In his "SINCE YOU ASKED" column at Salon.com, Cary Tennis responds to a young man who asks:

"HOW DO I BECOME AN ADULT?: I missed the memo on how to grow up."

Here's the young man:

"I feel ashamed of myself because I know I could contribute good things to the world, but right now I'm not, and in fact, I feel like I'm on the path to becoming a detractor. Instead of putting things out into the world I let myself succumb to the seduction of my imagination, where everything is better and easier and more comfortable and yet more thrilling at the same time. I know I need to work harder on the thing that I'm passionate about but I feel like all this BS is clouding my ability to."

Here's an excerpt from Cary's response:

"Your distress is the memo. Adulthood - or your fate, shall we say - is staring you in the face, like a tiger that has crept up on you in the night. It is looking at you, wondering, When should I devour this child? Is it time? You open your eyes in terror. The tiger looks at its watch. Being devoured by the tiger that is adulthood is not so bad. The tiger eats you, digests you and drops you on the forest floor, not as a turd but as a cocoon. When you awaken and find the strength to break your shell, you emerge, eventually, as an adult and an apprentice. You are transformed in the belly of the tiger. You are remade.

Quoting the author Bill Plotkin, Cary goes on:

"The process of becoming a true adult is the process of coming to know one's ultimate place as an individual."

And finally, Cary concludes:

"To sum up: You know what time it is. The tiger knows what time it is, too. It is time for you to become an adult. But you do not know how to do it. Of course you don't know how to do it! You are not really supposed to know how to do it. The way you learn how to do it is by wandering. But you also need to find a guide."

1 comment:

Laura said...

On the cusp of 27, I must admit I strongly identify with this young man.

Somewhere between college and “true adulthood,” the road map is snatched away. The road map that plots out 21+ years of life to coast upon our parents’ and societies’ expectations, as if life could be laid out as neatly as the clothes our mother left folded on the bed. That is to say, how can the tiger sneak up on us when we’re coddled by our parents for ever-increasing periods of time? “Tiger? What tiger?”

The “helicopter parents” I’m always reading about may have the best intensions, but simulations of adulthood and self-dependence (ex. college) don’t necessarily equate to the real thing. Even our early entry into, “the real world,” rewards us with help from our parents. (30, as they say, is the new 20.) And, I’m not arguing that in our modern age this isn’t a necessity. With college tuition on the rise, post-college debt is significantly higher than it was for our parent’s generation. And, the job market is nowhere near as generous. Also, we’ve had twenty-some years to daydream, enjoy our parent’s hard work, wealth, and conveniences. Adulthood, then, is more than just a mental shift; it’s a very real physical change, a lifestyle change. Some embrace this freedom while others strive to maintain the lifestyle they’ve always had, and this requires assistance and perhaps, a well-crafted delusion of adulthood.

In my personal journey, I think I’ve only just woken up and, I tell you, it’s a hungry-looking tiger…

A good article about this from the NYTimes, April 2006:


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