My boss and friend Rabbi Josh Brown shared a theory he read (posited by those smarter than myself, presumably wielding science) that adolescence doesn't actually end until a person achieves stability in his or her life. "Stability" is not firmly defined here, as it differs from person to person. Prime stabilizing candidates include finding a life partner, starting a career, buying a home, and having a child. I do have a job and a partner, but it is a one-year position (hardly "stabilizing"), and my partner and I are in the process of changing our relationship from an informal one secured through a question and a kiss between teenagers to a very formal one secured through contracts and a huge celebration with our friends and family. Again, it hardly feels like a "stable" moment in our relationship.
One of the courses I took in graduate school was Culture and Romantic Love, a seminar course that was mostly based around discussing an criticizing readings assigned from the professor. One of the most highly-criticized books we read was Love is a Story, a collection of individual examples and analyses of the different "story" types that relationships can fall into. There was the "collection story", in which people use their partners to fulfill roles or fill holes in their lives; the "fairy tale", which hardly needs explanation; and the "game story", which we all admitted to playing in at least once, where the "three days rule" comes into play and entire conclaves of women need to be called to determine the appropriate steps to take in a new romance.
One that particularly stuck with me, though, was the "journey story", in which the partners are always focusing on the next great adventure together. The book chooses to illustrate the folly of living this love story (all the love stories in this book seem to end in disaster) through a young couple that decides to pack up their lives and road trip across the country to open up a restaurant. The restaurant will probably fail, but that's okay because the couple will just start a new adventure. Like young sharks in love, as long as they keep moving, their relationship will survive. If they find stability, they won't know what to do with each other and the once-exciting relationship will crumble under the crushing weight of normalcy.
|This picture may only make sense to Kaylen and Brianna.|
Perhaps the reason that it seems to me that we're all kids doing adult things is because I can't see the stability on the horizon that is supposed to signal the end of adolescence. Beginning adolescence was obvious. I got invited to parties that weren't thrown by parents, I learned to drive, my friends were the most important things in my life, and I stayed up all night doing homework. Beginning adulthood is much more confusing. I'm getting married and actually have a job where I'm in a position of some power, but it seems "stability" will have to wait, because we're still at the beginning of our journey.