Whatsoever Magazine

29 Next Year

Posted on: March 18, 2008

“We need to stop talking about what we’re going to do when we grow up. We are up!” -Emily Mortimer in The Kid

Remember being small and sitting around with a bunch of other small people just like you, and talking about how old you are? Did you ever try the old “I’m gonna be nine next year,” line—when you hadn’t even turned eight in the current year yet?

On the first day of 2008, Lauren and I were visiting some precious friends up the coast and we began to talk about how old we’d be “next year”. It was just like being back in primary school, only this time it was actually more threatening than cool to jump forward in age. As another twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend (be proud of your vintage, oh 1980 women!) and I did some calculations, I was thrown into an immediate crisis: I’m going to be twenty-nine next year. Repeat that after me: twenty-nine. Now take six slow, deep breaths and drink a glass of cold water.

Of course, once we were thrown into a tizz by that revelation, we had to discuss why that realisation was so shocking. And it came down to the simple understanding that we all believed we aren’t currently doing what grownups should. There’s no denying that twenty-nine is well and truly grown-up. So is twenty-seven, for that matter. So why am I not acting twenty-seven?

The concepts of adulthood or maturity, even the self-imposed ones, are hard to escape because they are ingrained from an early age. One year at primary school, my teacher got the class to draw pictures of themselves at the age of eight, sixteen, twenty-four, and so on, kind of a prediction as to where we might be at those ages, and perhaps as a challenge to our preconceptions. I still remember my mid-twenties drawing. I depicted myself tall and thin (alas; the dream lies in tiny shattered pieces on the floor already) with long, flowing straight hair, wearing a coordinated beret, skirt suit, and handbag all in a very glamorous shade of canary yellow (you never knew yellow was so stylish, I bet). My stance was that of a chic, ultra-confident woman of the world. After all, twenty-four year olds are absolute adults. They know who they are, what they want, and how to get it. And they are completely sure of themselves.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Here, at twenty-seven, I am perhaps less sure of myself than ever before. I barely know who I am, and while I frequently know what I want, generally I’m assured it’s a selfish desire so there’s no chance of contemplating quite how to get it. And, to top it all of, I couldn’t wear canary yellow if I tried—or a beret, for that matter. Perhaps I can go to a dress-up party and have my chance. I could go as Princess Diana, in her 1992 days.

But the stereotyping doesn’t just stop in childhood. I see friends who are travelling or working overseas, and that seems very grown-up. I see other friends earning a lot of money and being able to entirely support themselves, and that seems grown-up. I see people who seem very self-assured and quietly confident and who don’t laugh too much, and that also seems grown-up. I see girls eight and nine years younger than me marrying, and that seems grown-up. I see my own sister helping her husband to build a house and raise their little girl, and that seems grown-up.

And I am doing none of these things. I am not travelling or working overseas. I am not earning a large amount of money or even a medium amount of money. I am not married or planning my wedding and so it stands to reason that I’m not raising any children currently, either. And I will at times try to keep a straight face for a while and pretend I am mature and bored by fun, but I can never pull it off. I must face facts: I don’t do grown-up stuff.

But when did that become so important? Who made the grown-up rules anyway? The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to realise that the idea of adulthood we have created is simply that—something we have created. Culture has shaped our idea of adulthood, not God. Now we cannot help picking up attitudes and thoughts and expectations from the world around us, but we are never allowed to simply let those attitudes and thoughts and expectations slide into our worldview and shape it. We must pull them out, hold them up to the light, and look at them closely. And what does the light have to say about growing up?

… until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:13-15 ESV)

There doesn’t seem to be anything there about being married or having travelled the world or possessing a hefty sum in your bank account (none of which are bad things). What it’s about is Jesus. Do we know Him? Are our heads turned by wavering doctrines? Do we speak the truth in love? Are we united with other believers? Can we truly say we are grown-ups?

Maybe growing up is less of doing and more of being.

Danielle Carey

[originally published in Volume 10 #1 of Whatsoever Magazine]

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1 Response to "29 Next Year"

yeah, i know the feeling! although i’ve finally just gone and done the “grown up thing” of getting married…till just last year, i felt the same way. 🙂 it’s a struggle, isn’t it? it just changes shape, though…i still feel like i haven’t really grown into adulthood because, after all, i don’t have the responsiblity of children (yet)!. 🙂

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