Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Coming of Age

Today is my seventeenth birthday.


I am very grateful for the cake and bracelet, and the brownies that my mom is going to bake later today, and the excuse to take a 45-minute nap. Really, I am.

Honestly, though, birthdays don't mean all that much to me. What makes today any more special of a day than yesterday or tomorrow or Saturday? I don't feel any different, and I'm not different in any significant way. Character development is incremental. Change accumulates over time.

Birthdays are not a magical barrier that, once passed, leads to a new pasture of opportunities. (I may swallow my words next year.) In themselves, they're not much. Their significance, to me, is in what they represent - a year's worth of delta.

There's no one moment that I "come of age"; no one moment that divides my life into Before and After. I feel the same on the inside as I always have: idealistic, self-centered, ambitious, and arrogant. A child, in other words, no matter how old I am nominally.


...which is why (attention: transition happening) the term "coming of age story" has never sat well with me. I have described some of my own stories as such - Matt of the Lekron, Shadow Fissure, and others. I regret doing so.

What do we mean by a coming of age story?

Hypothesis: An untested character with a child's lack of responsibility gets thrown into a situation that tests his/her maturity and forces him/her to confront insecurities, and comes out with the ability to function independently in society and to make his/her own decisions. Henceforth s/he deserves to be treated as an adult.

Problems: People are not static. New phobias and insecurities spring up to replace the old ones, or personal deficiencies thought to be conquered rise again. What does it even mean to "behave like an adult"? Many adults I know are just as crazy and petty as we young ruffians are.

Hypothesis 2: A coming of age story is one in which an adolescent character attains mastery over his/her own mind/emotions and is henceforth considered an adult. Trial by suffering.

Problems: Same problem. You go through the fire and come out stronger on the other side. But the world goes on and you might have to go through the fire again, and again. Does it count as "coming of age" when n > 1?

Hypothesis 3: Coming of age is an iterative process. Alternately, it is a logarithmic curve:


Log functions always increase, which makes the analogy imperfect - someone can have regressions in their behavior. Improvement is not the only option, unfortunately.

However, I stand by the graph because
  1. the general trend is up (I believe in human potential)
  2. initial increases are larger than later increases, just as adolescence is often considered the time of most radical change for humans
  3. the curve flattens out as people become more and more themselves
  4. the limit is infinity (see 1)

Music for today:

Alter Mann - Rammstein
Wieviel Marchen dir noch bleibt?

1 comment:

  1. I share your opinion on it being just like any other day (so much so i didn't even celebrate my 18th, not really) but happy birthday nonetheless :) - i'm a bit late, sorry. I hope you had a great day. and just like it was the case the day before, and just like it is now, you've got big choices coming ahead so keep on being idealistic, self-centered, ambitious, and arrogant, it's the only way to get places.