Most modern scientists think adolescence lasts until age 24. Whatever, these were the years when we were “adults in training.” Most of us became sexually active during this period. But even if we weren’t adolescents any more, the adjustment to a sex life came with a lot of adolescent symptoms like anxiety and doubt. It wasn’t only about our bodies and about performance; it was about deciding what was appropriate and what was inappropriate. Some people had to struggle sexual orientation during these years, meaning sexual attraction to the same or to the opposite sex, or even a total lack of libido. That adjustment alone could have taken years. Most of us fell in love during our Youth Phase. Some of us heard from our parents that it wasn’t the “real thing.” And for most of us, our parents were right. But we never would have believed it at the time.
Adolescence is really defined more psychological changes than physical changes. And there was nothing orderly about those changes. To begin with, our self-confidence seemed to both grow and shrink during this phase. We learned to become secretive, something most of us hadn’t developed during childhood. Adolescence was the time when we pretty much formed our own value system, or, rebelled against our parents’ values. For example, it was during adolescence that we decided how religious we wanted to be, and few of us followed our parents’ practices at that time. It was also at this time that we formed attitudes about the importance or unimportance of money, the roles of men and women, and began to develop political ideologies.
As adolescents, we took risks, small or large, depending on our personalities. Our parents thought we were taking them to defy them, but actually it was biological, and it happens with all species. Recognizing our sexual orientation and degree of sexual activity was a big deal during adolescence, and we generally relied very little our parents for guidance. Most of us spent a lot of time trying to fit in with peers and achieving social acceptance. But perhaps most difficult of all, adolescence was the time when we were supposed to have decided what profession we wanted to follow, purportedly for the rest of our lives. We were expected to decide on professions that we would compete for then dedicate ourselves to; professions that would shape us and become part of our identities. Many of the adults in our lives hoped we would choose professions that would give us status, a steady income, and most often something that would please both our parents and ourselves. Adolescence might have been the time when we caused some family arguments, although at that time we thought that other family members were causing them. Sometimes adolescence is called the separating-from-parents’ stage, and it is equally hard for parents and teenagers.
The same modern scientists that say adolescence lasts until age 24 also say that the phase between 18 and 23 is the hardest stage of growing . That’s when a lot of us were in college or first jobs, and were learning how to manage our newfound independence and the responsibility that came along with it. Those were the years when we felt shattered when we made a mistake because we thought we were too old for mistakes. We might have felt we made a mistake in the college course we chose or didn’t choose, a relationship, a job, or a major decision. But this phase is part of human “mistake-based-education” and is an important part of personal growth in terms of learning life lessons. During this important phase, we developed resilience from our mistakes. When we came to the end of this phase, most of us no longer rebelled against parental authority, our battles were more with ourselves, against procrastination, against escape into electronic entertainment or drugs, and trying to implement commitment, consistency and completion into our personalities. In later adolescence, we learned to be true to ourselves.
I was born near the end of WWII and raised in a small town in New Jersey, just a little more than a 30-minute drive from NYC. It was a wonderful place to be brought up, feeding ducks and canoeing on the river that meandered through the town in the summer, and ice-skating on that same river in the winter.
My two brothers and I were privileged to be raised in a lovely town that was safe to explore on foot, but close enough to NYC to be taken there on day trips to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily B & B circus, museums, Chinatown, street fairs in the spring and Broadway shows as we grew older. But we thought nothing of it.
Later as teens, we would go into NYC to buy a couple of beers (the drinking age in New York State was 18, and 21 in New Jersey) and hang out in Greenwich Village where we saw singers such as Bob Dylan who were on the first rung of the ladder on their way to fame.
The sixties were a time of speaking out and creating change. I decided to do my part by joining the Peace Corps, an innovative cold war program established by John F. Kennedy in 1961. I arrived in Brazil at the end of 1966, and after an adaptation period, was sent to serve in Porto Nacional, in what was Goias at that time. I can’t say I changed the course of the country, especially as I was immediately called upon to teach English in the local high school.
I have been teaching ever since; high schools, college literature, college language pedagogy, financial English and everything in-between. I married a wonderful Brazilian from Rio and we had 3 boys and moved around some, as he was an engineer who worked on hydro dams. Nowadays I am a widow and live in BH with 3 cats, one of which has extraordinary powers, and I have 4 wonderful and uniquely different grandchildren nearby. Thus far, I have had an interesting life, and this new endeavor called a blog should make it even more interesting.