Friday, 28 August 2009

Not quite grown up

Does anyone ever feel properly grown-up, even on their death bed? I certainly don't. Even at my advanced age, there are any number of situations in life I don't feel confident about, or don't feel I'm handling them as well as I should.

There are still situations I have virtually no experience of, like dealing with someone's death, dealing with a terminal illness, looking after children, or coping with a serious financial setback. Even things I've experienced often can still leave me feeling inadequate and awkward, not quite sure if I'm meeting expectations or behaving correctly.

It's rarely that I'm comfortable enough with a situation to feel I'm handling it as a mature and grown-up person, someone who's fully in control of what's happening. More frequently I'm fumbling my way along, feeling more like a confused and ignorant child, hoping desperately that things will start to make sense and I'll know what I should be doing.

I'm sure most people feel like this from time to time, but it's not something we want to admit. We don't like people to think we're out of our depth - especially employers or tradespeople or for that matter our trusting children.

We've learnt to feign competence and authority and hide our hesitations and bewilderment. We project poise and nonchalance even when inside we're a bundle of nerves and looking frantically for an escape route.

Is it even possible to feel totally grown-up, or is that another myth, another illusion that doesn't actually apply in reality? Is there anyone who feels completely in command of their life, always knowing the right thing to do, always knowing what is required of them and feeling equal to the occasion? If they do, that's quite an achievement.

But me, I'm still an innocent abroad, Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, forever hoping that tomorrow is the day I'll finally feel well and truly grown-up. It never is, though.

26 comments:

Cinnamon said...

I connect with this post! I am a master at feigning competence but really feel inadequate inside- you describe the feeling very well.

But maybe it's good not to leave the little child inside totally behind?

Nick said...

Cinnamon - That's what I tell myself, always good to retain a bit of childlike innocence and wonder. A vital antidote to the cynicism that can easily creep up on us.

Baino said...

OH Nick. Such resonance. I get into a lift every day with mirrors on each wall and wonder who that woman is staring back at me with her smile lines and crepey neck! As for competence . .I come across as confident, even arrogant but really I'm the most insecure child I know. Thank you for posting this because it's nice to know that others feel the same way. I guess we're all hanging onto our inner child. (My kids tell me it keeps me young so it's not all bad!) And just quietly, I'm jealous as hell that Jenny's my age and has such lovely skin!

Nick said...

Baino - Our venerable appearance may go with a venerable mind but of course that doesn't necessarily mean a mature mind! I'm sure loads of people feel the same way but are reluctant to admit to it. As for Jenny's skin, I'd better leave Jenny to comment on that!

Rummuser said...

If you are in an advanced age, I am a doddering old man. The point of life is not growing up any way. I do not know of anyone who grew 'up'. I know a lot of them who grew sideways! I did. It is just to enjoy the process of life while it lasts. Why worry? Just be happy that you are what you are. I am.

Nick said...

Ramana - Well, enjoying the process of life sounds good to me, I do plenty of that. I'm mostly happy with what I am, though there are a few things that bug me. Total self-acceptance is somewhat elusive....

Quickroute said...

I think we all put forth a big act everyday as we pretend we can deal the stuff life throws at us - some are worthy of oscars - some get panned by the critics - I don't think I'm going to get an oscar anytime soon

Brighid said...

You may want to take a look at Dr.Dyer's new book, "No Excuses". Interesting reading.

Megan said...

"Is there anyone who feels completely in command of their life, always knowing the right thing to do, always knowing what is required of them and feeling equal to the occasion?"

Golly I hope not. They'd be insufferable, wouldn't they? Oh well, if there is, there's somebody else who thinks they are doing the wrong thing!

The longer I live, the more I think that being grown-up is definitely a mythological state...

(Pls excuse my grammar. I can't think too straight on Friday afternoons.)

Nick said...

Quicky - I think I've managed a few Oscar-level performances in my time, turning apparently hopeless situations into unexpected triumphs. But plenty more performances best forgotten as quickly as possible.

Brighid - Oh, I'm not making excuses, I'm just saying that there are many situations I don't feel on top of, even though as an adult I'm meant to be on top of them.

Nick said...

Megan - I've certainly met people who THINK they're in command of everything, and insufferable is the word. But I'm sure even those who genuinely look in control are often privately agonising.

kylie said...

so much i could say here....
on the days i feel really competent i cant believe it's me!

i dont feel the need to act totally in control in front of my kids

when i had four tiny kids people used to tell me how well i coped, little did they know that i limited my life strictly to the stuff i knew i could manage

Brighid said...

I'm of the thought that it doesn't matter what others think. It's how you percieve yourself.

Nick said...

Kylie - I have a horrible tendency to limit my life to what I can manage and avoid taking too many risks. A good thing Jenny's bolder and nudges me into taking more chances.

Brighid - I absolutely agree with you in theory. But in practice there's always a bit of me that wants to keep other people happy.

Jenny Muir said...

Baino - I think you have the wrong person! But thanks anyway

As for 'grown up'? Fake it til you make it, I say

GayƩ Terzioglu said...

Jenny you do have lovely skin!

Let me see what's that saying?
Growing old is compulsory, growing up is optional. Or something like that.

Gx

Nick said...

Jenny - I'm quite good at the faking-it part, but the making-it doesn't always follow.

GayƩ - I have to say you're right, Jenny has fabulous skin, though she always denies it. Growing up is optional? That's okay then, I'll take a rain check....

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'm not sure that anyone feels well and truly grown up and fully competent. Perhaps that's why we're still here, to keep on learning.

As long as we try to be kind to each other and take responsibility for ourselves, we're making progress.

Nick said...

Heart - Good point that if we were all totally grown-up then we wouldn't have the challenge and the pleasure of learning new things. And I agree kindness and responsibility are achievements enough.

Grannymar said...

'I've certainly met people who THINK they're in command of everything, and insufferable is the word.' Nick I think we have met the same people. I have had to deal with serious situations since I was a child - A cousin having am epileptic fit in my arms, my mother having a heart attack and my father being at death's door plus other 'minor' issues - all before the age of 11. I learned to cover my fears and get on with doing what ever had to be done.

Someone once said to me "It is OK for you, since you have broad shoulders!" ME! I don't have broad shoulders in any sense of the word, I stay calm, do what needs to be done and quake after the event.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Goodness, those were some tough things you had to deal with at a tender age. Great that you somehow were able to cope. I suppose that's how we all manage, just do what needs to be done and then deal with the emotions afterwards.

Wisewebwoman said...

You. Nailed. It.
A comment I made in an email to a friend the other day about a jam-making session:
"I felt like a real grandmother".
Sez it all, right?
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - And if you were asked to define that, you'd probably be stumped, but that's the feeling that came to you in that situation....

Liz said...

Oh gosh, no! Sometimes I step outside myself and wonder who I am and how i got to be so old while i'm still just - perhaps not a child - a young person. Who is frequently bemused by life and being a grown-up. How did i ever get to be responsible for children? Or a home? But I did and my children are okay - pretty damn good actually - so i must have done it all right but 'I'm not old enough for all that responsibility!'

Liz said...

I love the video Husband put together of me doing silly things in Canada last September to the music of Young at Heart. we're only as old as we allow ourselves to be. Or as grown-up.

Nick said...

Liz - "I'm not old enough for all that responsibility". I still feel that at the age of 62! Yes, funny how we somehow manage to do all these grown-up things like having children even though we don't FEEL grown-up at all. And it's true we're only as old as we allow ourselves to be. I absolutely refuse to become the stereotypical grumpy, reactionary old gent.