It’s not easy to become an adult. It’s a process and a struggle, and it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. More importantly, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Becoming an adult happens in, through, and with the communities that are a part of.
In the last post I said that I’ve recently discovered two movies that express a lot about the struggle for adulthood. The first was “Away We Go”. The other is called “Lars and the Real Girl”. It sounds a little strange to say that it’s about a guy who falls in love with a sex doll, because it’s really not about sex at all. In fact, there’s no sex in it at all. In reality it’s about a guy who struggles with a delusion where he creates an identity for this doll and thinks that she’s alive. To work through this delusion the entire town winds up surrounding him and going along with his delusion.
While the movie pivots around Lars’s delusion it really deals with Lars’s struggle to figure out what it means to be an adult. There is a pivotal scene, of which there is a glimpse in the trailer, where Lars asks his older brother how he knew he was a man. The striking thing, for me, is that his brother doesn’t have a perfect answer. It’s a process, even for him.
What’s more striking about this movie, especially compared to Away We Go, is that there is a clear connection between Lars’s struggle for adulthood and the community that surrounds him. The only way for Lars to work through his issues, and step into something resembling adulthood, if for the community to walk with him through the struggle.
This seems to be an underrated thing for most people and most communities. While many emerging adults put on an air of self-reliance, mainly because we think we should, the reality is that the community holds the key to solidifying their identity as an adult. In a very real sense, someone is not really an adult until their core community tells them that they are. Especially for those who stay in the communities where they were born and grew up, it’s very easy to remain ‘Bill’s boy’ or ‘Janet’s daughter’ well into mid or later life. For many, they don’t even have the opportunity to be real adults until their parents die.
Of course, the flip side is that communities will come around the next generation of adults in order to support and guide them into adulthood. One can hope this will happen. But I think it still remains to be seen.