I graduated from high school in 1991, so yes- this is the month (two decades ago) that I graduated from Dearborn High and a group of my friends & classmates began the last summer of work free, party heavy and sleep-in summer vacation. The weather was about the same 20 years ago (hot and humid), I was still pretty insecure, I felt too fat to walk around in a bathing suit (but weighed 30 pounds less than I do today) and I loved being around friends, playing sports, drinking beer and working out religiously. It was about this time in my life that I heard more than my fair share of…it’s time to grow up and it’s time to get serious, which I smile about now.
A ton has changed in 20 years and my perspective on life has completely changed. Some might say I have grown up, but I know I have a long way to go in that regard and candidly, am starting to feel that growing up is code word for act boring, stop living life and succumb to the rat race that so many others have jumped on to. How has my perspective on life changed? Well, I am married and have three children, which has been a bit of a “game changer”. Additionally, and self admitted- I like cutting the grass and watering the lawn almost as much as I enjoy going out (sad, but true). And finally, as my wife and I run around screaming at kids to shut doors, turn off lights, pick up cloths and a host of other annoying grown up behaviors that were bestowed on us by the “parent fairy” I guess we have, in fact, grown up and now it’s my job to help my kids grow up too.
As I thought about “growing up” and what it means in our society, I immediately thought about my great grandmother and what a cool lady she was. She lived in a small town in northwesternMichiganand was married to a man who worked theGreatLake’s freighters. She had a beautiful old home that is still in the family and as a child I would have bet plenty of money that their home was a 10,000 square foot mansion. As I got older, I realized that she raised her family in a tight, modest home with creaky floors, warped walls and a well to provide water to the home (not really a home that would have made it on MTV’s Cribs), but as a kid, I loved it. Funny too, I look back and there wasn’t a whole lot of growing up from my great grandmother’s clan. They loved to party when we would visit for the summer and proof of this affinity for youthful behavior would be the clock that hung in the kitchen and read, “no drinking before 5” and all the numbers on the clock were 5’s.
I remember Grandma Louise telling me that she walked by the mirror and was shocked by the old woman’s reflection because she never felt older than 16 or 17. It was as if her soul had been frozen in time and her body decided to pick up the toll for the years of hard work, raising a family and yes, some boozing and smoking. My great grandmother died in her sleep (years ago) at 87, which isn’t a bad way to go by most accounts. And as I reflect on my life, I’d love to think that she had the whole idea of “living life” figured out.
I know that most of us have more responsibility as we age, but we do get to choose if we want to feel 16 or 17 or if we want to “feel and act” our current age.
I still have a long way to go until 87, but at 38 I’m shocked by how many of us believe growing up means discontinuing a youthful spirit. We will shock ourselves in the mirror someday and I hope we’ll choose to feel 16 or 17 too, as my great grandmother did. Feeling young, acting young and embracing what we had years ago isn’t immature, it’s a great way to keep life in perspective. Exercise more, power down a late night breakfast on occasion and yes, I’ll promise to not walk around in a bathing suit (until this running thing really irons out some of the mess my beer drinking and late night breakfast eating has created over the last twenty years), but you get the point. Growing up doesn’t have to mean stop living and I’m going to make sure that I stop telling my kids to “grow up” and will begin telling them to “live life”. They’ll grow up on their own terms and hopefully they too will feel youthful for years to come.