Monday, January 13, 2014

Coming of Age

It is Coming of Age Day in Japan, a national holiday where those who turned 20 in the previous year or will do so before April 2nd of the current one are invited to attend ceremonies to welcome them into adulthood.  Young people dress up in traditional wear  and after the ceremonies go out to parties with groups of friends.

Many cultures have rituals or rules associated with coming of age.  Confirmations, bar mitzvahs, legal ages for voting, driving, drinking, and tobacco usage.  Some correlate to a rite of passage, things that must be learned, tests that must be passed, worths that must be proven.  Some are responsibilities given with the simple accrual of age.  In Japan it is a secular observation in which local municipalities bring those who are of a certain age into the civic and community responsibilities of adulthood.

Reflecting on all the things that one passes through in life, I wonder what it means to "come of age."  By the age of 20 we can likely walk and talk, and have probably observed or experienced first-hand some of the joys and sorrows of life.  We've gone through a fair amount of schooling and have hopefully learned something from it, ready to launch into the world on our own volition.

But it seems there are many things that have not come of age by then, things which would seem to be a large part of growing up.  Marriage, children, mortgages, taking care of one's parents.  When does coming of age really happen?  Does it ever?

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