Entering into 2015 I had no expectations and very little hope. I think many will agree that 2014 was not very kind (damn retrogrades) so, at the risk of jinxing myself, I thought it couldn’t really get much worse. In the grand scheme of things, each year holds good and bad but there is an overwhelming number of people that are absolutely thrilled, to put it mildly, to see the end of 2014.
I am beginning to get the impression that this will be “the year”. You know, “the year” things change, “the year” you make it happen. But not in the typical context.
I started to consider when someone truly makes the transition from youth to adulthood. Of course we could argue that gaining experience from driving, starting at age 16, or getting sloppy drunk and making out in the alley behind a bar on your 21st birthday gives you significant experience to at least activate this metamorphosis, but adulthood isn’t an age; its a state of being, a level of responsibility and awareness that typically comes with age but isn’t relegated to a certain time in our lives. Some people, and I’d argue they might be quite lucky, never reach adulthood, and some come to this point sooner than fair.
Now, with only a solid month of being 23 under my belt, I seriously believe that age 23, at least for a woman (since that is the only perspective I have) is the time when we are really in the heat of womanhood transition.
The state of adulthood has just as much to do with our own sense of self as the way we are received by others. This is to say that the more grown up we look, the more likely we are to be received as such. Its in our human nature to make judgments based on what we see and its irrelevant for our purposes if this aids in perpetuating stereotypes or social constructs (though I’m sure it does). The meat of the issue is that as girls we tend to look older than we are, we are expected to behave more maturely, we are increasingly receiving higher grades in school, we strive to uphold the standards of what “everyone” thinks we “should” be. It is the expectations of others that subtly influence our behavior and our feelings about ourselves; and it is because of my gender that I have been given a silent code of conduct, expectations and even requirements that, when met, give an impression of maturity and adulthood.
Girl, to young lady. Young lady to woman. Then what? When do we reach the apex of womanhood? Doesn’t motherhood come to mind? Don’t you conjure up images of your grandmother, the wisest most loving woman many of us come to know intimately? It is not necessary to ever become a mother to validate womanhood, but it is impossible to be a mother without being a woman. It is our ability to bear children, and in my opinion our inborn capacity to feel and love so greatly, that in fact makes us women. And even without sufficient proof most people would call a mother a woman without relevance of her mental or emotional intelligence. Despite the fact that reproduction rates are as low as two children per woman here in the states, I feel that as a twenty-something year old, there are so many of us that have had a child between ages 16-24, our high school and college years, or know someone rather close to us that has had a child during this time. Our late teens and twenties are the ripest period of our youth and while it can be argued that losing some of that youth to the requirement of motherhood may cause us to lose some of the opportunities a childless woman of the age may be afforded, we earn a reward of a different kind. You can learn as much from being a mother as you can in any school if the conditions are right.
Where I live, by the time most of us are twenty-three we’ve had ample time to complete some higher form of education and possibly receive a degree. Of course this has no bearing on our ability to get a job, but if you think about it our college years give us the richest opportunity of combined independence, education and social interaction, some of the greatest factors influencing personal growth.
Going away to school, or even just going away from home for extended periods of time, thrusts us into a world that we have to take the time to discover. We are not lamely and lazily gliding through our environment; we have to take action, make connections, try new things and see new places and meet new people. How could this not have any bearing on who we are and how adult we are?
I’m experiencing a greater sense of self now than I ever have. I have, whether consciously or unknowingly, participated in many social experiments that could have and perhaps should have contributed to the increase of my adulthood and womanhood yet this is the first time in my life that I truly feel a deliberate awareness in myself. I am more accepting of why I am who I am, what role I play in my own destiny and what things are beyond my reach. In short, I basically just don’t give a fuck.
It was said best by Jose Micard Texeira. I had to do a little digging to discover the origin of this quote; it had gone viral as “Words Meryl Streep Lives By,” and for some reason people are so attached to making this her quote. I’m not sure if we just want as many reasons as possible to love Meryl, or if it has to do with her experience, gender and age. Part of the adage states:
“I no longer have patience for certain things. Not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me…I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.”
What I get from this quote is the kind of maturity, liberation and acceptance that usually comes with age and is therefore associated with adulthood.
I haven’t been able to pinpoint why exactly, but the older I get the less concern I have for what others think. I love with the same ferocity. I am confident in my power as a woman. I try to exhibit more understanding and compassion and I’m more open to hearing what others have to say, but I am no longer able to base so much of my own thoughts and feelings on the opinions and comments of others. I can no longer blindly adopt what anyone else has to say as truth without my own research. I certainly have less tolerance for things that do not serve the purpose of growth or love and I am unwilling to knowingly perpetuate ignorance in any fashion.
So I’m calling age twenty three, “The New 23”. I’m claiming this age, this time to be my beginning. It’s really quite simple. Just as simple as a thought; a thought each day reinforcing who I truly am and where I feel I’m going. Claim it for yourself. Or don’t.