Someone I think is cute sent me a facebook request. So I did what I assume, but have never confirmed, a lot of people do. I went to my page to see what they would see and day dream about what they might think of me.
It’s not right to say that I have insomnia. I stay up late because I want to. Because I love it. At night, the world takes on a different physics. Time moves in its own waves. The honey light from my lamps envelopes my mind in a slow, calm, eternal moment of present pleasures and impulsive intrigues.
I write. I stretch. I listen to music. I research stuff. Sometimes, something will catch my attention. It could be a poem, sewing a dress into a different shape, mapping Chinese medicine onto evolutionary astrology and I will roll around with it as though swirling with a lover in a dream.
When I was looking back through my facebook wall, I saw this post I had made sharing an excellent article questioning the Coming of Age trope often used in Western literature. My friend Simon had commented, innocently enough, about Rites of Passage and I wrote back. Probably at 3AM. Probably deep in my own geometry of night. Using my friend’s comment as a spring board for my own self-definition. Taking the opportunity to expand the author’s questioning of Coming of Age as a solution for contemporary society’s ills, to the notion held by certain sub-cultures that re-instating our current imagining of traditional rituals from other cultures is the medicine we need.
By the time I got to the end of my response, I was laughing out loud. I decided I liked myself and put down my phone. I went back to whatever I was doing that seemed so fascinating at the time. Making lotion. Wondering about how blockchain technology might be usurped by international financial institutions and what we can do to influence that future in our favor. Humming along to Nihkil Bangarje, until it crossed my mind again and I followed my impulse to share this little exchange with all of you.
Great article: https://aeon.co/…/why-the-coming-of-age-narrative-is-a-conf…
“You don’t come of age; you just age. Adulthood, if one must define it, is only a function of time, in which case, to come of age is merely to live long enough to do so.
We believe that there is some inner essence locked within us – and that unearthing it could be a key to working out how to live the rest of our lives. This comforting notion of coming of age, of unlocking a true ‘self’ endures, even though it is out of step with current thinking in psychology, which denies a singular identity, and instead posits the idea of staged development, or an eternally malleable sense of self that shifts as we grow older, and with the uniqueness of our personal experience.
As the 19th-century philosopher William James put it: ‘Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind.’
Growing up’ as it is defined today – that is, as entering society, once and for all – might work against what is morally justifiable. If you are a part of a flawed, immoral and unjust society (as one could argue we all are) then to truly mature is to see this as a problem and to act on it – not to reaffirm it by becoming a part of it. Classically, most coming-of-age tales follow white, male protagonists because their integration into society is expected and largely unproblematic. Social integration for racial, sexual and gender minorities is a more difficult process, not least because minorities define themselves against the norm: they don’t ‘find themselves’ and integrate into the social context in which they live. A traditional coming-of-age story featuring a queer, black girl will fail on its own terms; for how would her discovering her identity allow her to enter a society that insists on marginalising identities like hers? This might seem obvious, but it very starkly underscores the folly of insisting on seeing social integration as the young person’s top priority. Life is a wave of events. As such, you don’t come of age; you just age. Adulthood, if one must define it, is only a function of time, in which case, to come of age is merely to live long enough to do so.
Although it flies in the face of what our stories have taught us for generations, a new understanding of coming of age, in which there is no direct path to maturity, no single ‘self’ that might be discovered or created, has the potential to be incredibly freeing. If one wishes, one can stand in the rain, watching a carousel, finally feeling grown-up. But, just as legitimately, one can simply experience it and enjoy it, and not feel the pressure to make anything of it all.