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March 8, 2011 | by  | in Online Only |
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Young Mama – How to deal with a major change in character

My father and I have a theory, that the most important growing and changing to set the scene for your adult life occurs between the ages of 18 and 23. A lot changes over this time, not least (usually) being turned out of the nest in the hope you will fly away… or at least land on your feet… more often just hitting a branch slightly lower. It is very, very common for people to cycle through different clothing styles, groups of friends, political ideas, gender and sexualities over this time. For you it might be a bit awkward but feel completely natural. Watching your friends do the same, however, is another story. But when do you speak up? When has someone gone too far? When have you gone too far?

Measure everything not by its acceptance within your immediate community, but by its normalcy in the world. I want you to look at your friends and remind yourself of the same- they may be a different ‘type’ of person to you, but if there’s a (legal!) community that they can become a part of, and they are happy with themselves, then power to them.

Don’t make overarching comments and assume that changes are forever. For example, if you become a born again Christian, good for you; if you become a born again Christian and as a result must marry and procreate by December, take a step back. Honesty to yourself is important, and you should be able to honestly tell yourself, with no shame, that you used to be someone else, and you have changed, but you may well change again. This does not mean that you should doubt your sincerity, values, or beliefs, but it does mean that you shouldn’t paint yourself into a corner where you limit your personal growth over this time.

Keep your friends, unless they are damaging you emotionally. I always get very uncomfortable when meeting people who can’t retain friendships, for obvious reasons. You may have outgrown your friends, you may no longer have anything in common, but drift apart—don’t sever and don’t take an opportunity to rub friend’s faces in the mud. Wellington is a small place, and even if you do marry and procreate within the year, it would be great to assume that your friends can see beyond your massive lifestyle/outlook change to support and love you for who you are. It would be even better to avoid ceaselessly judging or criticizing friends who now have different values and beliefs. Tell people off for littering, sure, but going through their garbage while yelling at them about recycling…? Ask them to come to church one day, sure, but telling them they’ll burn in hell…? See things from your friend’s points of view and try to put yourself in their shoes. Work out where the line should be drawn, and if possible, you could even sit down and talk to them about your feelings to clear the air.

Remember, this is a short period in your lives where you can play adulthood without being tied down. Opportunities should be taken with both hands, and if drinking to excess for 6 months is someone’s choice, then keep an eye on them, avoid letting them go too far, and remind yourself that an alcoholic 40 year old who just came out, left their wife, and is now trying to relive an uneventful youth is one of the ugliest, heartbreaking things to see. Identify the difference between an experiment, a lifestyle change, and a personally damaging change. Keep your mind open and your friends and families close. Be safe, be open minded, and be glad to live in a society where we can change with the seasons and not be stoned to death.

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