Forever Young: The Difference Between Growing Up And Getting Old

by Ally Denton

Sometimes it seems like all 20-somethings can be divided into two distinct categories: those who are dragging their heels down the path of adulthood, not wanting to grow up, and those who sprint toward it, full steam ahead. One group seems stuck in a perpetual state of carefree living.

They’re hesitant to commit to a stable job, scared to get involved in a serious relationship and have never been able to live a responsible day-to-day schedule. The other group is just the opposite.

They start getting hitched to their significant others right after (or during) college, they’ve bought a house, are climbing up that corporate ladder faster than you can say YOLO and take care of not only themselves, but a few rescue dogs, too.

To me, neither one of those scenarios sounds all that appealing. Everyone is different, of course, but I like to think that growing up and navigating your 20s is somewhere in between those two extremes.

Anyway you look at it, the realities of growing up can (and will) hit you pretty hard, right when you least expect it. But just because we’re getting older, taking on more responsibilities and thinking about things like 401(k)s, doesn’t mean the fun is over.

In fact, we’ve got a lot to look forward to. Here’s how to embrace growing up without feeling old:

1. Don’t rush.

Everyone moves through life at his or her own pace. Whether you’ve already landed your dream job, or are still working the unpaid internship circuit, you shouldn’t feel panicked to get from point A to point B.

Whatever your definition of success might be, find peace in the fact that you’re not going to get there overnight. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard or relentlessly pursue the things, ideas or people you care about.

Just don’t stress out if it takes a little bit longer than you planned, or if it takes you longer than your friends to get where you want to be. Don’t force it; be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey.

2. Say "yes" more often.

You’ve worked all day, your lunch meeting was a total bust, you got home late and all you want to do is take your pants off and binge-watch "House of Cards." You get a text from your friend asking if you want to go see a concert she just won free tickets to... what do you say?

It’s easy to say "no" to things that come up out of nowhere or things that don’t fit in seamlessly with your everyday routine, but isn’t that what makes life interesting and, ultimately, keeps you young? Say "yes" to the random concert, the last-minute dinner or the late-night movie.

Life’s too short to say "no" to things that might ultimately bring you more happiness. Life’s also too short to watch it go by from the comfort of your couch. Be more spontaneous, say "yes" to more adventures and never feel like you can’t live a little. Everyone deserves that.

3. Never stop learning.

Curiosity drives innovation and innovation drives progress. Whether you’ve always wanted to learn to play the guitar, pick up photography or study French, it’s never too late to start something new.

As you get older, your interests and passions will evolve and change. Instead of wondering what if, pursue the things you're curious about and dive into a new challenge. It will keep your perspective fresh and your mindset youthful.

4. Make and maintain friends of all ages.

When you’re in high school and college, it’s easy only to socialize with people in your same age bracket, but as you venture into adulthood, you begin meeting and working with people of all ages.

Get to know everyone, regardless of how much older or younger than you he or she is. Chances are, you can learn something new from them, and interacting with them will show you that growing up is nothing to worry about, but rather something to enjoy and have fun with.

Having a relationship with someone younger than you can keep you energized and remind you how much you’ve grown over the years. Befriending someone older who can offer you that extra tidbit of wisdom can be super refreshing and very necessary.

5. Know that the best days of your life are ahead of you, not behind you.

I don’t know about you, but it drives me crazy when people reminisce about their high school, college days -- or really any past period of time, like nothing will ever be as great as it was back then.

To me, that’s so sad. Part of enjoying life as you grow up is embracing the future and all that’s ahead with a full sense of optimism. The best days of your life should always be ahead of you. If they’re not, what do you have to look forward to? Never feel as if you’ve arrived.

Keep working and loving and living life to the fullest in the present moment, and thinking positively about the future. If you do all of that, it’s simply impossible to feel bad about growing up. In fact, you’ll be looking forward to getting older because of everything that awaits.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It