Every kid in every town in the world undergoes a metamorphosis at some point early in their adolescence.
The change is readily evident physically, but not so much psychologically...until the one day when everyone around them - parents, siblings, friends, etc. - realizes that the kid they had known as a playful imp no longer viewed the world as just a big playground full of fun things to do and wonders to discover.
The kid had become serious.
That happened to me the summer after I turned 12. It was sudden, and it was weird.
It wasn't weird in regards to the traditional puberty-to-adolescence changes - my voice changed, pubic hair started growing, I developed acne, and I started looking at girls differently just like the majority of the boys my age, which I had somewhat been prepared for having had 4 older siblings.
But I wasn't prepared for the seriousness with which I started to take things.
Seriousness, that state of being soberly thoughtful about everything and anything, of perceiving the world as a threatening place that has to be dealt with as a harsh, uncompromising environment full of risks and dangers real & imagined, can completely screw up the joy of being young.
I realized much later in life that being taught how and when to be serious, and how and when not to be serious, was something I should have learned when I was a kid.
I just started getting goofily serious about certain things. My taste in music, the books I read, the artists I liked, etc., all became extremely serious to me, to the point that if others did not consider them equally as serious I did, then I considered those others as lesser beings.
Yep, I became one of those types - a pretentious Asshat with a capital A. I have no idea how anyone around me was ever able to tolerate me from about the age of 12 (uhm, okay, probably more like 8) until...well, probably just a few years ago if I'm being real honest.
Being taught how and when to be serious, and how and when not to be serious, is something I have come to realize I needed when I was a kid.
It may sound astoundingly stupid to just about anyone else reading this, but being appropriately serious, learning the difference between what is truly important and what simply does not matter, did not come easy for me and sometimes still does not.
And all because I never learned what was being really being said to me when an adult would say either, "When are you going to take things seriously" or "Don't take everything so seriously."
For some kids, the challenging transition is made much less difficult for them by traditional ceremonies or rituals that are part of the culture, religion, or customs of the people or places they live with or in.
Unfortunately, I did not fall in that category. The only ceremonies or rituals we had in the ol' neighborhood dealt with learning how to not get caught doing something wrong and how to avoid getting beat up by the older, bigger kids.
My mother, who raised me and my 5 siblings by herself from just before my 2nd birthday, did make an effort to get me a bit of an adult moral foundation via the Catholic church, at least up until I had my first holy communion, but she was not able to handle the terrible rebellious nature that I developed almost immediately after my 8th birthday, when I was about as uncontrollable as a confused young boy without a strong adult male presence in his life could possibly be.
So I just bounced off the walls from the age of 8 until 12, being a pain in the ass to my mom and family, and a lot of my teachers and other adults in positions of authority.
I'm not exaggerating here, BTW. I got sent from one elementary school to another when I was 9 because I was constantly getting into fights, and then expelled from that elementary school and sent back to the original one after a year for the same reason.
Those experiences of being essentially rudderless on the rough seas of pre-adolescence, are what have compelled me to learn as much as I can about human behavior and the factors that influence it such as heredity, lifestyle, hormones, and especially environment.
I have read quite a bit about various coming of age proceedings and processes that cultures throughout the world use to mark either the transitory time from puberty to adolescence, the first steps to adulthood, or even the final stage of a kids development from teenager to young adult.
The Christian faith has a Sacrament known as Confirmation that signifies that the child is now an adult in the eyes of God, and accountable for his or her actions. Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and even Humanists all have their own coming of age observations, and most if not all of those observations signify that it's now time to get serious about life.
The one cultural/religious ceremony that marks this period that fascinates me the most is the Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah, the coming of age Jewish ritual observed for 13 year olds (12 for girls if you are an orthodox Jew).
My fascination stems primarily from the young age at which a Jewish boy or girl is considered an adult and thus given the responsibilities and duties of adulthood.
It boggles my mind to consider that at the age of 13 a young Jewish male (again, 12 for girls if orthodox) has the right (after his or her Bar or Bat Mitzvah) to get married, own property, etc. - basically, fully embrace adulthood.
Of course the Jewish kids aren't just thrown to the wolves, so to speak. They are generally well prepared to handle what being considered an adult entails.
They have usually intensely studied all things Jewish at a Hebrew school, had what they are and are not accountable for hammered into them repeatedly, performed some type of volunteer charitable or community service, and have had their role in Jewish society clearly spelled out.
That old question, is it nature or is it nurture? Well, I side with nurture, if only due to the differences in behavior I have observed in people all over the world who have been nurtured in what it means to be serious (aka a mature adult) versus just thrown into the mix with barely a foundation to stand on (aka an immature adult).
A foundation to stand on can mean the difference between staying in school or dropping out, between successfully pursuing an ambition or giving up without a second try, between truly being able to appreciate what you have and taking everything for granted.
The construction of that foundation needs to begin, in my humble or otherwise opinion, in the early stages of puberty, as generally speaking by the time a kid gets to be a teenager, that is when he or she is going to need it most.
That's one thing I seriously had to learn much too late in life.