Friday, December 7, 2012

Coming of Age

When I search for Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright on Google, this is the first result that shows up:

I’m not entirely certain how the algorithms work or how Amazon categorizes novels, but “Coming of Age” really jumps out at me—I hadn’t ever thought of Uncharted as a 'coming of age story', but on second thought, yes, I suppose it is. Perhaps the term has more to do with how loosely it is applied.

Wikipedia says “Coming of age is a young person's transition from childhood to adulthood.” Aspects of Uncharted—specifically, Marlena’s personal accounts—deal directly with her coming of age. But in a broader sense, (if one goes by Merriam Webster—“to reach maturity”) then the definition also fits Samuel, for although he is thirty one years old, he is finally coming to terms with his childhood and now his adulthood—finally maturing as a person.

It seems to me (and this from a meager fifty-two years of experience) that the ‘thirties’ is as much a time of transition and coming of age as is adolescence. Yes, the changes of puberty and reaching physical adulthood are momentous and highly visible, yet I don’t think it’s until one’s thirties that a person begins to grasp who they are and how they came to be. I don’t mean to get overly psychological here, but if the decade or so following adolescence establishes patterns in our behavior and thoughts, congealing into ‘adulthood’, it seems that by our thirties we are confronted with what has either been working for us or inhibiting who we’d like to be. And how did we end up with this person we look at in the mirror? Are our traits genetic, or did we learn them? Can we change the things we don’t like in ourselves? Or are we doomed to struggle with seemingly inherent weaknesses for the rest of our lives? Can we reconcile any of it and find peace with it all? Perhaps it was just me, but my thirties launched me into a great deal of introspection.

It is this introspection that I write about in my novels. I’m fascinated with the concept of ‘Coming of Age.’ Yes, I wrote about it in Uncharted without necessarily analyzing is as such. Now that I’m deep into revising Spilled Coffee, I see that it is the central theme approached from both the adolescent perspective of a fourteen-year-old boy and from his thirty-one year old self as he reflects on his formative years.

Even as I write this piece for my blog, I wonder if midlife could also be classified as another ‘Coming of Age’ episode. By now I am an established adult in my own right, but there is nothing like being in close proximity with aging parents (yes, cohabitating with them) to force another full-blown self-analysis and growth spurt—but that’s a whole ‘nother topic!