Authentic Adulthood: It Gets Joyful!

If high school or college is the best time in your life, then either your life is oddly terrible or the problem of evil is insurmountable. Over a normal lifespan the time spent in high school and college is preparation for most of life. Life can be hard, and if the school is sound it protects from some of those challenges, but life also can become increasingly joyful.

How?

If I become an adult, I give up trying to fulfill my desires and start being content with what I have. Not all desires are good and not all desires can be fulfilled. Some choices make other decisions for me and I must let go some dreams. When I decided to earn a doctorate in philosophy, I decided not to go to seminary and that has consequences on my life every day. I picked the University of Rochester over other choices and that matters. I married Hope and this lifetime choice counts and keeps on counting. These are not bad things, but they do limit me.

An adult knows his limits and relaxes. Why? Most choices are not moral choices (good or evil), they are pragmatic or personal choices. I wanted to marry and have children, God gave me both gifts, and so my life was enriched and restricted. As a result, I can give up things that might have been good at one time, but are no longer possible given other choices.

Not all restrictions are based on my choices and I have come to accept those as well. Other people make choices, some badly, and those choices limit meas I am also rightly limited by others good choices! I also face cultural limitations and advantages: I was privileged to be born in the United States, but limited by the economic status of my family. I should not be complacent about injustice faced by others or me, but I also know that a messianic impulse that will not allow any happiness until every injustice is solved is like waiting to quit apologetic work until every error on the Internet is confronted.

Limits come with age, but limits allow me to move on without guilt. Getting old means I will never have children again. Sometimes I miss having babies around the house, and grandchildren will not be the same, but I have to accept those days are done. Those were good days, but they are past days. The happy memories suffice and now I can move on to the new goods of being in my fifties. Halloween is not what it once was, but Christmas is better.

Because I know myself, and my limits, better, adventures are easier. Instead of becoming stagnate in routine, I can step back and say: “This is now impossible, but look what is possible!” I can take higher probability risks, because my limits are known, but so are my skills. HBU is the most exciting academic adventure of my lifetime and I can be part of the team because of the great training I received in earlier jobs. We could take the risk to try something new, because we had learned what we wanted to do and what we could do.

The older I get the less I wish to condemn individuals or accept undeserved condemnation or criticism. When individuals are toxic, for me, I do not have to judge them as toxic for everyone, but I can withdraw to protect my relationships. This does not mean I have weaker opinions, but that I am less likely to attribute “bad” opinions to individuals publicly. I do not always do well with this, but it is a growing tendency. A few very powerful people, say Putin, merit particular criticism from the public platform that we all have now, but very few “regular” people. I must let go of hate and love, even my enemies. That does not being pals with everyone, but it does mean wasting no time in bitterness and hate.

Someone said to young adults: “It gets better.” in order to help them survive and that is all for the good, but adulthood does not have to be about mere survival. Adulthood, at best, is about flourishing into old age and beyond! I will keep thinking about adulthood this summer here. Join us!

 

 


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