The Small Signs that Made Me Believe I Was Growing Up

It was a Tuesday evening and I was chilling with my Mum in the living room, her watching the Indian version of Big Brother on the telly, and me scrolling through Instagram, occasionally looking up at the screen when the yelling grew louder and more pointless (#poojawhatisthisbehaviour)

‘Mum’, I said. ‘How old would you say I am if you didn’t know how old I was?’

She looked at me with a frown that said — why are you making me think? All I want to do right now is watch telly.

She looked at me for a few seconds and then finally said, ‘I don’t know, sometimes you seem like you’re 32, and sometimes you behave like you’re 16 again.’

‘So, my average age is 24?’

‘Yeah, you could say that’, she said with a small smile and turned her face back towards the TV. I then spent the next ten minutes trying to coax out of her the reasons she thought I was behaving like I was 16 again. That made me feel about 12.

I had been thinking about this whole adulting phenomenon a lot lately. The first signs of being a grown up showed up around September 2020, I think, when I spotted my first grey hair. It was a dark, dark moment. For me, not so much for the hair (get it? Because the hair was grey? Oh, my God, my jokes are becoming Dad jokes, too). I promptly pulled it out and sent a picture of it to my family text chain, which nobody responded to- so that was a bummer. I spent the next few days carefully looking at every strand of my hair as I brushed it, looking at home remedies to strengthen my hair because for all I knew this was probably a hair issue and not an age issue, and analysing stress patterns because, again, this was probably a mental issue and not an age issue at all.

But that was a physical sign of my slowly decaying body. Mentally, I felt fine. I didn’t feel like I needed the neighbouring kids to lower their voices and party music after 10pm because I wanted to go to sleep. I barely ever sleep before 1am anyway. I don’t get excited about sales at IKEA. I have never been to a farmers’ market and don’t intend to go to one anytime soon. But then there were other signs that made me feel like maturity was slowly becoming my thing.

  1. I was starting to let the little things go.

Often times in my youth (yeah, because I’m about 60 now), I would hold on to grudges against people who I thought had wronged me. My mind was made up and I was going to be mad at these people for a long, long time. I had an actual list of these people (Voldemort was one of them, but he doesn’t count). Not only did I find a way to not be mad at them anymore, I find myself not getting mad at anyone anymore. People disappoint me, they upset me, but I now try to find their perspective in the situation. No one has ever achieved anything by being mad at people.

2. I can identify red flags in people

Not just in relationships, but also in general, red flags are now easier to spot in people’s behaviours. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I have all the experience in the world, but I do have some experience and I would be able to tell if I were walking into a crisis. You could say I have trust issues, but I would call that being cautious enough to know when I am about to be misused.

3. I stopped judging people

Not entirely. I recently spotted a white man with dreadlocks and judged him quite whole heartedly. Also, sometimes my inner, Sassy Amandeep still likes to voice her opinions- but she has learnt to do it on the down-low instead of doing it openly and out loud. Instead of being critical of people, I now take the time to understand where people’s thoughts and ideas are coming from because all people really want at the end of the day is to be valued and respected and no one is born with the intention of being a douchebag. I would never have done this at, say, age 23. At age 23, I was very much about what I saw at face value.

4. I care about mine and people’s health

For the longest time I had little understanding of health because I only equated it with physical health and fitness. In my mind, physical health led to mental health because of the biochemical reaction the body would produce after physical activity. The solution to all stress and anxiety, in my head, was exercise. I wasn’t all wrong, of course- exercise does release feel-good hormones and regular physical activity does make you happier, but it’s not the only thing that makes you happy. It was only after experiencing a decline in mental health in someone I know that I realised so many factors were involved in ensuring an individual’s health. Not only did I start to notice when others were showing signs of stress, depression and anxiety, but I also started taking care of myself. Where a few years ago, my solution to sadness had been to go to the gym, now, my solution is to find the source of my sadness, address why it’s making me sad, and either fix it or let it go. Do what I need to do to make myself happy.

5. I became accountable

At work, at home, and with my ambitions, I am now accountable for my actions and outcomes. If I make mistakes, I own them and accept them and seek support to fix them and myself with a growth mindset.

6. I don’t believe in ‘The One’

Not to say that I have lost faith in romance, but I now don’t believe in the existence of ‘The One’. The notion of ‘The One’ stems from the belief that there is one perfect person for everyone but that’s just not true, is it? Nobody is perfect. I believe that you meet someone that you can spend a long time with, without going mad, and you work hard to make your relationship with this person work. It’s great if people do believe in ‘The One’ but the idea that they are perfect is almost Utopian- which means it’s not real. Everyone has flaws, everyone has insecurities, and everyone has annoying habits. We can love people for these flaws, insecurities and annoying habits, but we can’t pretend they don’t exist.

See, I do all these things and feel super mature, but then when I meet my best friend from school, we plan scenarios where we bring together people who hate each other and lock them up in a room to see what happens. So I wouldn’t say I’m 100% self aware and mature, but I will leave you with one of the finest ideas that Indian cinema has given to us-

‘Insaan ki umar utni hi hoti hai, jitni vo feel karta hai’

- Ms. Rajeshwari Singh (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge), 1995