“It’s just a phase.”

Young people hear this all the time, particularly when they’re adopting something–some style, some hobby, or other interest of which older folk disapprove.  And they hate it.  They know, absolutely know deep down in their heart of hearts, that far from being a “phase” their passion is a reflection of who they truly are.

And their elders, roll their eyes at the young person’s conviction remembering the many “passions” that have come and gone over the years, indeed that they themselves have experienced.  And they are certain that this strangeness is just a passing fancy that will vanish and be forgotten a year, a month, even a week hence.

Both of them need to step back and consider the other view.

Young people do go through phases.  In our complicated world it’s a natural response to the many choices available to the individual.  We no longer live in a world where if daddy was a chicken plucker, your choices are be a chicken plucker or join the clergy.  As someone for whom freedom is near and dear to my heart, I cannot help but consider the vast array of choices available to the individual a good thing.  But, to a young person growing up all of that freedom presents a bewildering array of choices.

A part, a small part, of that endless variety is reflected in fashion, in music, and in the various entertainments available to each individual.  So there is a tendency for young people to latch onto something, try it out, see if it “fits” their own makeup.  If it doesn’t, they generally soon move on to something else, their next “phase.” But sometimes it does.  And when it does, and they recognize that it does (more on that in a moment), it’s not a phase any more, but an expression of their individual self as they understand it.

Of course, the young person in the midst of their latest “phase” is absolutely certain that it’s not a phase, that it’s who they’re really are.  And the parents?  They’re absolutely certain when the young person finds “who they are” that this one, too, is “just a phase.”  But, neither one can really tell until after the dust settles and everyone realizes this “phase” has lasted a long time indeed.

Just a Phase

(And you parents who are worried that your child will be “led astray” by this fashion and music and what have you?  If you’ve done your job of instilling values from an early age and you continue to provide a nurturing environment with reasonable limits and not drive them away by automatic rejection of their attempts to grow into their own persons, I think you’ll find those early lessons paying off.  And if you didn’t?  Then it’s probably far too late to do it now and most ham-handed attempts will only make the matter worse.)

Now sometimes, a young person will find that “fit” but, lacking experience, not recognize it and get drawn away into something else, another “phase.”  But in some cases they can simply be talked out of it by others.  Take my own example where I was convinced to abandon my own early flirtation with Goth(ish) style because “if you want to be attractive to the ladies, you need to start wearing bright colors.” The end result can be living your entire life vaguely dissatisfied and not sure why.  To some that may seem a little thing and, in the grand scheme of things perhaps it is.  But there’s more than enough misery and dissatisfaction in the world.  Why add to it?

And note, this is not to say that one can or even should spend ones whole life chasing that perfect “fit” which may never come.  And yes, you do have to take into account practical matters, matters like keeping a roof over ones head and food on ones table. (I am lucky to work at a place where my “style” is accepted.  If I did not, well, I’d have to dress and groom to “fit” at work and save my personal style for my personal time.)

But if you have that vague dissatisfaction that you can’t identify, maybe look back at your own “phases” and see if you gave up something that perhaps you should not have.  And if you have found that good fit, music that “speaks” to you, a style that you love, grab onto it.  There may be times when you have to dress and style for others, or even for your own safety (dangly earrings and necklaces and machine tools do not go together) and that’s part of life.  But when your time is your own?  Indulge.

We can’t always follow our dreams.  My dream growing up was to be an astronaut and walk on other worlds.  Well, even if my eyesight hadn’t eliminated the chance of being an astronaut at the time (since then possibilities have opened, but they weren’t available then) the fact of the matter was that no “walk on other worlds” opportunities were available.

We can’t always follow our dreams.  Okay, fair enough.

Just don’t forget to bring them along.

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