It's not a phase, it's a process.

This morning, as I clicked "save as PDF" on my masters thesis, I brought an end to my formal education. The funny thing is, I don't feel like anything is ending. I wrote my thesis on emerging adulthood in HBO's Girls, and now, thesis done, at twenty-six and officially beyond the official age restriction by which developmental psychologists categorize emerging adults (18-25), I no longer feel allowed to use that label for myself. But I'm still emerging.

Emerging adults live their twenties in a state of exploration-of careers, relationships, friendships, worldviews, travels-without settling on one life pattern. It's a documented period of upheaval, intense setbacks and overhauling questions of identity, but it also is a time of great freedom and ambition. Emerging adults constantly ask, who am I and what will I become? None of this is comforting, nor should it be. The only saving grace is that we hope, one day, it will all resolve itself.

But my thesis has perhaps showed me otherwise. The crux of my argument revolves around the fact that Girls may be proof that emerging adulthood is not a phase of life to get through, but rather a process. As Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna try on different identities for size, their narratives of self-exploration lead not necessarily to a clear and confident sense of self, but rather to a transformation of that self and, paradoxically, a lack of closure. The way the narrative works doubles this impulse, by accumulating moments based on emotions rather than plot. Things that come seemingly out of nowhere shift the story in directions no one saw coming, but these moments make everything feel more human--and messy. It is as if the entire series, in character and story pattern, is working away from enlightenment and towards confusion. Or at least change. Instead of funneling constantly towards conclusion, Girls investigates the middle of a cycle without hinting at the end of it. The narrative of emerging adulthood, in Girls and my own life, is ultimately not a phase but a process.

So, using my age and finished education to mark an abrupt end to my emerging adulthood is silly, because I can't declare myself "done" and "adult" when the phase itself is actually just a process that potentially never ends. Maybe the real rite of passage out of emerging adulthood and into full adulthood is not the formative threshold one crosses--a degree, owning a home, a marriage, kids--but the moment when you realize that you, as a person, are constantly in production.

Perhaps recognizing that this is a process is actually the first real step in leaning towards, or actually acknowledging, my adulthood. I actually really enjoyed the process of writing the thesis, whatever the outcome. So I'm trying to listen to that feeling of staying in the present in my writing, to dive into the uncertainty with a disregard for any concluding significance the process might generate. As I emerge as an adult and a writer, maybe this uncertainty of process is actually the key to everything.

I'm almost getting it kind of together.

Contagion and Viral Propagation

L'auberge espagnole over the years