I came of age rather late, or at least that’s what books made me think. A bildungsroman narrative is satisfying when you’re in high school and consuming it in some discrete little package. I liked The Catcher in the Rye when I read it. I liked John Green's books. I liked Harry Potter. I cried often at endings. These characters were kids. I liked them; their flaws were my own and their successes gave me hope.
When things changed for me, they changed in a way that was less subtle than I like to remember. It wasn’t concise or well–worded or beautiful or worth repeating in literary form. It was more like the sunsets I always used to watch. You stare at it and nothing moves, but you look down at To Kill a Mockingbird for too long and darkness seeps in through the window and the sun is gone and the indoor air is heavy and time slows down and the night sits on your shoulders as if it wants to push you into your book.
Adulthood should be, but isn’t, defined by self–awareness. I can see who and what I am from inside my brain to through my eyeballs to out in the open air to the eyes of another, the brain of another. I see what impact my actions have. I try to be purposeful, but that can be hard.
Self–awareness lies on a continuum. When we’re unsure of our own identity, when we fling ourselves carelessly into that emptiness which exists between one person and another, we flail. We latch on. We want attention, validation, for someone to take our hands and say I See You simply because we cannot see ourselves.
Move around! Nothing is to gain from being in limbo. Speak! Validation tastes delicious, but where are you getting it from? Look!—but it’s not easy to look, especially at ourselves, because we might not like what we find until we can go beyond looking.