I am a grown ass man.
There is no denying it. Whatever illusions I may have had about still being “young” were put to rest yesterday as I officially turned 31.
Never fear; this is not a post about feeling past my prime or an egocentric diatribe in which I long for all of the joy and bullshit that comes with youth. I am very happy to be 31. But as I begin my fourth decade on the planet I find myself reflecting on the times that have come and gone as well as the lessons, blessings, and scars that have remained in their place. Here is one of those lessons:
St. Paul wrote in one of his many letters, “When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child. But when I became a man I put away all childish things.” The call to maturity is clear, but I think it’s really easy to take this idea too far. I never want to put away all childish things. I always want to maintain the ability to try new things or meet new people without all of the prejudice that comes from experience. I want to be able to laugh at myself, to be silly, to enjoy the rain without an umbrella, to lose and not lose heart. I want to always love pro wrestling, to be pacified by beautiful harmonies, to incessantly ask the question “why.”
There is so much wonder and magic in the world and most of it remains hidden, bright lights shining dimly like twinkling stars in an urban daytime. The older I get, the more tempted I am to believe that I’ve already figured so much of it out; I lose my curiosity. I want this next stage of my life to be about exploring the world, from the people I encounter outside of the grocery store to the unique foods that I encounter on a restaurant menu. I want to connect with all of those who want to connect with me. And I want to always leave time for play, so that I can live in balance and have the energy to work hard when it’s time. I think the best way to be a good grown up is to always be a child.
Human beings have to learn to dislike themselves and to be afraid of differences; this is not our natural state. When we were kids on the playground, we were not concerned with someone’s color or genitalia or weight. We were concerned with whose turn it was on the swing, who was going to love us, and what would be for dinner. As adults, we are quick to make snap decisions about someone’s worth to us without investing time in getting to know them. Well this grown ass man doesn’t want to play that game! I want to see people and be seen by them. And so instead of mitigating my differences and shying away from new situations, I will be proud of who I am and display all of my peacock feathers (that probably sounds slightly more sexual than I intended). I’ll allow other people the space to do the same and then we’ll stand on top of the box that we used to live in and look down at the rest of you prisoners.
When I start my fifth life decade I want to be able to look back on the fourth with pride. I want to feel that, in spite of all the ways that I’ll inevitably change and all the things that life with unpredictably foist upon me, I remained true to the precocious little boy who saw nothing but possibility. I am a man with the with the heart of a child (and the feet of a bullfrog, but that’s a different post) and I wouldn’t have it any other way.