I don’t think we “grow up” so much as we simply continue to grow…as long as we are willing to anyway. Psychology has broken this down into stages, such as the classic Erikson’s Stages of Development, but really, having clear lines of demarcation into different distinct stages kinda misses the point. There are no smooth transitions between these stages. We as we age, we sometimes have to get somethings right in adulthood that “normally” we should have taken care of at a much, much younger age.
There is no shame in that. We all struggle. If we are wise, we struggle to improve ourselves. If we are not wise, we struggle to avoid the hard work of those changes and seek out justification to remain unchanged.
Life is relentless.
My maternal grandfather fought in Okinawa and one other battle in WW II that he never talking about. In the closet behind me, there is an old katana with blood stains that came from an enlisted Japanese soldier. The blood stains are from one of Granddad’s buddies. Granddad had taken the katana from the Japanese corpse after he had killed him.
Granddad didn’t talk about the war much. I just finished a book about the battle called “With the Old Breed”, by E. B. Sledge to try to find out more of my Granddad’s life. In it, Sledge clearly described the horrors of that battle, how it lasted for 2 months, how long it rained, how muddy it became. He described how tens of thousands died and how the the maggots and rotten parts of the one’s who had been buried in the mud rained down on them when the incoming enemy rounds hit the ground and and exploded.
My Grandfather lived through that and came home. Before that, he had went to the CCC camps when he was a child to support his alcoholic father. Still, during all of those trials and through out the rest of his life, he continued to have the emotional maturity of the 12 year old boy that was sent off to the camps, even though he had the intellect of a man. That arrested development irritated me as a child and young adult.
As a 50 year old man, it preplexes and haunts me. The scabbard of that katana is stained tan with the mud of Okinawa. The edge of the blade is stained russet with the blood of a fellow American soldier that died in his presence. Why did he never emotionally mature in such a crucible?
I think that we have to want it. Ironically enough, as we continue to age, we have to become more and more self-aware while at the same time become more and more humble. Pappa Hollis didn’t do that. Although he had above average intelligence and succeeded in business, that self-absorbed, immature and petty mindset of a 12 year old remained with him until he died at 79.
I’m trying to do better than that. Over the years, I’ve embraced the ancient and long abandoned Christian concept of not just selflessness, but humility. I’ve done a lot of reevaluating about my life. I’ve made myself admit that I have to accept a certain amount of culpability for much of the wrong that’s been done to me.
For me, this is the only way I can forgive, and forgiveness has given me extraordinary peace. So many people don’t get to this level of emotional and spiritual maturity. Considering how incredibly narcissistic we have all become, as we get older, we remain emotionally stunted and spiritually continue to drink the milk of the Gospel and not move on the solid food of repentance and humility.
I’m the White middle-aged male demographic, we are killing ourselves in record numbers because of this. I was almost one of them. In other demographics we’re seeing the mal-adaptive behaviors manifest themselves in all sorts of other ways as we all continue to refuse to grow to the next level.
Hang in there, Ezinne. Although life will always be relentless and sometimes tragic, I’ve found out it’s remarkably beautiful when I get glimpses of the Bigger Picture.