I couldn’t wait for my sixteenth birthday when I would obtain my driver’s license. Having a car meant independence; not having to rely upon someone for transportation—that I was finally becoming a grown-up. The morning of my birthday, I awoke early and discovered sitting in our driveway my birthday present: a 1960 big-finned Plymouth. With a radio and a backseat, it was everything a 16 year old could want. That morning I passed my drivers test and for the first time I drove to school.
What a great day! My thoughts were focused on taking my girl and best friend to the local drive-in diner. I pictured driving, with my girl by sitting close to me, left arm out the window, steering with one hand as I whipped into a parking place. That image stayed with me until I got into the car and realized that I had to drive up a hill to get out of the parking lot and with a standard transmission, that presented a problem. So, with my girl by my side and a best buddy next to her, I stalled until the parking lot was empty and then I “gunned” the car up the hill.
We were headed to the diner, radio blasting, everything going as planned and then I smelled smoke. I stopped the car and realized the backseat was on fire. We pulled burning foam rubber from under the seat cover and averted the whole car from going up in flames. Coughing, sputtering, with tears in her eyes, my girl friend waived down a passing acquaintance and she and my buddy—who had tossed out the cigarette that ignited the seat—left me on the side of the road.
On their 21st birthday, most guys would go to the local beer joint. Not me, I persuaded two friends to accompany me to a local upscale hotel bar. “Suited-up” we ordered scotch and water and discussed the important happenings of the day.
We didn’t realize it cost a heck of a lot more to buy a drink at a high-class bar than a local beer joint. Between the three of us, we didn’t have enough money to pay the bar tab much less leave an impressive tip for the good-looking server. Knowing there was a good possibility my buddies wouldn’t return, I stayed at the bar—avoiding the stare of the hot waitress—while my friends fetched a checkbook from their apartment.
With 2 kids, a mortgage and 80 employees, approaching my 30th birthday, I believed I had reached maturity. That is until my birthday party. As I approached my brother’s front door I discovered a gravestone engraved with, “Here lies the youth of Bill Tucker.” One look at that grim reminder convinced me to prove that I was younger than ever. Dancing, drinking and even singing—I was the life of my own party. I had such a good time that I had to call a cab to take the babysitter home. To recover, it took two days in bed and a couple of weeks apologies.
Maturity doesn’t come from age. I know people in their sixties I wouldn’t trust further than I could throw them; others in their thirties that I would trust with my life. Neither does it stem from having responsibilities; which can be a reflection of competence rather than having a “level” head. Maturity is derived through understanding life’s lessons and exercising deeply held beliefs.
A lecturer defined the path of the heart as the culmination of one’s knowledge, experiences and beliefs. He pointed out by following this path, listening to an inner voice, your decisions will be good ones. He explained the path of the heart leads to responsibility, wisdom, shrewdness and sophistication.
As I get older, I think about all I have experienced, good decisions, bad decisions, people I have known, books I have read and the spiritual growth I have undergone. I realize, compared to forty, thirty, ten or even five years ago my decisions are different. Not because I’m getting older—although that does have an affect—but because I pay attention to what my “gut” tells me. I can be precipitous, and make bad decisions—but I recognize my mistakes sooner; I know how to correct them and I am far less likely to make the same mistake again.
“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
“We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice–that is, until we have stopped saying “It got lost,” and say, ‘I lost it.” -Sydney J. Harris