I was talking with a friend the other day about a bunch of different things (it was a typical wide-ranging conversation). More than once we veered back to the point that neither of us feels all that mature. And it got me thinking….
So what is this maturity we're chasing? The dictionary says mature means:
- Brought by natural process to completeness of growth and development; fitted by growth and development for any function, action, or state, appropriate to its kind; full-grown; ripe.
- Completely worked out; fully digested or prepared; ready for action; made ready for destined application or use; perfected; as, a mature plan.
- Of or pertaining to a condition of full development; as, a man of mature years.
- Come to, or in a state of, completed suppuration.
Definition 2 doesn't really work at all, unless you take mature to mean dead. It's a definition for things that aren't living. Definition 3 sounds like an AARP ad, and while I wouldn't mind retiring, I don't think I ever want to be that mature. As for definition 4, when it starts referring to pustules, I think I want to stay clear of that one.
So the first definition is probably the one I have to tackle in more depth.
Brought to completeness of growth and development: well, physically, I guess I'm mature. There are still changes (joints wear out, pounds shift from muscles to fat, hairlines recede), but for the most part, I yam what I yam, an' that's all what I yam. But the mental side is something completely different. I'm still learning new things (being in the business I am, if I quit that, I'd be unemployed in a hurry) and still trying to figure out some of life's big questions. But the whole discipline of philosophy is people trying to figure out life's big questions, so I'd like to think I'm in pretty good company there. Overall, mature, according to this definition sounds to me like it means "dead", and I think it's a good think to avoid deaditude.
Fitted by growth and development for any function, action, or state, appropriate to its kind: I like to think I'm pretty well fitted to my life, but there's lots of evidence I have plenty I still need to learn. I'm still a single guy, I still don't own my own home, and I have many of the traits my parents were thinking of when they used the word bachelor as a pejorative. I remember my dad telling me once about the bachelor who lived up the road from them when he was a kid. The guy was in his mid-thirties, apparently hadn't really settled into any one job, drank, and generally just wasn't acting like a grownup was supposed to at the time (the 1930s). That all sounds pretty familiar to me. I guess it's a good thing I don't live Northwestern Minnesota in the 1930. Maybe that bachelor wasn't very well fitted to his surroundings at the time, and that was the problem. I like to think I'm doing pretty well in my surroundings.
Full-grown and Ripe: Well, aside from possible weight gain as I get older, I think I'm mature in the sense of full-grown. And I'm not so sure about ripe. I think I'll leave that alone, since it makes me think of tomatoes. Or bad pr0n talking about young girls ripening.
It's time to try and wrap this up, because I see it's already getting longer than I'd hoped. Completeness of growth sounds fine physically. But mentally? If you're done growing, you're either dead or as good as, and I'd rather keep living. Well fitted? Yeah, but things change, and the dinosaurs were well-fitted to their lives, too. Again, I think I'd prefer to continue to grow and mature. Maybe I don't have as many details figured out as my parents did at this point in their lives, but I also haven't been divorced yet. Career-wise, I think I've figured out that I prefer to work at my own pace, and maybe sacrifice a little money for the freedom to enjoy life now. That's maybe an immature outlook, but I kind of hope I keep it the rest of my life. As for my specific field of work, computers are a handy tool, but I don't know if I want to keep making tools forever (which is basically what working in the computer business is). At some point, maybe the tools will be good enough that I can start using them for more than making better tools. On the religious (for want of a better term) side, I've got a set of beliefs. They seem to work for me at the moment, but they're not set in stone either.
Thinking about the example of my parents more, I don't think they were all that mature, either. They waited until their mid-30s to have a kid. They were divorced by 40, and both changed careers then. The stability that many people look for as a sign of maturity didn't come for my parents until their 50s, so at least by that metric, I've still got time. For others of their generation, I think maturity was an illusion, too. Sure there were some people who were "grown up", but when I think of those people, I see the grey-flannel-clad drones from Apple's 1984 commercial. There's the clichéd story of the male midlife crisis - a sudden search for meaning in a life that was thought to be set in stone. I'd rather spread my mid-life crisis out over my whole life, thank you. Easier on the system that way.
I think it all comes down to a belief I have that life is change, and I like being alive. I think that probably means I'm not completely mature, and there are things that I accept as fact today that will change over time. Heck, I suppose someday soon, I'll even need to buy a suit. But not just yet.