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Essays, News, Opinion

Essence of Adolescence

The smallest moments in life enable personal growth.

Throughout my entire life, I have resided as the youngest within my extended family, and so, without further ado, infantilization frequently occurred; admittedly, in my later years, aunts and uncles didn’t resort to pulling on my cheeks and cooing, and cousins didn’t hurriedly cover my ears upon mentions of mature subject matter per se, but still, upon my participation in the slightest family interactions, a level of previous maturity notably dissipated–on the seemingly conscious parts of my relatives.

In my sandbox days, which entailed navigating a harrowing path between my street and a school playground with my ambitious bicycle gang, infantilization never bothered me. For obvious reasons, of course. I was young. I was clothed. I was fed. I had matters other than my family dynamics to occupy myself. There were forts to defend, dolls to dress, puddles to jump.

Then, somehow, between the serenity of building sandcastles and the agony of skinning my knees on the pavement, these moments, these little, little occurrences in which my elder relatives distanced me began to maraud my psyche. Why, I would think as I wiggled my toes in the sand, would they so hastily do so?

This is a clear act of alienation, I eventually concluded.

However, my young self failed to ever properly vocalize these concerns. Failed to effectively communicate: “Hey, I’m old enough for this. I can accept the concept of death and the fact that the universe is going to end one day and that ultimately life has no purpose.” Instead, I continued to internalize the treatment, focusing so intently on the moment my aunt would clear her throat and change her topic, the moment my cousins and sister would hurriedly hush their voices and warily glance in my direction. This fixation incited such a desire to prove their convictions wrong. To be wholeheartedly included. To be validated.

And, consequently, I clung to any phenomenon that vaguely indicated maturity. I graduated my Ariel bicycle, outgrew my sandcastles. And, consequently, the concept of adolescence, which my third grade teacher so offhandedly introduced with slide shows and a poorly edited film, captivated me. Entirely.

At last, I thought. I could assert my capability. Avoid exclusion. No more wary glances.

And so I sought adolescence.

My search emphasized careful mimicry. And so I built my vocabulary and misplaced cynicism, hoping to increase my credibility as an adolescent. After all, my cousins and sister projected such a sophisticated disillusionment, with their waning prepubescence and waxing adolescence that managed to land them an extended bedtime.

Indeed, I eventually believed, I was too big for my britches, too old. I had seen it all.

Yet validation, it seemed, had yet to show itself.

Then, sixth grade arrived.

Adolescence, in all its blazing glory, came crashing down.

And I realized the seemingly true exclusion and struggling dynamics that occur within the halls of a middle school, that define that yellow school bus with its hideous seats and rigid social strata. I recognized the melodrama of my circumstances during my youth, and then, in horror as the epiphany struck me in the midst of a homework problem, that this melodrama endured even in my present circumstances.

Then, as variables and least common denominators stared at me, I realized:

I am still young.

Most affectionately, I recall this little moment. It serves as a reinventive beginning, an initiation of my actual maturation, a step in the direction towards the recognition that perhaps, validation only matters most from the self, and my overall exaggerated sensitivity towards infantilization indicates a self-awareness that engenders personal growth.

Indeed, it was a moment rife with the promise of growth, which is, ultimately, the true essence of adolescence.

Indeed, even the seemingly smallest moments matter.

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