A Mother’s Day chat reveals that the secrets to happiness and maturity (i.e. true adulthood) are independence, challenge, and exploration.
This past Sunday, while most people were taking their moms out to brunch, I was treating mine to a 2-hour phone conversation on various topics. Somehow, we came up with these 3 keys to adulthood. Rather than sending her a card, I’m honoring her request to write down some of the things that we talked about:
- Independence (without isolation). Both my mom and I are interested in freelancing as an alternative to working in a corporate structure. For us, this is a natural extension of the unschooling we did when I was a child. We realized that if the system is failing you, you have the power to opt-out and find your own path. While my professional independence has so far come at the price of financial independence, that’s slowly starting to change. I use the qualifier “without isolation” because I have to fight my natural tendency toward social anxiety (and being a hermit) when being non-conformist.
- Challenge (without competition). While I eventually left academia to regain my independence, I greatly enjoyed the challenge that it provided. Since then, I’ve tried to create new challenges for myself – whether physical, intellectual, or emotional. I mention “without competition” because it’s so easy to go from “getting better” to “being better than everyone else.” Friendly competition can help all parties get better, but aggressive/hierarchical competition tends to be universally destructive.
- Exploration (without excess). My mother and I are both shameless Renaissance Women who don’t want to place limits or boundaries on our interests. Another reason that I left academia was because I felt pressure to cease exploration and be specialized. I continue trying to find a good balance between focus and exploration – both professionally and personally. I’m also trying to help similar-minded folks do the same. I say “without excess” because it’s so easy to start mindlessly consuming experiences (and the unnecessary substances and possessions that often go with them). Not only does avoiding excess help you achieve financial independence, it also helps you stay focused on exploring the things that really matter.
Have you pursued independence, challenge, or exploration? If so, did you succumb to any of the pitfalls (isolation, competition, or excess)? Can you think of any other “keys” to adulthood?