If you haven’t grown up by the time you’re fifty, you don’t have to. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know (I doubt it somehow, but it does sounds good; doesn’t it?).
So what makes a grown up?
I acted alongside an eight year old girl recently, for a short film. Despite the long hours of waiting around doing nothing (whilst the camera man watched the clouds and cursed the sky), this young actress remained ready to start shooting at all times. She took direction well, and asked pertinent questions. She was the epitome of professionalism.
I’ve also worked with a fifty year old bloke who took off to the pub for a swift pint, during his lunch break; not the most mature man I’ve ever met.
So it seems age doesn’t necessarily make you act like a grown up.
Let’s return to this short film, shall we.
I’m not getting paid to be in this film; in fact I’m out of pocket. It’s a favour for a friend. He’s not getting paid to make this film either; it’s a personal project he just wants to do. Basically, he’s made up a story, and he’s getting his friends to act it out for him.
We’re playing a game.
We’re playing pretend.
Not the most grown up thing to do.
Does this mean I didn’t take the film seriously? Of course not. I made sure I was on set on time. I made sure I had revised for the part and the scene. I listened to instructions and followed them.
I had responsibilities, despite this essentially being a game (albeit with some expensive toys).
Some would say owning your own home is the most grown up thing you can do, whilst others would say it is becoming a parent. I’ve done both, and they’re hard work; rewarding, but draining on your time, your bank balance, and your energy.
Both of these things made me act more like a grown up at the time; but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I was more grown up (and let’s be honest, there are plenty of parents out there who don’t even bother trying to grow up).
I passed the fifty mark a couple of years back. The milestone came and went almost entirely unnoticed; it really was no big deal. I didn’t feel any different. But I have started to notice I’m treated differently these days.
People ask for my advice for a start. I suppose that makes sense. I’ve been around for over fifty years, so I’m sure to have something to say on a few matters (otherwise why be a writer?).
Old people now talk to me at bus stops. There was a time I would probably have unnerved the occasional pensioner, whilst wearing my Cramps T-shirt, studded belt, Doc Martins, and leather jacket (despite being a thoroughly nice lad I might add). But now people strike up conversations with me all the time (and I hate it, by the way).
Am I a grown up? I have the years on my side, but I’m not sure I’m the man you think I am. My life is a string of bad decisions made with good intentions; and other decisions made for all the wrong reasons. I’ve probably lived longer than I have left to go, and have only just recently started to come to grips with the simplest aspects of life.
I have responsibilities, and I try to take them seriously. But I also try to make sure that those responsibilities aren’t too “heavy” these days. I used to have more than my fair share of responsibilities (the kind of responsibility where you decide whether a kid gets put into the residential care system or not; that level of responsibility).
And I still have the responsibility of picking up the phone at two in the morning, because one of the kids (now “grown up” themselves) needs to talk.
Am I a grown up though?
I don’t feel like one; and I suspect there’s a few of you out there feel the same way as me.
They say you don’t stop playing because you get old, but that you get old because you stop playing. I would tend to agree with that, and think that’s where our answer lies.
Growing up is a choice we make (and can unmake if we choose to). All you have to do is reintroduce “play” into your life (“play” just for the hell of it) and you can stop being a grown up, if that’s what you want to do.