Stepping over the chipped Mardi Gras beads that floated in puddles of beer, I absorbed the sights and sounds of Bourbon Street.
It was my first time in New Orleans, and I was surrounded by nudie bars, bombastic jazz, and drunkards, young and old.
If my time in the Big Easy taught me anything, I learned that maturity is more of a learned façade than an achievement.
I was attending a youth conference, and had spent the day standing up straight and trying to cover the holes in my stockings.
I adapted the art of networking, introducing myself with my full name and exchanging business cards.
After playing dress-up all day, I was ready to spend the evening embracing my immaturity, rather than down-playing it.
I went marching in on Bourbon Street, jazzed to see my fellow barely legals dancing in the street, only to find the majority of the nebulous crowd to be over 35.
Men in business suits, middle-aged couples, and even a few inebriated elders stumbled in and out of the bars of the French Quarter, wrinkled and carefree.
Having spent the past 12 hours emulating the professional generations ahead of me, I was taken aback to see my supposed role models drink so much and care so little. They were acting half their age.
Maturity is considered a coveted personality trait. But like humility, the act of trying to be mature is in-and-of-itself …immature.
In a society that emphasizes “to thine own self be true” from elementary school on, I find myself struggling to find a balance between bettering myself and trying to be something I’m not.
Maybe I want to eat Fruit Loops for dinner. I still plan on wearing Converse All Stars to my wedding, and I really can’t imagine growing up to the point where fart jokes aren’t funny anymore.
To quote the late Aaliyah: “Age ain’t nuthin but a numba.”
Maybe the only way to truly “act your age” is to ignore it. That’s the most mature thought I’ve had in years.
New Orleans is a Mecca of eternal youth and light-heartedness. The elders of Bourbon Street inspired me to ruffle my hair and join the ongoing party that is life, deadlines and cellulite aside.
At least for the night.
You’re never too old (or young) to let loose.
I end with a song lyric from the reigning kings of immaturity: crappy-pop-punkers Blink-182.
“Well, I guess this is growing up.”
I have a feeling I’ll never grow out of that sentiment.