Kin Lane

Growing Up

I did some outreach recently to my conservative family members that didn’t so go well. There were several aspects that didn’t go well, but what ended up derailing my proposal for coming together to discuss our grievances with each other was my suggestion that we consider bringing in a professional mediator. I suggested this as an option, and then another family member said they wouldn’t participate unless there was a professional mediator present. To which the conservative end of the discussion said they refused to air the families laundry “publicly”, and that we should grow up. Well, specifically, they said we should “grow the fuck up”. While mediation wasn’t a deal breaker for me, the hostile response to there being a mediator showed me that I was in for a pretty hostile ride, which is something I don’t have any interest in at this point in time.

Unlike the people I grew up with I do not mind sharing my thoughts and emotions publicly (although admittedly a mediator would not be public). I have actually made progress working my thoughts out here on the blog, and have made deep connections with other folks who are facing similar challenges, but do not feel comfortable talking about them out in the open. Out of respect (something that doesn’t get reciprocated) for the conservative folks in my life I won’t mention them directly, or even focus on their association or relationship with me. However, I will use their engagements with me to work through my own thoughts on the subject, helping me evolve and move forward, even if they are completely unwilling to do so. Today, I wanted to think a little more deeply about what it means to grow up, which apparently is something I am needing to do here as I approach fifty years of age. I have done very little thinking about being “grown up” lately, so I wanted to use the views of people I grew up with to help me see things a little differently, and play around with what growing up actually means to me.

What Growing Up Meant To Me As a Child

Let’s start with what growing up mean to me when I was younger. I don’t think I haver ever actually assessed what it meant to me then, and what it means to me now. Which I think is the purpose of this story and exercise. To evaluate what it means to me as I approach fifty, but built on the foundation of where I came from–here is what my 15 year old self would think growing up means:

  • Do Anything - You get to do anything that you want. There is nobody to stop you from eating or doing anything you desire.
  • Have Money - You would have the money to do what you wanted, and somehow being an adult meant you always had more access to money.
  • Have Sex - Adults get to have sex right? You get to have sex with anyone you wanted, and this was the best part of being grown up.
  • Get Arrested - Now that you are an adult you can be arrested, so you had to be smarter about the bad things that you did.
  • Travel Anywhere - You will get to travel anywhere you want, traveling the world as you pleased without any limitations.
  • Not Listen - As a grownup I wouldn’t have to listen to anyone I didn’t want to, and I could decide what mattered and what didn’t.
  • No School - As an adult you didn’t have to go to school if you didn’t want to, and you were done with learning in an institution.
  • Drive Cars - As an adult you get to drive and this is part of your identity and represents your freedom to do whatever you want.
  • Age - Whether you are grown up or not depends a lot on your age, and how many years you have been on this planet.

That is a short list of what I perceived as a teenager. I definitely did not possess the world view I have now, and most of what I perceived being grow up meant centered around the things I did not like doing as a child, but also what I saw as being grown up on television and in the movies. Before I contrast this with my older views of being grown up, I wanted to take a little detour through what I believe my conservative friends and family mean by “growing up”.

What Growing Up Means to a Conservative

Obviously this is going to be skewed by my twisted liberal brain, but I wanted to put on the shoes of the conservative folks in my life and spend some time trying to understand what they meant by telling me, and other family members to “grow up”, or more specifically “grow the fuck up”. Personally, I don’t think should ever say that someone should grow up because it means so many different things to different people, but I do think someone choosing to say this to someone else speaks volumes about their position, and I’m looking to understand more about that position with this exploration.

  • Do Anything - You get to do anything you want to anybody you want, and there are only consequences for others, and few for you.
  • Have Money - Grown ups not only have the money, but you have to actively work to take you share of the pie before anyone else gets yet. Having money or being perceived to have money is important.
  • Suck It Up - As a grown up you just have to suck it up when it comes to a whole lotta life, which usually means you just have to take other people’s shit.
  • Not Listen - As a grow up you do not have to listen to anyone you don’t want to, and you should just surround yourself with people who think like you.
  • No New Ideas - Sticking with the ideas you know and have clung to throughout your life makes the most sense, and new ideas are a problem.
  • Always Right - As a grown up you are always right, even when you aren’t. You must always maintain the upper hand as a grown up.
  • Tough - As a grown up you have to be tough at all costs, and never show weakness because grown ups can take anything that comes at them.
  • In Charge - Grown ups are always in charge of a situation, and need to always demonstrate that they are in charge of others.
  • Above Others - Grown ups are always above children, and people you perceive as not being grownup, maintaining the upper hand over others.
  • Serious - Grown ups are serious, and hey don’t play games, act goofy, or do anything that might be perceived as something a child would do.
  • Answers - Adults always have the answers, and if you don’t have the answers you probably aren’t grown up compared to others.
  • Age - Whether you are grown up or not depends a lot on your age, and how many years you have been on this planet.
  • Masculinity - I’d say there is always a masculine foundation to “being grow up”, and it is something men do, or maybe have to do to become accepted.

I did not interview any conservatives to build this list, I just put myself into the mind of a mix of conservative folks I know very well. I think the most important part of this for me is that wielding the phrase “grow up” is something you do to belittle others. It is less about the state you are in, and more about the state you wish to put others into. Being vulnerable is something that children do, and not something that tough mature grown ups do. Being grown up is relative to your position of power, and something you wield to maintain your standing.

What Growing Up Means to Me Today

As I approach fifty it is interesting to be told to grow up. Honestly, I’m pretty sure it was directed at the other person I was supporting in this discussion, even though I was the one who originally suggested that we have professional mediation. However, I still love the idea of me thinking about whether I am grown up, or I need to grow up more, or maybe I have grow up too much. Making for perfect material here on the blog to help me think through who I am and help me continue to make sense of the world around me.

  • Maturity - Being aware of the correct time and location to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society one lives in.
  • Empathy - Having been around block enough times to be able to know that other people matter, and the importance of empathizing with others about their situation.
  • Leadership - Being able to lead and demonstrate to others how one should act, providing a model of behavior that others can follow leading to positive outcomes.
  • Do Anything - Being able to do anything means both good and bad, and with great power comes great responsibility to know when you should or shouldn’t do something.
  • Responsibility - Grown ups have more responsibility and your ability to be responsible in this reality will define the impact you have as a grown up in this world.
  • Self Reliance - One major realization I have had in the last twenty years is the importance of being able to depend on myself when it comes to staying in forward motion.
  • Learning - Being a grown up for me means that I am in a state of perpetual learning, and that I should be mature enough to engage and learn from any situation around me.
  • Wisdom - One of the results of being a grow up is that I am accumulated wisdom, understanding, and much more sound judgment in almost any situation I am in.
  • Listening - As I get older I am increasingly realizing the importance of listening to others, and listening to a diverse range of individuals, not just my own voice.

Growing up is a journey and not a destination. Ultimately I feel the phrase is bullshit, and mostly wielded by folks looking to control others. So I am not really even interested in using it back against the folks who used it against me. Approaching fifty I simultaneously feel like I don’t want to grow up and I have grown up so much in the last few years. For me, the key is the “growing” portion of the phrase, which is rendered completely meaningless when you say “grow the fuck up”, because in that use case there really isn’t any growing going on. I feel like the phrase is just relative to whoever is using it, and whether they are applying it to themselves or to other people.

This was an interesting exercise. Ultimately I think the usage of “grow up” and “grow the fuck up” recently were less about me and more about the folks you wielded the phrase. My state of being grown up is relative to me and my view of the world, so I am going to stick with applying this line of thinking to their usage of it. It is more about them than it is about me. I feel like in conservative circles it is being wielded in a way that suggests they have the wisdom and knowledge, and us liberals, or individuals who aren’t in lock step with their view of the world are someone just more uninformed, aware, and mature enough to have access to the “right” ideas they possess. Really, in the end, it doesn’t bother me to be told to grow up. At my age it just doesn’t carry any weight. The way it was used to cause me to take notice of the overall toxicity and tone of the conversation, and prompted me to step back from the engagement. Ultimately, for the same reasons I suggested there be a professional mediator in the mix in the first place, I just don’t feel like it was a safe and healthy space to be, and in 2020 I am hyper aware of the need to take care of myself, which means avoiding toxic situations-—they just aren’t worth it in this moment. I am more important. Which feels like a very “grown up” thing for me to do. ;-)