Transitioning into adulthood is momentous – almost like completing the finale of the first lap of life and embarking into the genesis of the climax. There isn’t any demarcated interlude called ‘transition’ in between shifts from one stage of life to another. I wish there was!
Though each of us is sculpted by the Divine Sculptor, how we for our parts, handle the life events of various stages would be a lot different if we can be prepared for them. When sculptors carve or painters paint, they essentially give shape to an etched mental/ physical imagery. Artists who start randomly and end up with masterpieces are few and far between. So is it with our lives!
Guided transitions are less stressful and less chaotic. By guided transitions, I do not mean to refer to cut-out modular paths to be charted by individuals. Nor do guided transitions pertain only to the transitioning individuals. Along with an individual, it is the family, the society, the nation and the world at large that transitions. Hence, guiding the minds of people to be part of transitions into adulthood at large is vital.
Have you ever tried pushing a door open with all your strength, only to be met with an even greater force holding/ pushing the door from the other end, thus preventing the door from being thrown open? What happens eventually? Either you give up and resign yourself to the fact that the door won’t open or you garner even more strength and break open the door, in the process damaging the door (and any other thing or person that is holding it up at the other end) but letting yourself free. What if someone at the other end realizes that you are trying to push a door open and opens it up for you? You are let free and the door is saved from damage as well, plus you are grateful to the one who opened the door for you.
Transitions are crucial. They involve constant pushes and pulls. As individuals we constantly evolve. Guided transitions help the transitioning individuals and those witnessing the transition to be on the same page.
According to me, four transitional crises commonly hit adults. Understanding, acceptance and adjustment of these are vital.
BODY DYSMORPHIA – Who hasn’t gone through a morning before the mirror wishing for a little bit, if not massive, changes here and there in the body? These wishes are more or less guided by societal standards, media promotions and the infrequent taunts by significant others. Even five year olds are too conscious of their looks these days! Intentionally or not all of us have surely gone through this. Transitioning into adults, girls and guys alter their looks to be attractive enough for their prospective better halves. Though I do not intend to be gender-specific, the reality is that it hits females the most!! Having to continue in their efforts to be presentable and beautiful is a pressure most women carry with them till their dying breaths even if the men in their lives don’t bother much about the retracting foliage on their heads or about the paunches that enter doorways before their feet. While taking care of the body and remaining fit and healthy are essentials, obsession about one’s own body image or body shaming others is an unwanted baggage of adulthood. The crisis of body dysmorphia can be better dealt with if adults realize how the body functions and ages with time, how certain sicknesses force one to look a certain way, how child-bearing alters a woman’s body, and so on – rather than expecting an ideal look from adult men and women.
ROLE PERPLEXITY – The once carefree fun loving daughter faces the daunting possibility of managing an entire household as a married woman. The once nonchalant son is caught between the dilemma of being an obedient son to his parents and a dutiful husband to his wife (in which sorry to say, most men fail miserably). In this transition into adulthood, the spices and condiments thrown into the pot by extended family and society play a crucial role in making the dish delectable or rendering it tasteless for life. Breaking stereotypes is no small game!
WORK – LIFE EQUILIBRIUM – We live in demanding times. Bosses at each higher ladder have families, but rarely realize that their subordinates have families too. The family fabric is being stretched into the extremes with each generation focussing on earning the livelihood that they cannot enjoy spending. Children have parents who are MIA. Wives have husbands who are MIA. Husbands have wives who are MIA. The crisis is individual-specific in certain cases and organisation-specific in most of the cases. Some adults who wish to devote time for their families, hobbies and adventures find their hands tied due to the work commitments, whereas, other adults do not realise the importance of family and hobbies.
SOCIETAL IDENTITY – No longer is the Bunty next door addressed as Mr. Sharma’s son, but by his own name, occupational and societal identity. This identity creates a sense of responsibility which is new for most adults to shoulder. Also, there is the added pressure on singles to “settle” down. The young person may be quite satisfied with his/ her occupational identity in society, but till s/he gets married, the poor person is considered “not settled” by people with sorry faces as if they are genuinely burdened by the singlehood of others around them.
I had my mother share once how my father used to fuss over the sarees that she picked to wear, soon after they had married. His wise father who had been observing this for a while, gave him a piece of his mind, much to my father’s amazement (who didn’t know that his father had been noticing all along). Well, my father hasn’t let go of that habit to this day, but my mother surely felt a hand of support and understanding from her father-in-law that time, in a new house with less known people away from parents.
Facing such and many other person-specific crises, is a huge load on the shoulder of the transitioning adults. Role of adults themselves, caregivers, society, media and counsellors is of paramount importance as to whether the adults that the world will be home to, would be well-adjusted ones or those who would continue to pass on the generational legacy of crises over the years.