Around a week ago, ASU transformed from a stoic assortment of buildings and wanderers into a moving, vibrant, living thing as it does every year thanks to that awkward, confused and somehow high-minded version of the college student: the freshman.
And with the horde of freshmen came a horde of parents escorting their respective Johns and Janes around campus, parents helping their young adults get used to such troubling activities as writing a check or walking from his or her new home to “that place” where he or she had orientation.
Watching all of the freshmen’s aura of naïveté got me thinking. What exactly is the difference between those just starting their adult lives and those out in that not-to-be-seen-on-TV real world? Or more broadly, what is maturity? And how does a starry-eyed 18-year-old looking forward to college turn into one of us just wanting to leave already, let alone become one of those parents escorting his or her own child around campus?
What all people want to do when they’re coming into their own is to become truly independent. To experience things, to “make memories,” maybe even to define themselves — whatever that means.
I’m not saying that people experiencing real independence simply read the Communist Manifesto or partake in certain illicit activities; rather, all those naïve persons out there remove the barriers of their own ignorance and assert who they are and what they stand for.
But this bold move isn’t at all the end — just the beginning. As people grow in maturity, they come to define themselves less and less in terms of what they experience as independent persons.
As people grow, they start to see themselves in terms of who they are with respect to what they mean to others.
The end we may one day reach (if anyone ever has) is the end of seeing ourselves not as individual persons experiencing things and transmitting those experiences into fascinating stories, but seeing ourselves as the tiny specks we are, intertwined in every way with those around us.
In any case, as people grow, they come to see themselves not as seeking what’s best for themselves, but as seeking what’s best for themselves, their own and, possibly, for everyone. The end result is maturity — the ability to be more than self-interested.
It’s important to remember that while we are all individuals, we do not exist only for ourselves.
What we do on our own does not exist in a vacuum. If we are to be mature individuals, we must be more than the Diogeneses of the world. We must not only accept our places in society but actively leave our distinctive marks on society as well.
I say all of this not just to sarcastically criticize the soul-searching so many of us have gone through or will go through. Nor do I say this simply to get you to vote in November — that’s next week.
No, I share this ideal of maturity and mature action to remind us all of what those embarrassing parents were doing on campus last week, and how we’ll all one day see what they see — that there’s much more to life than oneself.
You — or your parents — can respond to Brett by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org