Does the eighteenth birthday herald a sudden change in our thinking to make us ‘ADULTS’?
There are discrete stages in the life cycles of organisms and it is truly fascinating to study in detail the changes that we go through as we adapt to the various challenges life throws at us. While I was thinking about this article, I looked back through my teen years. The struggles, the arguments, the fun, the enthusiasm, the joys and the pains just flashed through my mind faster than I’m typing this. And it all boiled down to the one fact: every single experience that I went through made me the person I am today. For example, convincing my parents to send me to church camp after school, taught me how to sell an idea and how to stay firm till I convinced the other person. Secret crushes and the inevitable heartbreak when I found they were dating someone, taught me how to be careful about what I feel for people. Fun times with friends taught me how important it was to take breaks and just enjoy life. And finally when I started typing this out, I realised that the change, the transition, the metamorphosis of a teen into an adult is really a complex and a dynamic process.
As teens we have a very different outlook and certainly very different responsibilities. “What responsibility?” you hear some parents say. But I know that as a teen I took my responsibilities seriously. So, for example, planning a friend’s eighteenth birthday party became a huge event and a lot of details would need to be worked out before the whole thing fell into place. But for our parents, who were dealing with really complex issues like financial worries, family strain or even health issues, our parties seemed like a silly deal. And the effort we threw into it also seemed equally silly to them. To top it all, we would get the dreaded ‘Once you have your own family, you’ll understand’ talk. That got me thinking. Does the eighteenth birthday herald a sudden change in our thinking to make us ‘ADULTS’?
Sadly, as you will come to realize there is no abrupt transformation into adulthood. As teens, we already have our character traits which are gradually getting crystallized into our core personality. Over time we learn to trim aspects of our behaviour which do not prove helpful. For example, Kristy was always particular about being on time. But since she joined her new workplace, she realised that she was always the first one in and by default would be the one doing most of the work. Gradually, she herself decided to disregard punctuality and this behaviour became part of her routine even outside of work. Or say, Brian was always a last minute study kind of a guy, but once he joined engineering college, with the threat of KT’s and project submission deadlines, he started finishing off his work regularly so as to avoid a big pile at the end of the semester.
What I’m trying to convey here is simple. There is no shortcut to adulthood.
Dr Wilona Braganza, is a Consultant Psychiatrist, with an MBBS from Grant Medical College, Mumbai, and a MD from Fr Muller Medical College, Mangalore. She has a special interest in de-addiction, and adolescent and young adult psychiatric problems such as alcohol and drug addictions, depression, anxiety, abuse, stress and marital or relationship problems.