Coming of Age

Getting older

I’m young, 27 going on 28. The SuperSpade is young, 4 going on 5.

We grow, age, evolve and mature on an unescapable path forward. That’s true for us as people and for what we create in our lives.

Brandon and I started The SuperSpade a few months after we graduated from the University of Michigan, and our 5-year reunion is upon us. That became real to me when I was honored to represent my class at Commencement this year (no, I didn’t get to meet the President). While I’m not one to talk a lot about age because I don’t find it a particularly useful construct most of the time, growth and development are things that I often contemplate in moments of self and shared reflection.

  • What’s different about me today than 5 years ago?
  • Who’s still in my life now that was then? Who isn’t?
  • How has my worldview evolved?

My wife and I talk about this a lot, in the context of how life’s expectations change as we grow older. That can be both funny and frustrating, both predictable and stupefying, all at the same time. Nevertheless, it’s true.

As a 27-year-old, there are things that are expected of me that were not when I was 22. Going to a bar and seeing a sloppy drunk 35-year-old man is as sad as it is disgusting. We’ve all been there. We’ve all seen it. For some, we were the ones shaking our heads in shame. For others, we were the ones with the hangover the next morning. If you’re like me, you shed tears of laughter and sorrow.

In honor of the coming 5 year anniversary of The SuperSpade and the 5 year anniversary of my graduation, I’d like to offer 5 Maturity Musts that are required as we come of age.

Must #1: Be on time

Being late is wack. Grownups call and give a heads up if they’ll be late. Fashionably late only works at Lakers games, definitely not at restaurants requiring reservations. There is a universal, always-to-be-honored 5 minute grace period, but I’ve yet read about the 55 minute rule.

How do you feel when you’re the person that made reservations for a group of 8 at that new downtown restaurant and you’re there by yourself looking like a loser for 35 minutes before your friends stroll in apologetically? It sucks, especially if you’re not good at stranger small talk.

Even better, grownups RSVP. Tell us if you’re coming or not coming. No response is no longer an acceptable response. Kids are spared the details of how much it costs to throw a party, but we adults have to confront reality.

Must #2: Buy a gift

College students are not expected to bring gifts to birthday parties or weddings; they’re presence is gift enough. After you graduate and are working, that doesn’t fly.

Sadly, I’ve broken this rule. I didn’t bring a wedding gift to Steve’s wedding (in which I was Best Man). Why? Because I was still thinking like a 22-year-old. Time to grow up.

Ellen is miles ahead of me on this one. My cousin that lives here in DC graduated from high school last weekend, and we brought a gift that any college-bound student would find useful: laundry & shower stuff. 3 years ago, I’d have gotten him a card and ate their BBQ at the party. Progress.

Must #3: Bring something

When I lived in Seattle, great friends of mine often had me over to eat. They felt sorry for me and my I-only-know-how-to-cook-to-survive diet. When I first moved out there, I’d arrive empty-handed and empty-bellied. At some point, however, I figured out that I at least should bring a bag of pretzels or something.

It was a small thing, but the larger point was clear: when people open up their homes, they do so out of love. It’s appropriate to say thank you and to act on that thank you by offering to bring a little something. So at least ask.

  • Can I help with anything?
  • Is there something I can bring?
  • Need help cleaning up?

Must #4: Send a note

Following the last point, say thank you. Always say thank you.

Send a handwritten note. It’s amazing how much more thoughtful it makes you look. I took the time to send handwritten notes to 3 people I met at a conference last fall. I don’t think it bought friendship, but it did make our connection much more substantive than it otherwise would have been.

Sadly, I’ve only received a few of these myself. Each time I have, I’ve been eternally impressed.

Emails are cool too. Actually, they’re mandatory when dealing with some that has an email address.

Spend the $10 and buy a card, flowers, a small token. The dollar amount isn’t important, but the demonstration of appreciation and maturity is.

Must #5: Pay up

Like I said before, kids are insulated from the cost of life; adults aren’t.

It’s been great being the new guy here in DC, and I’ve appreciated the many lunches and happy hours that older friends who live here have treated me to welcoming me to the city. It’s been doubly refreshing for me to do the same with people I’ve mentored.

This also applies to the check at group dinners. Many gregarious people get quite shifty when the bill comes to a party of 16. Engineering majors forget how to calculate percentages. People that drink happen to kill the exact brain cells that govern the short-term memory that reminds them of the 7 mojitos they ordered. It’s a hell of a sight.

Stop the madness and pay your piece.

Please share your thoughts on this subject, as well as your own examples.

One Love. One II.

Photo credit: boxercab on Flickr


About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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