Time to Grow Up
We must stop telling men they need to mature, we must teach them how
While I was in MBA school I would jokingly say to my friends or my parents that going to MBA school was like going to “Adult School.” While I was mostly joking, there was a tinge of veracity to that statement. Going through school taught me a lot of business vernacular, I learned how to hold my own around powerful adults, it taught me to feel more confidence, and it really taught me how to think for myself. I could feel my brain processes change. I slowly began to no longer feel scared or intimidated by life or by other people. I began to really respect myself and understand how the world worked and why it was the way it was. It built within me a certain level of confidence that I had previously not experienced in life. Actually, saying “built” might be the wrong word. You might go so far as to say that it revealed a confidence within me that I had, up until that point, not realized was there.
Growing up can be frustrating. School doesn’t offer any classes titled “How to Be an Adult 101” or “Intro to Getting Your Shit Together.” In retrospect, I am actually a little frustrated at my public school education because I feel they didn’t really give me any good guidance or vector towards how to become who I wanted to become. In my twenties, people would sometimes say to me things like, “You need to grow up,” or “Why don’t you make something of your life?” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make something of my life perhaps, so much as I didn’t know how.
I was rewatching The Lion King recently: the famous fable from Disney that tells the story of Simba. It is essentially a reimagining of the Hamlet or King Arthur story. The young heir to the thrown is banished from his kingdom. He loses sight of his destiny and must rediscover who he is and who he is meant to be. It is a very interesting story when looked upon from the right perspective because it is essentially a coming-of-age tale. In the end Simba, the protagonist, must realize his desire to accept responsibility and reclaim his thrown.
I actually think that this is a phenomenon that many young men these days struggle with. If you look at the rampant chauvinism in the media or online or that has resulted in the #metoo movement I can’t help but notice something deeper. I think that men are generally confused about who they are, how to “grow up” so to speak, and how to accept responsibility for their lot in life. Unfortunately, I feel a lot of sympathy toward these individuals because I used to be one. I may not have been as bad as some, but I certainly understand where they are coming from.
Jordan B. Peterson has risen to prominence recently due to his sermons on responsibility. In his lectures he uses easy to digest stories like The Lion King, Pinnocchio, or Peter Pan to explain why people often fear the need to mature. He then goes on to hopefully attempt to lay out a set of guidelines that people, especially young men, can use to attempt to do so. He put out a book called 12 Rules For Life where he explains rules like “Stand up straight with your shoulders back,” “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping,” and “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” Many people are confused by Jordan Peterson because he is often asked about his political viewpoints but they are missing the point of what he is trying to teach.
The real point is that we need to start teaching our boys to become men. I don’t consider myself a prosthelytizer of this idea. The best I can do is share my experience, but I certainly cannot claim to harbor any good advice for anyone else. But I do think that adulthood, as a concept, is something that needs to be more prominently discussed. What does it mean to be an adult? How does an adult behave? Why would anyone want to become an adult? These are important questions. While they may seem obvious to a small subsect of individuals, they are far from evident for most. Furthermore, I would really appreciate it if people would stop acting as if men know how to behave, because trust me, through no malicious intent of their own, they don’t. They need guidance and we need to start giving it to them.