March 3, 2014

Growing Up is a Life Long Process. ~ Sonal Batavia


After passing my mid 20s this year, I prided myself at 26 that I finally earned the ‘grown up’ passport.

Surviving the first half of my 20s, I was insistent that the year ahead needed to signify major transformation as a declaration to my age; it was time to turn a new leaf in the coming year.

However, upon reflecting on a cyclical 2013, to my chagrin, the year was not nearly representative of being the eloquent grown up that I had expected of myself. Rather than mature strides and personal victories, it was mostly marked by a series of unprecedented erratic behaviours.

After lengthy introspection, I share my conclusions and lessons of growing up in 2013.

Prior to my mid-20s, I never worried too much about saying or doing the wrong things. I put my best foot forward to be as responsible and mature as I could and even if I showed a lack of maturity here and there, at the age of 22 my colleagues were more than forgiving.

I confidently treaded along in matters of personal and professional affairs. However, as I passed my mid-20s it seemed by society standards there was far less understanding and patience when it came to personal shortcomings.

Society associates X Age with Y Expectations; ie at 20 we expect naive and young, at 25 we expect entry level career and perhaps love interest, etc. These learned associations can often propel an unnatural sense of urgency when we fail to meet these preconceived checkpoints in life.

Most scrutinizingly are the implications attached to major transitions; going from our early 20s to late 20s; our late 20s to 30s, etc. These crossover ages are often marked with a higher sense of pressure to begin living up to new standards; subordinate to manager, immature to mature, unmarried to married, childless to with child.

While these ages differ across cultures and societies, there is a shared understanding of discomfort as we get closer to specific finish lines and still find ourselves unable to fulfill expected roles.

With pressure of this nature, we force ourselves to develop and move at faster than we’re often ready to. Conscious efforts toward striving for greater maturity as we age is commendable, but emotional development is a gradual process, and we shouldn’t penalize ourselves if at age X we don’t necessarily live up to Y expectations.

Our capacity to respond to difficult situations or manage greater responsibility is more dependent on the magnitude of our experiences and the way we were socialized, versus just our longevity as humans.

If we truly consider ourselves the most evolved species, then the growing up process in case should never come to a finale. There is always room for more personal development and thus, more growing up. Rather than resenting that we aren’t where society says we should be, we should respect our individual progress, whether that means faster or slower than average.

The only goal we ought to have is constantly working towards being a better version of ourselves—growing up needs to be considered a life long process.

Below are some of the best lessons I learned while going through what I can only describe as an incredibly challenging year.

1. Admit it, you don’t have all the answers. 

Admitting that even as an adult, in your late twenties or early thirties, that you don’t have all the answers and haven’t figured everything out, is deeply liberating.

Embrace you’re youthful mentality, ie: rather than being set in your ways, take pride in being a progressive human. Respect your own process and be fair with yourself and the pace you evolve at.

This isn’t failure, it’s you being a self aware individual who has the courage to evaluate with honesty and integrity. Most importantly, it demonstrates to others that achieving personal greatness is something you recognize takes hard work and many many hard knocks, but you’re willing to put in the time and effort to get there.

2. Ask for help. 

When things don’t go as planned be willing to acknowledge it and, willing to open yourself up to receiving constructive criticism. Enlist in trusted mentors or advisors that believe in you and ask for suggestions on what real efforts you can make to fill in gaps.

Showing vulnerability enables others to see a very human side of you, which people empathize and respond favourably to. Those who believe in you will offer their helping hand as long as you’re willing to let your guard down.

3. When communicating online, less is more. 

With friends, family and colleagues all around the world these days, more and more I’ve come to recognize diversity in how we communicate. It is our job to recognize what is most appropriate in our various relationships, especially when the available methods are constantly diversifying.

Earlier on this year I took a workshop on non-violent communication. One of the best learning’s was understanding that the anger, insults and silence we often exhibit in heights of frustration with loved ones or colleagues are all based on basic unmet needs.

The most common messages that we have trouble conveying tend to focus on not feeling loved or respected. Majority of our violent communication is really code for simple messages: “I care about you,” “I miss you,” “You hurt my feelings,” “I was wrong,” “I’m sorry.”

Communicating online can be tough. Lack of tone, wait times, time differences and many other factors can lead to an escalation of assumptions. Saying too much can be overwhelming and the message can get lost in translation.

On the other hand, saying too little can come off as harsh, uncaring and rude. If there is an important message to get across, pontificate your exact simple message and build just enough context around this.

As much as we want our partners, friends, colleagues and family to be mind readers, they aren’t, and its better we accept it now. However, if given the the opportunity to understand your needs, they may get better at reading and responding to you.

4. Accept what you can’t control. 

There are many things we want answers to. Why something didn’t work out as envisioned, why we failed somewhere, why certain relationships aren’t as strong as we’d like them to be. Sometimes we have to accept that no matter how much we seek them out, we may never get answers to these unfair realities. Rather than continuing to be angry, embrace them as the strange mysteries that make up life.

Although we can’t control other people or the things that happen to us by some greater force of nature, what we can control is how we respond. Learn to reply with grace and you will find life may also surprise you back gracefully.

5. Life is an experiment, a never ending series of trial and error.

Even when you’ve put your best foot forward in hopes of prosperous outcomes, things may still go wrong. Rather than punishing yourself for your shortcomings, look at life as an experiment, a never ending series of trial and error.

You must find the courage to forgive yourself when things go wrong.

In the words of one of my favourite poets:

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

~ Rumi

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Sonal Batavia