Kolm Struggles with Emotional Immaturity

Cat Kolm, Staff Writer

Have you ever had the feeling that you weren’t growing up fast enough?

In middle school, everyone goes through that awful growing-into-your-skin phase as you hit puberty.  Guys get lower voices and a gallon of testosterone shooting through their veins, and girls get body hair and an increase in estrogen.  It’s a horribly awkward stage of life, but it’s a sure sign that your body is maturing physically into a young man or woman.

Mental maturation is more difficult to explain.

Put into the simplest terms, maturing mentally is when you begin to lose interest in hopscotch and Pokemon games, and you begin to find government policies and changes in the economy fascinating.  It’s also when your uproarious laughter over immature jokes (I’m looking right at you, freshman boys) begins to fade to a simple chuckle or groan, and your real comic enthusiasm is reserved for John Stewart or Steven Colbert’s political jabs.

Students, myself included, struggle with this transition, and come to be called emotionally, or mentally immature.

Mental immaturity is often a result of media influence.  Teenagers see celebrities with the bodies of mature adults but the minds of a thirteen year old (Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, Keeping Up with the Kardashians…I could go on for ages), and this gives teens the idea that it is okay to act the same way.

This results in high school juniors and seniors, who may look more physically like adults than children still exhibiting behavior akin to Snooki or The Situation.

Depressing, no?

Mentally immature teens may also be in response to a fear of letting go of childhood freedoms. These individuals are prone to overactive imaginations, playing with stuffed animals when they could be out shopping with their friends, or choosing to watch children’s shows instead of media targeted to their age group.

I find myself falling into the second category.  I’ll admit it – when given a choice between the crude humor of Family Guy and the feminine mysteries of Pretty Little Liars, I’ll often choose to spend my time guffawing at the idiocies of the Griffin family rather than try to unravel the mystery of ‘A’.

At some points in life, being mentally immature is challenging.

An overactive imagination (a popular trait in these individuals) is one of the drawbacks.  While I find it immensely enjoyable to picture a vividly funny scenario or conjure up someone to talk to when everyone else is busy (imaginary friends, anyone?) with little or no effort, this also blows my irrational fear of the supernatural out of proportion.

I am constantly in fear of turning around and coming face-to-face with Samara from The Ring or Freddie from the Nightmare series, even though I constantly remind myself that they are imagined characters from films and can’t hurt me.  This makes watching scary movies difficult, as it usually ends up with me hiding under layers of blankets, viewing through a peephole, shaking like a leaf.

Another challenge is younger siblings.  When you’re younger and are more interested in games targeted towards your baby brother or sister than hanging out with friends your own age, it’s accepted as normal (albeit a little strange that you would willingly spend time with your siblings).  But when you’re a teenager and prefer reading books or playing games your ten-year-old sister outgrew a year ago, it raises eyebrows.

But being mentally immature isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and can be much more entertaining than being mentally mature.  I take advantage of this by finding a different viewpoint when it comes to analyzing anything in the classroom, and the ability to laugh quietly at my younger sibling’s inappropriate jokes makes my day that much brighter.  This mental immaturity also can reflect deeply in one’s personality, giving them the childlike belief that everything will turn out fine, even if the world is coming to an end.

The sad part is that the majority of us eventually find ourselves a little too far behind the emotional development of our friends.  When your peers stop paying attention to princesses and unicorns and begin focusing on fashion and popularity, you suddenly feel cut off from them, as if they have learned a secret language that you can’t understand.  This leads to many of the mentally immature immersing themselves into the popular teenage lifestyle, effectively maturing and catching up with peers on the mental scale.

But until that happens, if anyone needs me, you can find me in my couch fort.