About transiting into adulthood
Who knows what it means to be an adult?
Life’s tough. Not that I didn’t know this before but having turned 23 recently and going through this weird phase of transition into adulthood, I question what it means to be an adult. I was told people in their 30s, 40s, including those who are parents themselves, are also still asking these questions. This picture is a film still from last summer’s filming in Vietnam. It sums up how I’m feeling right now.
I’ve read articles that theorises how young people are maturing into adults a lot later than previous generations because of longer education years that delay young people’s entrance into the workforce and consequently postponing their need to bear financial responsibilities. Perhaps the age of transition into adulthood really starts around 23–26 when most people are leaving universities, either with a Bachelors or Masters degree. (However, that being said, I am not speaking for all as I recognise not everyone has the privilege of pursuing tertiary education.) At this age when one barely knows anything about the world and themselves, the social or familial pressure to start a family, especially in Asian contexts, seem inappropriate to me. I know of acquaintances around my age getting engaged or married. (Perhaps they've been in a long term relationship and are super sure that's the right person, no outsider can judge any relationship.) With coming of age, family and relatives are starting to exercise pressure on me to be in a relationship and start a family. If I dare say, how can one be a parent without first understanding himself or herself, good and bad, purpose and passion, values and beliefs?
The 20s is a climb; steep and arduous, daunting and uncertain. We are made vulnerable to learn our faults, to notice our scars; but then we are also made strong, by finding our support systems, by healing our pain. Before this journey is complete and emotional attachment stability attained, how can one be ready for parenthood? I am only stressing this because ultimately a failed marriage or partnership affects the child most deeply. So many friends around me grew up in broken families and suffer from depression or anxiety. With divorce rates rising yearly, we need to also start questioning the social pressures of family building on young adults. As a female, I understand the time pressure of a healthy reproductive system but I don’t think this is a good enough reason to compromise the time needed to understand oneself and one's partner.
Every person to person relationship is a relationship. We learn from family relationships, friendships, working relationships. Romantic relationship is not everything. Too often the fantasy of romance portrayed in movies and dramas overemphasise the need to be romantically involved.
Well, to each their own but don't put all your eggs into one emotional basket.
I've had friends who spend their late teens, early twenties blindly hopping from one romantic relationship into another, hoping to find love and support in people who won't stay in their lives. But truth is, we can never fill the emptiness deep inside us with other people. A relationship cannot be whole if you yourself is not whole. It is a long journey to learn about yourself, to learn about the emptiness within and how to fill it. It is an individual work and effort that we all have to take on. We need time on our own to find out who we are, to fill the holes, to work on what's lacking. But when you are constantly attached, there is no time or space to work on yourself.
In all honesty, I think this is a very difficult thing to learn to do, at least for myself. I am always the harshest, the most critical, the most demanding of myself. But you know, growing up is also learning to learn yourself. To love who you are, your personality, your good traits, your bad traits (well, if it cannot be changed/ you are unwilling to change it, embrace it). It is a difficult learning curve, to confront your pain (left in the past or living in the present) but it is definitely worthy of your time. How can we truly move on and live our lives if the burden is still being dragged along? Remember, to be able to express the hurt is not vulnerability, it's strength.
Freedom is a choice. Happiness is a choice. I guess loving yourself is also a choice.
We can't always choose the situation we are in but we can choose what to make of each situation.