I did start to notice many changes in myself, both in terms of my increasing tendency toward physical activeness and my heightening interest in the opposite sex. At first, this interest was manifested of my generally social nature. And to the point, this adolescent period would be an excellent time in my life in terms of cultivating a loose but increasingly intimate social network. This conforms with my general research on this stage of development, which is highlighted by a transition from a life dominated by home and family to one increasingly more divided to the pursuits of school, extra-curricular activity, athletic team membership and information social gathering. These tend to function as substitutes in certain areas where previously only the family fulfilled certain needs.
This was a tough time though. In the midst of the rapid changes that were altering my physical and emotional experiences, my family was also going through a challenging transition. After a happy upbringing in the countryside, I would face a difficult adjustment upon our family's move to the city. I would have to make all new friends and re-establish myself in a new social context. Fortunately, the aspects of my social development focused on here throughout would help me to make this transition smoothly. Once again, I would make great friends who would come to serve an increasingly important role in my happiness, my development of personal identity and my support system on the whole. This would be consistent with expectations at this time, where, "occurring in Young adulthood, we begin to share ourselves more intimately with others. We explore relationships leading toward longer term commitments with someone other than a family member. Successful completion can lead to comfortable relationships and a sense of commitment, safety, and care within a relationship. Avoiding intimacy, fearing commitment and relationships can lead to isolation, loneliness, and sometimes depression." (Waters, 5)
It is also at this point that I began to develop what I consider to be a moral compass. This was aided in no small way by my father's serious struggle with alcoholism. As I grew older, my father's problems with alcohol became increasingly apparent, stimulating what would be an important sense of responsibility in me both to learn from his negative example and to help others fight against this crippling addiction. I knew as a teenager that I would ultimately come to work in the field of mental health services as a substance abuse and chemical dependency counselor. Again, this is an age where a growing awareness of personal identity, combined with a clearer insight into the ethical implications of our actions as described earlier, helps us to project ideas about that which we might like to accomplish in our lives. Though career aspirations will typically change in nature many times for some people, this is an age where the path begins to grow slightly clearer.
In addition to providing me with a clear path from an early age for professional development, my father's condition and the strain which this placed on my household would begin to magnify the inherent sense of independence that begins to develop for young teens. I would begin to yearn for my independence and the difficulties in my household only tended to intensify this feeling. I began to assert my own identity and to desire a level of freedom which is often not easy to come by at this age. Though my experience would be heightened by my father's alcoholism, these feelings would be normal for the age. According to Waters (2008), "during adolescence, the transition from childhood to adulthood is most important. Children are becoming more independent, and begin to look at the future in terms of career, relationships, families, housing, etc. During this period, they explore possibilities and begin to form their own identity based upon the outcome of their explorations." (Waters, 5) My explorations had especially led me to place a high value on romantic relationships as, during the age of 16, I had my first sexual experiences.
This would coincide with a time of upheaval in my household as my father's problems with alcohol worsened, leading me to immerse myself more fully in my social and romantic pursuits. In particular, I established a relationship with a girlfriend that played a central part of my life at this time and my personal development in general. In response to the intercession of conditions at home with my own growing need for independence, I desired to live with my girlfriend, a demonstration of an increasing sense of manhood. This was especially stimulated by battles with my father. When my baby brother was born and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, it brought yet an even greater strain upon my house. It was also at this time in my life that I experienced one of my most devastating emotional blows. When I was 20 years old, my girlfriend was killed in a car accident, effectively removing the strongest bulwark I had against the troubles at home. This would cause me to seek dramatic change. I was now by age and experience, an adult and I left for Rio de Janeiro on my own.
Early Adulthood (20-40):
The change of scenery to Rio de Janeiro would be a great one for me, but would also bring me face-to-face with the challenges of independence. From a social perspective, the city would be an excellent place to spend my earl adult years. I would use this time to date extensively, meeting many beautiful women and learning about myself through this lens. I would begin to appreciate the positive relationship that I had with my mother and the normal pace of personal development that helped me to reach this point. These would be crucial to my success in romantic relationships, which research denotes is demonstrative of a relationship to the developmental phases. Accordingly, Wilder (2003) tells that "writers, such as Harville Hendricks have developed descriptions of what adults are like if they get stuck at one of these developmental crises. Hendricks particularly focuses on the effects which getting stuck produces in love relationships and mate selection. Notice the importance of this connection between the failure to grow up properly and adult life. Omitting or distorting any stage of development will produce a deficit in all the stages that come afterwards. Once again we see the power of a hierarchical model, this time of maturation." (Wilder, 7)
As I consider the transition into adulthood, this seems a useful point to reflect on, denoting that there is a direct correlation between one's healthy experience of all the normal stages of development and one's long-term mental health, stability and functionality. Among the normal stages of development that one must go through, the desire to establish one's self professionally and financially is crucial. For the young adult, this pressure should serve as a motivation for diligent work and conscientious reflection on both career and personal aspirations. It is thus that I began to experience what is commonly referred to today in popular culture as the 'quarter-life crisis.' I begin to experience insecurity concerning my profession and the relative dearth of financially compelling opportunities in Rio.
It was thus that at 26, I made the next great leap in my life, this time to the United States. Coming to study English and to gain access to a wider field of opportunity, I would be faced with heavy burden of challenge that is make the transition as an immigrant. In those first few years, in addition to working to establish myself professionally, I would also be faced with the culturally difficult task of starting a new social and professional circle of relationships. This would be true even to the extent that today, I am unmarried though I desire to meet the right woman for this.
The hardship faced in the U.S. would be rewarded by opportunity though. I had always recognized a personal desire to help others, especially those in need of mental health assistance such as had been my father. When I returned home to visit my family after four years in the U.S., I was horrified to find that my brother's condition provoked mocking and isolation in the community. This combined with my father's condition to send me home with renewed focus and vigor. Today I work for Homeless Outreach and Advocacy and Counseling, where I channel these sentiments into helping those detained by addiction and mental illness to experience the stages of development with as much normalcy as possible. For me, the ability to experience these stages appropriately would be essential to weathering the storm that is inherently our lives.
Crain, W.C. (1985). Theories of Development. Prentice-Hall.
Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood & Society. W & M. Morton & Co.
Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University: Educational Psychology Interactive.