own our mistakes and the repercussions of them, do we truly start to become wise.

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