The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Kisses, Heroes, and Adulthood

By the way, one of the odd things that my mind does is count kisses on television. I just kinda wanted to see, based upon my viewing patterns, how many times I’d see white guys kissing women before I’d see a black guy kiss one. I didn’t count every kiss—if there were multiple kisses in a single commercial or television episode I counted that as “one” just to be super-fair. I got up to eighty-six before, on an episode of “Heroes,” a brother got a kiss. Cool. Started counting again. I’m up to twelve.
Oops! “Jericho” last night had some serious Afro-smooching. Hmmm. That’s a change…
More on human adulthood. If you have a lingering fear that your emotions and actions are not those of a mature adult, you might want to look at the breakdown of the family structure in America. If you weren’t raised around responsiblte adults, how were you to model their behavior?

Grandparents, uncles, aunts, a mother and father…if you had all of them (or most) the chances were that some of them would be fully mature, responsible, aware. You’d be able to see the difference in their business dealings, personal relationships, physical health and habits.

The very flip-side of this is the “Baby Momma” phenomenon, where 15 year old kids are having kids, and shoving them off on the grandparents to raise. Gosh, babies look so cute, shouldn’t everyone have one? Until, of course, that 3 o’clock feeding. “Babies raising babies” is a way of talking about it, and the damage is ghastly.

Boys used to be trained to be men by their fathers, uncles, and grandparents. Girls trained to be girls by mothers, aunts, and grandmother. When 13 year olds are taught to be adults by 16 year olds, there is something horribly wrong.

“Relationships” are replaced by casual sex.
“Jobs” are replaced by making money—any way you can.
“Being a parent” is replaced by “having kids…somewhere.”
“Personal responsibility” is replaced by “grandma…or society…will take care of my mess.”

Back to the question of the Hero’s Journey. If you want to become an adult, then, there are doubtless many roads…but one would definitely involve taking responsibility for all three aspects of your life. I would suggest to you that it is virtually impossible to simultaneously develop a career, sustain a healthy primary relationship, and protect health and fitness without accelerating the maturation process.

1) Accept responsibility. You should aspire to be the sort of person who others look up to. Who children are safe around. Self-sustaining, balanced, happy, with energy to share.
2) Accept the fear. If you see no fear connected with this process, you probably aren’t looking deeply enough…or you have completed this cycle.
3) Clarify the path ahead. For this, look to those you admire who have actually balanced in these three arenas. Note the ways that they differ from those who are not. Check the ways they differ from you—their actions, beliefs, and values.
4) Begin the work. Divide the work into component parts that can be addressed at the rate of about 1% per week. Start eating that elephant.
5) Find Allies, gain skills. Look for mentors, people further along the path in the desired arenas. Offer value-for-value exchanges to gain access to their knowledge. It can save you years, or decades, of thrashing about.
6) Accept that you will fail over and over again. This is a part of the process. Learning to deal with failure and disappointment is one of the most valuable things in the entire cycle of work.
7) Accept the fact that you will hit massive walls of depression, fear, anger, hopelessness. It is an absolutely predictable part of the process.
8) Find faith. In your role models and friends, in your own deep worth and potential, in a Higher Power. Cultivate this faith daily with meditation, healthy interactions with mature, healthy friends, journaling, prayer. NO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS STEP. Without faith, when your ego vomits up all of its fear and emotional poison, you will “drop back” instead of stepping forward—and find yourself in a loop that could last a lifetime.
9) If you have accepted the challenge, defined the territory, found role models, moved forward with faith…you’ll make it.
10) Turn around and share what you have learned with others. BUT BEWARE if you haven’t made that progress in balance—the chances are that your B.S. is hiding in the corner of your life where you don’t want to go looking. Be very, very careful about this…the world is filled with teachers who cannot do. All they can do, therefore, is regurgitate reality maps they’ve learned from other teachers…who may not be accurate, or may have been misquoted, mistranslated, or out of date. Be very, very careful.

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