Coming of age
I’ve read 500 books. Possibly even more, I don’t know — I stopped counting after I reached that mark. But I’ve learned to hold each one to two truths.
Truth No. 1: Every book is a coming-of-age novel.
I used to treat my library like an arsenal; I stocked up on literary figures, collected figures of speech and memorized quotations in the hopes that they would adequately equip me for the things I know nothing about, experiences I’ve never fulfilled. Victor Hugo, for how to be realistic. Jenny Han, for how to be candid. John Green, for how to look toward tragedies with hopeless ambition.
When you’re young, you treat adolescence as a race. You clamber desperately to search for answers and strive for the excellence they say it offers. You treat intellect and expertise as units by which you can measure your distance from those falling behind you, and you observe every speck of advice to “read this” and “watch that” regardless of how tiring it becomes, all because these are the things that are going to prepare you for all the mistakes you haven’t made, yet.
We believe that coming of age requires a subjective initiation rite, events that indicate you are inching ever so closely to being an adult — like falling in love, abandoning a dream or disappointing your parents. We tick each milestone in the belief that the actuation of a variance of situations enables our growth; we come of age, then we find the answers we’re looking for.
Seldom do we acknowledge that it is the nature of youth to escape itself; it means to seek enough wisdom to not be seen as young and innocent. It is in that way that we often fail to realize that the more you try to lean away from its grasp, the more you stay put.
Every book talks of a character with the need to quench curiosity, destiny or a greater evil. He (or she) is always on a quest to outrace every character that stands in the way between him and what he desires, except he forgets that everything moves at its own pace. Every story, with its own individual set of protagonists, talks of a tale of coming of age. Just different periods, different experiences and never a constant formula of speed. We all outrun everyone, except we don’t.
Truth No. 2: No one comes of age. Not really, not fully.
There is no peak to life, no point where the world decides that this is where it should start to go easier on you. The end of the race is not a happy ending, and you don’t stop running when you reach it.
Nicholas Sparks will not help you come of age. Haruki Murakami will not help you come of age. J.K. Rowling will not help you come of age. Their protagonists all grow to the extent of achieving their ambitions, but that doesn’t mean they cease to improve from there.
Perhaps one of the more bitter truths I’ve stumbled upon through this is that the terms we abide by are as indefinite as the definitions we give them. Youth is the quest to finding the answer to one’s questions. Coming of age means unanswering all of them.
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Maia Obedicen, 16, is a student at the University of Santo Tomas.
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