Never Grow Up

Last week, my daughter Meera celebrated her 21st birthday. Today, I celebrate this milestone and explore some reflections that arise from our shared song, “Never Grow Up” by Taylor Swift (SpotifyApple MusicYouTube).

I’m aware that a mere two weeks ago, I had a post entitled We Are Always Growing, and this may feel in conflict to some. In that post, we examined adult development theory. One skill of the Self-Transforming Mind is the ability to hold seemingly conflicting concepts in our mind simultaneously and find ways to integrate them. I invite you to hold both the beauty of ongoing growth and the wonder of youth and look for ways to integrate them.

Never Grow Up

Meera's homemade Undertaker t-shirt
Meera’s homemade Undertaker t-shirt

I cannot listen to this song without tears – the bridge gets me every time.

Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room

Memorize what it sounded like when your dad gets home…

The song floods me with memories of Meera’s childhood. I think of her childlike wonder. I laugh at playing with her and how bossy she would get – tucking me in, and if I popped up, shouting “Die down!” to me until I laid back down and complied.

I think of fulfilling my lifelong dream of coaching my child’s soccer team… only to watch Meera pay no attention to the game because she was more interested in socializing.

I think of our neighbor Jack describing her as the Mayor of Cascades. Everyone seemed to know this outgoing, sociable child.

I think of her enthusiasm for our trip to see professional wrestling and her homemade Undertaker t-shirt.

And, of course, the joy of Taylor Swift. Watching Meera grow and flourish as Taylor went through her own evolution. Each album represents a different stage of Meera’s journey.

Today, I see Meera retain that childlike wonder. It shines brilliantly in her love for living things. Seeing her in nature, whether with birds, bats, or bees, I know she is at home, and I love seeing her grow into the woman she’s become while maintaining that love.

Please Grow Up

Meera with my favorite superhero
Meera with my favorite superhero

“Oh, darlin’, don’t you ever grow up

Don’t you ever grow up

Just stay this little

Oh, darlin’, don’t you ever grow up

Don’t you ever grow up

It could stay this simple

I won’t let nobody hurt you

Won’t let no one break your heart

And no one will desert you

Just try to never grow up

Never grow up”

If you’ve watched a child grow up, as a parent or otherwise, I’m sure the chorus resonates with you. How can I protect you? How can I prevent anyone from breaking your heart? Alas, this is not how life works.

As Meera moved through her teenage years, there was hurt and heartbreak. There was the inevitable growth that came with new-found independence. I often lost touch with the spirit of “Never Grow Up.” Quite the opposite, it became “Please Grow Up.” I’m sure many of you can appreciate this phase.

I won’t dwell on this phase other than to say she has grown up. While there were days when I questioned if she’d ever emerge from the cocoon, today, she flies before me with wings outstretched.

We’re Always Growing

Meera and I finishing a Run With Dad 5K
Meera and I finishing a Run With Dad 5K

When I think about the past 21 years, I see so many layers of growth. There is, of course, Meera’s growth. I’ve been on that journey with her since we first met in Kathmandu when she was six months old. The feisty, bossy toddler. The mayor. The distracted soccer player. The actress, the fencer, the rebel, the early high school graduate, the lover of nature, and the birding enthusiast. The Swiftie ❤️

There is also my growth over the past 21 years –as a software executive, a father, a husband, a son, a runner, and a coach (both of Meera’s soccer team and now executives).

Who she has been and who I have been have shaped our relationship as father and daughter. This relationship is precious to me and is hard to describe. The nature and quality of who we are together have changed profoundly over the years and will continue to grow and evolve.

I reflect upon my relationship with my own father. At 82 and 52 years of age, we are having some of the deepest and most engaging conversations ever. I’m honored to be counted among the short list of people my father jokes he can still talk to. As Meera and I continue to grow, I look forward to seeing how our conversations evolve.

Putting It All Together

What guidance can I offer to Meera and all of us?

First, I encourage you to always put on your white belt and bring your beginner’s mind. Stay in touch with your childlike wonder, regardless of what life throws in your path. Stay curious. Never grow up in spirit.

At the same time, we are always growing. This is an essential component of a life well-lived. Always invest in your growth, and seek to be something more today than you were yesterday.

In times of crisis, close your eyes, look to your past, and recognize all the gifts that your childhood has given you that support you in this moment. Draw strength from those gifts and everyone who has contributed to who you are today. Feel the support of all of these experiences at your back. Then, lean forward and reach out to the future in front of you. Feel the growth ahead of you, embrace those challenges, and continue to learn and flourish.

Be present in every moment. Be patient with every moment. Savor it and embrace it.

A Little Bit of Magic

Meera the Swiftie
Meera the Swiftie

Meera and I saw Taylor Swift together several times, and her Red Tour has a special place in my heart.

Choosing tickets for this concert wasn’t easy. On the one hand, I wanted my daughter to have the experience of a lifetime. On the other hand, I wanted at least a modicum of fiscal responsibility. After much deliberation, I chose seats in the middle but in the back. We were not very close to the main stage, but there was a second stage where she would play an acoustic set, and we were only twenty rows back from that stage—a reasonable compromise, in my opinion.

We got some magic during the concert when she played her acoustic set. I’d done some research ahead of time. I knew she had a standard set list for the acoustic set, with one wild card song in the middle. That wild card was different every night. And on that night, Taylor Swift played Never Grow Up for the first time in 18 months. Thank you to the universe for the magical moment we can both treasure.

Meera, may you always keep growing, and may you never grow up 💙.

I am an Executive Coach and Life Coach with software executive roots in Higher Ed and EdTech. I coach because I love to help others accelerate their growth as leaders and humans. I frequently write about #management, #leadership, #coaching, #neuroscience, and #arete.

If you would like to learn more, schedule time with me.

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