Age: Growing up vs. growing tall

AgeThis morning I woke up thinking…

Growing tall is an act of nature. It is a consequence of existence and requires minimum effort. It is wired in your DNA – as a seed – that you should morph, produce after your kind and then decay.

You and I really didn’t have to do much in order for us to grow tall. We just had to eat and drink, the rest our bodies did without asking for permission, in fact, your body will force you to do what it needs to – unless of course, you have a medical condition. If you don’t believe me try holding your breath until you finish reading the rest of this piece.

Growing up, on the other hand, is an active decision. No one is born mature you; you and I choose to mature every day – with every circumstance we are faced with. Some are just presented with the option to choose maturity it a little earlier than others.

Take for example the extreme instances of kids who take the decision to head their households when their parents are no longer there. Even though the circumstances compel them to sacrifice themselves in order to ensure the survival of others. They still have a choice to decline. And so now, every single day they choose to lay down their personal comfort for the betterment of others.

This leads me to understand that our age is a consequence of our existence and not the subsequent proof of our maturity. Age, therefore, cannot be used as a distinguishing characteristic of a mature individual. 

Age does not prove that a person has wisdom, knowledge or understanding. We do not mature because we are growing older. We mature because we are constantly learning to do better and be better. You know people who do not “behave their age” or according to where they are in life in terms of their responsibilities. In fact, if you were to use age to determine their behaviour, the outcome would be the equivalent of their shoe size. You know people who never learn from their experiences even though they are older than you. Therefore age cannot be used as reliable proof of a mature individual.

I am assuming that by now you’re probably thinking I do a lot of thinking in the morning.

See, our world doesn’t have a shortage of people with years on their heads. We live longer than the generations before us. But we have a serious shortage of people who have learned something from the things that they have gone through over the many years they have existed.

I am not talking about people who transfer their fears onto others and call it wisdom. I am talking about people who can extract the life out of their years.

There is a vacuum for people who have been able to translate the negative and terrible things that they went through into positive and constructive life lessons for others. Our world needs that kind of substance from those with a little bit more age than others.

There is also a shortage of people who have been able to translate their successes into lessons on staying grounded or tools to help manage the gradual stress of growth and prosperity. We are desperate to sit at the feet of people who can teach us how not to plateau or decline before our time. We need people who have learned how to manage the extreme pressure and failures that come with every success point, whether it is in a family, business, career otherwise.

See, it is for spectators to know that “Our gifts will place us before great people but only our characters will keep us in their company.” It is for the wise and mature among us to understand that such statements dictate that whoever says them must create an environment that enables character development.

I am unapologetic about what you’ve just read. But right before I am accused of arrogance and anti-ageism, I believe that we all have something to learn from everyone around us. We also have something to teach to those around us.

The real question though, is whether or not we see value in what we possess – our lived-experiences, our travels, our gains and losses, our pains and privilege?

About Anele Matshisi 
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