The 2010 Cure for the Maturity Disease

I forget who said it, but here’s a good New Years’ Quote: “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up really late on New Year’s Eve. Middle Age is when you’re forced to.”

I’m 30 years old. Have been for 8 months now. Maybe it’s just because I hang around a lot of college-aged and mid-20s types that the late night thing hasn’t worn off on me. And maybe it was because I didn’t wear out the party urge in college the way many people do. It’s true that my wife and I were definitely the oldest in our group of friends that rang in the New Year last night, if only by a year or three.

But I can look down the tunnel of middle age from where I sit, and I can see how pointless the party thing will look in retrospect. (Note: I advise everyone to drink with caution, and I will be the first to set that example. I only “party” to be with friends, and perhaps make some new ones. But the party atmosphere can be a bit infectious while you’re young, and that’s the thing that can wear off, even if drinking was never an issue.)

I’m sure that when I’m 40, or maybe even when I’m 35, I’ll look back at the way I spent some evening weekends with friends, and regret having invested so much in something so silly. Nevertheless, I can say one thing: all the silliness was with friends. I wasn’t trying to be someone I’m not, or trying to cozy up to a crowd that I don’t belong in. I was spending real time with real friends, and whether the time was loud and crazy, or quiet and dignified, doesn’t change that fact.

But there is one benefit, one insight, I receive from being part of the loud and crazy, and I think if I wasn’t sober I wouldn’t notice it. I have observed that every desired result of what some call “nightlife” seems intended to restore something in childhood that’s been lost in the maturation process.

Think about it… how do little children party, when they’re left to their own devices? If they hear music with a beat, they dance. If they see a food or treat they like, they eat it. If they hear a funny joke, they laugh uproariously. They make up stories and play games and talk loudly and run around and make new friends, and if they party hard enough, they’ll collapse and fall asleep wherever they land.

But maturity doesn’t stand for this. There is a standard of dignity and propriety that causes us to forget what it means to enjoy ourselves, to celebrate, to bind ourselves together in happiness and a recognition of blessing. We grow up, and we mature. But the fact is… the child never leaves us. It simply hides behind a veneer we call “sobriety,” which can only be removed by alcohol. (That children’s party I described above? Just add sex and booze, and I’ve perfectly described a frat party or a bachelorette party or a 21st birthday party.)

Might there be another way to remove it? What if we just started accepting each other exactly as we are? What if those around us had our affirmation in advance, and knew that had nothing to prove? What if we learned how to stop taking ourselves so damn seriously?

Because alcohol doesn’t cure the maturity disease, it only relieves the symptoms. Perhaps the cure, if we’re ready to accept it, is plain, old-fashioned Love.

Happy New Year.

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