Learn to Embrace A.O.P: Adult Onset Puberty


IF YOU had the chance to have a conversation with the 25-year-old you, what would you be sure to tell yourself? That it gets worse?

If hindsight is 20/20, the truth is that the best person to talk to your 25-year-old self isn’t the person who’s already lived it, but the person who’s experiencing a very similar time in their life: the 13-year-old you.

After all, what makes 25 and 26 so hard is exactly what made 12 and 13 so hard: puberty. At a basic, Wikipedia level, puberty is defined as “the period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.” However, puberty at that age is much more complicated than becoming physically able to produce children. Your temperament is completely upside down and you start to feel like an insane alien, all the while dealing with the pressure to appear more responsible—largely because now if you’re not responsible, you might actually bring life into the world.  (Practice safe sex kids.) But the lessons learned from that coming-of-age burden can aid any 25 or 26-year-old who is going through this inevitable second puberty, which I have diagnosed as “Adult Onset Puberty,” also known as, A.O.P.

A.O.P is the year between 25 and 26, where one has a complete psychotic meltdown and makes drastic choices in his or her professional or personal life (or both) as a reaction to the encroaching feelings of permanent adulthood. I believe it is the result of the final stunning realization that you will never go back to college and party fancy-free again, compounded by the fact that you’re actually relieved to not have to do that, in turn making you feel old for the very first time. You see, this is when mortality sets in, and, much like the way we “acted out” as 12 and 13-year-olds, we begin to “act out” to deal with emotional trauma of our impending death.

At this age, you will likely be at a job you hate that pays you nothing. You will get very bothered by not making any money doing something you hate. Out of boredom, you sneak peeks at the Facebook and Instagram accounts of former middle school minions who have discovered some app or sold a TV show. It is important in this moment to remember they are the exception and not the rule. It is imperative you repeat this to yourself before going Jerry Maguire at the office. Speaking of Facebook and Instagram, you will see a spike in people getting engaged and married, and even having babies. It’s ok, half of them will get divorced. Trust me, I did. If the people haven’t taken the personal life plunge, they will in their professional life. Suddenly people are moving all over the place. Your friends are leaving their corporate jobs to go work in third world countries; or they’re going to grad school for something you never knew they cared about; or worse: they merge their personal life with their professional life and marry some Trustafarian whose bottomless inheritance affords them the life of professional jet-setter.

During this year the body also goes through a lot of physical changes, just like it did when you sprouted your first armpit hairs and learned to shave your legs. Except this time instead of the exciting prospect of breasts, guys will get guts (desk jobs and weekend binge drinking) and women will get skinny (desk jobs and less binge drinking). Guys will start to lose their hair while women will get more (I know you’re thinking about that weird nipple hair). Moods change as well. Guys develop a shorter fuse and start to resemble their fathers as they now understand the sacrifices of having a career. Women develop a shorter fuse as they start to understand the sacrifices of having a career and “having it all,” while consistently being paid less then men. In short: we go through life’s most disgusting cycle all over again.

Then comes the “grow up” thing. Just like a Bar or Bat Mitzvah which recognizes that at 13, you are old enough to start taking responsibility, the same expectation comes when you are 25 and 26 but this time, the pressure is completely different. You see, while there are certainly similarities between both stages of puberty, there are also significant differences. Like if you turn in your paper late (aka, don’t pay your credit card bill on time) you might not get the apartment or car you want. Your choices have consequences.

As a 27-year-old divorced woman, I have to swallow the judgment from new people I meet until people’s personal mistakes catch up with mine. After all, it’s not like that time I left my prom date for someone else at the after party.

Then some of the differences are really great. For example, you no longer hate your parents, but start to love them as you redefine your relationship with them as an adult who is their child as opposed to the child who is their child.

While puberty surely sucked the first time, going through its second stint, even with these higher, more terrifying stakes, you inevitably become a better person when you reach the light, or the job, or the love, at the end of the tunnel. After all, the biggest lesson learned in both rounds is to just be yourself. At 13 that was a hard-won battle– but with A.O.P., time and experience have taught you to stop caring and embrace that being an individual is a respected strength.

Plus, stray nipple hairs can always be tweezed.

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