written by Stella Talpo
Not too long ago, the age range for adolescence was changed from 13-19 to 10-24. So we leave childhood sooner but then take longer to enter the stage of adulthood. The first thing that popped into my head when I read this new information, was who decides the age range for adolescence and what information has to be collated in order for it to get so far as to officially change. The second thought that popped into my head was that if this was truly the case, it would mean that I’d only been recognised as an adult for about a year and a half.
To be totally honest, that’s not too far from the truth on some levels. My reality is that, despite best efforts, I’ve needed support from parents or friends to be able to stay afloat and support my pursuit of a career in music. I’d like to say this case is exclusive to creative paths but I have many friends, albeit in London, who’ve had to seek some support or another taking those baby steps into adulthood. As a going-onto-26 year old, feeling like I’m still financially unstable and need support to find my feet has been an increasingly devaluing reality. It’s not great for your self-esteem nor sense of self and it’s been majorly debilitating when it comes to finding my inner-strength and own support system within. But on other levels, even though we’re not growing up as fast in the traditional sense, we are broadening our minds more and the conversation of awareness has become a norm for a lot of young people.
This blog post will not be an analysis of the social and economic climate that young people find themselves in. There are too many variables to consider when deducing why youths are growing up slower than ever before, and they don’t concern the point of this post. It also doesn’t aim to judge anyone or suggest that everyone’s experiences reflect my own.
This blog aims to shed a light on the fact that it’s not age that decides when we are adults. It’s not financial independence or not needing to ask for any help. What decides when we’re adults, and my mum has said this countless times in her writing, is when we begin taking responsibility for our choices and start standing in ourselves. This is no easy feat, especially in a world when everything’s progressing at 200 miles per hour, information is at our fingertips but it’s hard to decipher truth from fiction, we’re more connected than ever but suffer from anxiety because we’re disconnected in so many human fronts. It’s hard to know when we need help because we’re struggling or when we’re creating our own struggle because we’re crying out for help.
How do we take our place as young people amongst all the confusion, the global unrest and the chronic anxiety that plagues our generation? Well, we have to get to know ourselves. We have to come to terms with our past (and eventually, choose to leave it in the past) and recognise all the elements that make us who we are, explore all the various dynamics that come into play in our lives and adopt practices that we know help us to be and act like the truest version of ourselves. God knows we’re still in good time to do so, some people wait until much further down in their lives to ask themselves questions such as who am I, what do I want to bring to the world, what’s my purpose here? In many ways, this ‘curse’ of ours has turned out to be the blessing that’s inviting us to ask these pertinent questions of ourselves sooner.
What we might not know though, given that we have perfected independent learning from the devices that characterise our daily lives, is that sometimes we can’t do everything ourselves. Sometimes we don’t know the inside and outs of the ways of the world and ourselves because we see a reality that’s limited and shaped by our past experiences, our traumas, our expectations, our biases and most powerfully, our ego. If we go so far as to choose to get to know ourselves deeper and understand why we do (or don’t do) the things we do (or don’t), we need to come to terms with the fact that we might need a little support.
Before I started asking for support or help or guidance, I found myself in a PTSD-esque state of anxiety. Everything terrified me and this couldn’t be further from the girl I grew up as. The process of growing up and all the events and traumas (small or large) that can occur in between, can shock us into all sorts of defence mechanisms and safety measures that block us from being who we truly are. We start using the devices we learnt from our parents to survive and navigate a world that doesn't often make much sense. In a way we're freer than ever, but in another way, without the security of an imposed life trajectory, we're a little bit more lost than ever. Safe to say, I was at a very different end of the spectrum to where I believed my inner self belonged and the only way I could describe it was as if I was living a constant out-of-body experience. I was loosely diagnosed with PTSD and dissociative identity disorder by my therapist, I suffered frequent panic attacks and extreme mood swings. If you’d have asked me at the time, I never thought that another reality of being could be possible, but fast forward just two years, I can confirm that although life will always offer challenges and highs and lows, I’m now facing them in a much more self-affirming and self-aware way than before. Worth noting that no self-development journey has a final destination, it’s an ongoing process of unfolding things about yourself in relation to the life that unravels ahead of you.
I remember reaching a crossroads where I knew I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I’d wanted to avoid any deep self-development work because I thought refining my edges would remove any edge I applied in my songwriting. I started my journey going on a week long retreat called the Hoffman Process. I was lucky to have won a job that had offered me the money to embark on a pretty pricey first step because it was the step that changed the direction of my life (for the better) in a way I never thought possible.
The point isn’t where you start, how much money you have to start or when in your life you start. The point is wanting to. It’s looking past your attachment to your current reality and suffering (because as dark as it can be there, it’s also incredibly familiar and safe) and choosing to explore different avenues that can change and transform that reality. That choice and that willingness to fight for something different is that moment of taking responsibility and stepping into yourself… that moment of true growing up. Needless to say, the two years since I took my first step, I’ve had moments (countless) where I fly back into child-mode and resist the responsibilities flung at me in this stage of my life. But I remind myself to keep choosing better for myself, keep digging deeper and exploring options that can propel me forward. Not in my career, on the housing ladder, in my bank account or my Instagram likes, but within myself.
There are so many ways in which you can approach becoming self-responsible and therefore self-reliant and autonomous. When we become self-aware, we automatically start becoming more sure of ourselves and able to make choices that are in our best interest. That’s growing up. That’s choosing what we want and then going for it without making excuses or finding solace from old patterns, which cyclically bring us back to the same starting place again and again. You don’t have to be deeply traumatised or suffer from mental health to ask for help. The more we get to know ourselves now as young adults, teenagers, millennials, gen-Y’ers, whatevers, the more we will have a say in our choices going forward and the greater our power will be when facing our generational obstacles.
Start with a therapist, start with a life coach, start with a yoga retreat, start meditating, start conscious travelling, start asking yourself questions, start getting to know yourself. We’re the generation that can grow up, let’s.
header image by Clem Onojeghuo
If any of the themes have resonated with you, you can get in touch with Stella via firstname.lastname@example.org.