What Does It Mean To Be “Grown-up?”

By Allison Miller

One of the toughest questions a young person can ever be asked is the ever-present: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids of every age are being asked this question constantly, and the person asking them generally won’t be satisfied with the answer of: “I don’t know yet.” However, even if children answer this question with conviction, chances are that they will change their minds a dozen more times before settling on an actual job. According to Major Exploration- Career Services, most students that even end up going to college will change majors at least once before graduating, and the average student actually changes majors three times!

What’s more, it isn’t just kids that are struggling with this question. Throughout their whole lives, people are always searching for that perfect job that they would be happy doing. Likely, kids of every age have heard their parents say “When I grow up.” Now while most of these kids think that their parents are already grown up, and, therefore, shouldn’t still be considering that question. What most people don’t understand is that the term ‘grown-up’ isn’t an implication of a person’s age. It’s rather a state of being that most people will never achieve.

Why is this? Why, if so many people strive for this thing, is it so impossible to be? The reason could be any number of things – lack of motivation, interest in other things, etcetera- but one of the most logical things is that no one actually knows what it means to grow up.

So what do those words mean? Who gets to define what a grown-up is? One of the ways to see it is finally being happy and satisfied with one’s life, or otherwise as finally realizing all of the deep and meaningful secrets that life seems to hold back for a person’s whole life. To kids, it likely means their parents or the older people who seem to have everything figured out: the people who can answer any question or come up with a solution to any problem they might have. Grown-ups are the people in society who have lived their lives to the fullest and have nothing left to learn or absorb from experiences, so they can live peacefully in bliss without any qualms about the world.

And yet, are any of these things actually achievable? The logical answer is no. No one actually has everything figured out. No one has all the answers, no matter how hard they try. No one will ever completely be happy, so long as everyone around them retains the same in human nature.

So, how could anyone ever become a grown-up? The simple conclusion is that no one can be, unless they manage to experience a million years’ events over only half of their life: the age society usually associates with maturity and being completely grown-up. Even then, if one could manage to do that, there is still the issue of being completely satisfied with one’s life. Generally, the phrase ‘all grown up’ comes associated with one being completely comfortable in their place in the world: their job, family, and friends. The simple truth is that humans are never satisfied. We have never been, and we never will be. If we ever settled down into comfort after doing only one important thing in our lives, society would never have advanced to the point it is now, nor would it grow past this point.

Adults and the elderly seem to be grown-up to the younger crowd, but the reality is that they aren’t. No matter who they are -parents, grandparents, single with no children, or married into their late eighties- people will always strive for something new. Without something to strive for, they would just become vegetables, which generally isn’t the vision society has of finally growing-up. People will almost always either be trying to reach a new goal or wistfully look back on their past and wish they had taken different paths. The few that are satisfied with their experiences and have no desire to do anything of merit until the day they die are just that – the few.

So, what’s the point to all of this? In the end, it all boils down to one thing: no one really needs to grow up. There’s a reason kids want to stay young and adults long for their pasts where they were too. Everyone is either currently living through or missing the freedom that youth contains, and for good reason. Why would anyone want to be forced into the routine work, sleep, eat life that being a mature grown-up entails? The fact is that we all wish for freedom. So, we need not be anxious to grow up. Rather, we should all strive to remember how to live like we don’t need to grow up. No one needs an answer to the dreaded “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question. It isn’t a requirement of happiness. When all is said and done, if we spend all our time worrying about growing up, we will never learn how to be young, and that is the most important thing to learn in life: how to live a little without worries.