I'm not reading ten pages of this, someone give me the gist of it. Actually, don't bother.
I often see adolescence as this great period of misunderstanding, and the more I study it and its far-reaching effects, the more I stand by this definition. Adolescence, put frankly, is misunderstanding. In one graceless turn, we are rent from the carefree innocence of our childhood days, and plunged headfirst into the foreign world of adult life. Yet, even then, those gatekeepers to the realm of maturity hold us back. We naturally discover a new world, but the powers above us bar the way forward. We are invited to look, but not touch; to see, but not to understand.*
And yet, the way back into childhood is barred as well; what has been revealed cannot be simply hidden once more.
In the end, the adolescents are forced to cope by creating their own sort of culture: where the surface elements of the adult realm are appropriated for their visceral appeal, and the comforting elements of their child nature are retained. This is wholly natural—after all, no human could bear to experience a life immersed in utterly foreign symbols. Thus, they seek to recreate the object of their idolization (adulthood) by using those elements that they are able to comprehend at this period of time.†
It's beautiful, yet cruel; crude, yet divine. And the zenith of this metamorphosis occurs around the age of 15. At this point, it's safe to say that this human being is no longer a child. They've experienced enough of adult culture to see their former childhood symbols as shallow and trite. But at the same time, remnants of that childhood paradigm still remain, and thus their interpretation of the "deep" symbols of adulthood are noticeably askew. Yet furthermore, the astute adolescent at that age is sorta aware
of this fact. They know
there is something beyond what they have constructed, and they know
that there is a force trying to prevent them from discovering this deeper meaning.‡
Thus, armed with the wooden sword of their own intuition, they boldly set out to figure these things out for themselves.
One of these concepts is that of community. As a child, one is usually restricted to interacting with a very small subset of the social community. This is acceptable at this young age, as the act of articulate§
communication is what is important for the moment. But upon reaching adolescence, the framing of communication and community changes rapidly. No longer is conversation reserved for the desires and conditions of the child, spoken freely within a very small circle of confidents. Rather, conversation takes on a strikingly abstract form, and the community rapidly expands beyond what the adolescent can knowingly comprehend.‖
Naturally, within his or her own circle of peers, the group of adolescents will slowly begin to discover the structure of this foreign paradigm together. However, say we take one of these adolescents from their group of peers, and thrust them into the adult community. Can we really expect this person to suddenly "switch gears" and communicate like a proper adult, without having been given the chance to internalize what "communicating like a proper adult" even means? Yet the desire for this type of community is there, and while it is painful for others to behold, these interactions with other proper adults are the most efficient way for the adolescent to develop in a way so he or she can eventually fulfill this desire.
I've always held a bit of jealousy for the butterfly, for their transformation into a beautiful creature mimics our own. Like us, the butterfly undergoes a period of striking metamorphosis, and eventually emerges as a marvelous creation to behold with wonder. However, butterflies have the advantage of undertaking their agonizing morphological change within the privacy and seclusion of their own chrysalis. Meanwhile, the fallout from our adolescent transformation can follow us into the years to come...* Of course, this all depends on parenting. The best parents acknowledge the importance of this time, and use it as a springboard to slowly ease the child into the complexities of adulthood at a pace the child can handle. Other parents, however, either hope that the child will just "figure it out for themselves," or (worse!) try to push the developing adolescent back into his childhood world, usually under the guise of "protection" or some other misapplied virtue. While I haven't done any sociological research on the matter, and I sincerely hope that the latter group of parents is a minority, I have the sinking feeling that the former group is the true minority here.
† Well, yeah, this assumes that individual growth happens in a vacuum, which it doesn't. In fact, the behavior one takes as an adolescent is more-or-less influenced by his or her peers, which are usually themselves adolescents. But where did these peers take their own behavior from? So either we have to seek the truth and unravel the vast network of individual influences, or just go with the general approximation of what is going on under the surface, even if such events don't purely manifest themselves very often. But whatever. I'm okay with rounding π to 3.14, and I'm okay with sweeping a few complexities under the carpet here.
‡ Minor clarifications: This "force" could be the aforementioned protective parents, or it could be a societal force, or it could be a force within their own minds. It really varies, and usually is a combination of all these elements, but the important thing is that there is rarely somebody there to outright explain what it all means. Also, this knowledge could be subconscious, or have subconscious elements. Personally, I like to hold the theory that most of these ideas do start out as subconscious, and as the adolescent matures, they start slowly rising to the conscious level, like the bubbles in a glass of 7-Up.
§ In the sense that they can roughly say what they mean to say. Like all skills, it will improve with age, but for a child under e.g. 10, getting the fundamentals down is of greater importance.
‖ To tell the truth, in this modern age, even I still have trouble comprehending the effects of my speech. Think about it: I am posting this in a derailed development log that's been moved to a hidden area of a discussion board focused on independent game development. And people from the utmost extremes in geographics, demographics, and psychographics will all lay eyes on my writing! These are the opportunities that writers from years past would fantasize about, yet today it is simply taken as fact!