The Journey of Adolescence...and Adulthood

 

There is a great and urgent need in our culture for community schools like Springhouse, as young people and their parents, teachers, and mentors confront the realities of the adolescent journey at a time when that journey is fraught with challenge. The adults who love those kids are similarly challenged on their own developmental path. As a member of the Advisory Board who is also a psychologist, educator, and rite-of-passage guide, I know that Springhouse is a place where the journey to a genuine life can grow, and thrive.

 

But if the journey is going to move from the social approval that is so desperately sought at the time of puberty to the self approval in young adulthood that is so critical to the development of a genuine, authentic self, a unique identity, voice will be the key variable. The whole idea of adolescence, biologically, psychologically, and spiritually, may be to listen to the many voices, the wildly disparate voices of identity and belonging, of yearning and meaning, of purpose and passion, and out of that chaos, emerge with a voice that carries with it the embodiment of who we really are.

 

People from the very beginning of human habitation on earth have known that the young cannot be expected to figure this out on their own, that they need to be heard and mentored and challenged and loved by their elders. They also have known that the adults who are welcoming the young into authentic adulthood, into a passionate, committed, purpose-driven life need to have done their own work. The newly opening young adult, tenderly trying out his or her wings, emerging from the cocoon, needs to be met by genuine grownups, part of a community that wants to hear their voice, and engage them in a lifetime dialogue about what is truly important.

We, of course, have very little of that in our culture. Childhood and adolescence is more than a chronological fact; many, perhaps most, of those with bigger bodies and multiple decades on them are still operating, psychospiritually, at the level of early adolescence, where social approval, as opposed to individual and social authenticity, has primacy.

 

One of the great gifts that mature parents, teachers, caregivers, mentors—all of us--- can offer the young is the opportunity to be in relationship with that emerging voice, to ensure a container where it can be heard and mirrored and cherished. When that happens, young people can go about the critical life task of coming to terms with their story so far, leaving behind what they no longer need. They can, in the context of a community that encourages it, pick up the pen and set about the task of authoring their life, of writing the new chapters that will guide their life path, the rules for living with integrity with which they have wrestled with their elders. It is a process of initiation into what it truly means to be an adult, and it can only happen in relationship with already-initiated adults.

 

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