Does Maturity Depend on Age?
Can you be more mature than someone older than you?
The picture of the white-bearded, and rough-looking old man sitting on a chair, and smoking a cigar while pondering, or that of a shriveled old woman slowly walking across the street while leaning on a cane produces an image of wisdom and maturity in our mind. We become certain that inside their minds there are decades worth of stories and lessons.
It's undeniable that with the passing of each year we have a little more experience under our belts, but how true is the notion that becoming older makes you wiser and more mature? Can a young person, someone in their early twenties, be as mature as an old person?
I think when we grow up, we attain maturity because of certain types of experiences — mainly unpleasant ones — and how we perceive those experiences. For example, let's compare the lives of two fictional characters to illustrate the points.
Meet our first protagonist, Bob. Bob grew up in a typical household where there was peace and order. He never went to bed with an empty stomach, and ever since his birth, he had never lacked anything. His parents loved each other, so they had little arguments over domestic issues, and even when they did have, they never escalated things for the sake of their children. Bob slept on time, went to school regularly, and had plenty of friends which he spent time with everyday.
When he was in college, he met a beautiful girl, and they were soon in a relationship. After college, he started working in his father's furniture store and married his girlfriend. He was a normal citizen; he was good with his neighbors, he voted for the politicians that promised the most, and never had to resort to violence.
A few years later, he was living happily with his two children and a lovely wife. His children also had a typical upbringing and life. Although Bob did lose loved ones, got betrayed, and felt hopeless once in a while throughout his life, he never let those negative experiences affect his views on life, because he had grown up in an environment where he was never allowed to ponder things. Things were simple for him: if he was hungry, he would eat; if he was feeling bored, he would play an instrument; if he was sad, he would cry. To him, the idea that someone could feel bored with life was totally alien, because for him, there wasn't anything to be gained from life. But life for him was rather a series of events consisting of tasks and chores until his time was up on earth.
Decades later, Bob died peacefully in his bed, surrounded by his family members. Although he died in his seventies — with a lot of experience under his belt — we can't say that there aren't people who are decades younger than him, yet more mature. Let's look at his counterpart, a man named Marley.
Marley was born an orphan. When he was in his mother's womb, his father had crashed his car into a truck and died. That's why he lived with his mother and grandparents. Marley's mother worked as a store cashier, and barely made ends meet due to the high inflation and because she had to pay the debt Marley's father had incurred before his death. So, as a child, Marley didn't have many toys, and didn't go the parks like other children. In school, people made fun of his shabby clothes, and nasal voice. Bullies often picked on him because he had no one to support him. Because his mother was absent most of the time, he spent the hours at home with his quiet grandparents.
Because his mother had married Marley's father despite his grandmother’s disagreement over the decision, the latter was still somewhat cross with her daughter. That’s why, if she was indifferent to Marley while he was growing up. And his quiet grandfather was a war veteran living on pension. He had a quiet demeanor and barely talked.
Marley spent a lot of time alone and thought much. As a teenager, he had realized that life is unfair and that you can be put in a miserable situation without your choice.
He didn't do well in school, and despite his mother's warning that if he left school, she would stop supporting him, he finally dropped out at the age of sixteen. Without a father figure, he didn't know much about the adult world he was about to dive into, so he struggled a lot. First he couldn't find a job. Then when he did, he was exploited by a greedy employer who paid him way less than he deserved. After learning about his employer's duplicity, he left and found another job in a carwash. At work, he befriended some bad people and got involved with drugs. When one of his friend was caught with drugs by the police, he snitched on Marley to save himself.
He had to pay either a huge sum to get bailed, or spend two years in jail. When he contacted his family, they all turned his back on him. In jail, Marley had a lot of time to think, and he realized that people — even your family — would sometimes ignore your pleas for help.
After getting out of jail, he enlisted in the army and fought in a war. He experienced the unethical slaughter of human beings, and human capacity for violence. The suffering he endured during this time proved to him that there isn't any ultimate meaning to life, and that God is non-existent.
Finally, he got discharged after a year, and started a normal life. He found a job as a security man at a bank. Throughout the rest of his life, Marley scrutinized every positive and negative experiences in his life, and got lessons from them. Because of this, at the age of 45, he was way mature than Bob had been at this age. Two decades later, Marley died a man full of strong opinions and conviction on life.
You see, the difference between Bob and Marley is firstly because of the variety of their experiences. One faced the most mundane experiences — while the other had a turbulent life. Secondly, since Bob's lifestyle didn't force him to be introspective, he didn't analyze his experiences. So he never gleaned any negative, or positive opinion from those experiences. Marley did the exact opposite.
Experiences are potential knowledge. If we look at an experiences and consider it as another event of life, without learning anything valuable from them, they will remain just another insignificant event of life, to be replaced by other events. It's crucial to sit back once in a while to ponder on those experiences.
Age cannot define wisdom and maturity, experiences do. A man born in a third world country, exposed to the injustices of life matures faster than someone else born in a privileged, and developed country. The reason why people matured faster in the past was because of their harsh environment, which forced them to be aware of their critical circumstances.