The other day, a friend sent me a random message saying that he thinks I’m “mature for my age”.
It made me sit and think... something I have not done in a long while. I remembered those long discussions we used to have, sitting on the back-benches in Class XII-S, with the warm afternoon sunlight pouring in through those dirty, broken window panes... I remembered myself loudly asserting that maturity is “all about knowing who you are”, while DR insisted that it was the ability “to know who your friends are”, (and therefore, by implication, to know who your enemies are, as well). I remembered PN firmly declaring that it was “the capability to make your own decisions“, while SB thought that maturity was just a term employed by parents to make you feel guilty about doing things which you want to, but should not (her case : when she wanted to scribble on the walls of her house out of pure artistic impulse, and was flatly refused permission by the parents, who thought she should be “mature” enough to know what not to do at her age).
So what is “maturity’ all about?
The ordinary definition would be “to be adult”, to be-- to use a childish term-- “fully grown-up”. But like all abstract terms, there are no well-defined norms by which to state that “this is maturity” and “this is not”. For instance, a girl of 18 years is considered mature enough to marry... yet if the same girl is in a relationship with an older man, she is thought to be a child, and the man is often accused of being a “cradle snatcher”. And God forbid if the girl is 17 --only a year younger— the man may be branded a paedophile.
At home, if you are living with your parents, you are considered mature enough to do a lot of work, yet not mature enough to take any important decisions with regard to your parents, never mind that you are 35 years of age and earning really well...so long as your parents are not dependent on you, you are not mature enough to run the house or take major decisions.
I believe maturity is an inherent quality that comes naturally with age. One need not legally be an adult to actually be one. Maturity is to know who you are. That will automatically make you aware of who your friends/foes are. Maturity is not only the ability to make your own choices and take your own decisions, but also to be able to live up to them, to be able to take the full responsibility of the consequences of your choices/decisions. Finally, maturity is an ability to look into yourself... to be able to analyze your merits and demerits, and to be able to accept yourself exactly as you are, without making excuses for your faults. “That’s backbone”, as Conrad would say. How many of us are well and truly “mature” , if maturity is to be defined in these terms? I cannot pretend to be one...