Growing up. What does it mean exactly? All my life I always thought growing up only meant physical changes. Every birthday you grow taller, stronger and older. When you turn 16, you learn how to drive or maybe get your first job. When you turn 18, you have a chance to vote on the future leaders of the country. You graduate high school, walk across the graduation stage and pack up and move to college. You leave the life you’ve always known behind to head off to something “greater." It seems like society thinks this is what growing up is all about. However, hidden through all physical changes comes the best type of growing up: the emotional kind. This kind of change you can’t see right away, but over time you will discover it is the most beautiful and rewarding. It is when you decide to cherish the adventure and embrace the challenges that you will find the biggest muscle that will grow is your heart.

Growing up is not about leaving everything you know behind, but using those past lessons to propel you into the future. Sometimes, it is taking a quick trip to the past that can help push you the most forward. When I left for college, I was so anxious to leave all the past people in my life behind. I thought growing up meant getting away from people and problems, rather than making peace with them. The phrase, “don’t burn your bridges” applies even more as you get older. You truly never know who you will cross paths with again, and who you could later depend on.

 Everybody at times can feel too proud to own up to past mistakes and admit when something went wrong. However, making amends with those who you are strained from your life can be one of the brightest paths you can take to the future. Making amends is a sign of maturity, and the feeling of relief and satisfaction after you have put those lingering harsh feelings to rest brings inner peace. Part of growing up is learning how to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. When you are stressed or resentful of the past, you become stressed or anxious in the present. Making things right, whether you were in the right or wrong, allows you the room in your mind and heart for more important things than a past conflict. You never want to wonder what could have happened had you had another chance to make things right. Letting go of the past and having the courage to own up to mistakes is one of the best ways to forgive others, as well as yourself for what you failed to fix before. When you forgive yourself, you can truly move forward.

We are always taught to appreciate the people who show us good in our lives, but what if growing up was also recognizing those who have done us wrong? Whether it be a past friend, family member or partner, everyone in our life teaches us something while they are in it. Some teach us about love and trust. However some can teach us about betrayal and pain. When we recognize that every relationship has taught us something; good or bad, we understand the true importance and impact every connection has on us. Whether we became stronger after the pain of a break up or a more compassionate person because of a loving friend; when we acknowledge all those who have entered and exited our lives, we find more appreciation for ourselves. We don’t always get to make the choice of who comes in and out of our lives, but realizing everyone in our life enters and exists with a purpose can help us grow and change the most.

I don’t think people ever stop growing up. Everyday, you become a little different than who you were yesterday. Growing up is about making mistakes. It’s about learning to find one little good thing in every bad situation. It’s about acknowledging who you were before, good or bad, and allowing yourself to move forward. It’s about appreciating everyone who has taught you something, you wouldn’t be where you are today without them. As you go through a new time of life, remember you are exactly where you are meant to be. We all grow and change whenever the time is right for us. We all experience growing pains together.

Lastly, growing up is about forgiveness. It’s about letting your guard down and becoming vulnerable. This is when you become your strongest. Forgive yourself, forgive others and as you take a new road in life, you’ll always have someone cheering you on along the way. 

Lead Image Credit: Photo by Mikayla Moskowitz