“I found my twenties to be very difficult,” says Lisa Kudrow in an interview with the Sunday Chronicle. “You have all this information on your side, but you don’t have the experience to judge it. I had been crying for two weeks, every day, so I started seeing a therapist.”

The twenties can be one of the most challenging transitions in life. Part of what adds to the challenge is that we are conditioned to believe that once we reach the ripe age of twenty-one, we are supposed to know how to function in the world as fully capable adults. Nothing could be further from the truth. We tend to think of turning thirteen as the age that marks the passage into adulthood, but the reality is that the process of becoming an adult actually begins in the early twenties and continues in stages for the rest of our lives.

What does it mean to be an adult? Adulthood is most simply defined as being a fully responsible human being, one that has learned how to take good care of one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual self. Clearly this is a monumental task, one that cannot be completed in a single decade. Yet we are thrown into our twenties with the expectation of being able to achieve this task, and when we struggle with it, we feel that we are failing.

Our culture tends to regard adolescence as the time when humans wrestle with the questions of “Who am I?” and “What is my place in the world?”. Perhaps in the past, when people were expected to reach maturity, marry, and be an independent person by the age of eighteen, this time-line of self-growth made sense. But now, with the age of marriage and financial independence becoming increasingly delayed, it is in our twenties when we are handed the task of figuring out who we are–our identity–and what we want to do with our lives–our purpose.

As with any rite of passage–adolescence, adulthood, marriage, the birth of a child, old age–there is a letting go and a rebirth as we release the old identity and welcome in the new way of life. As we move through our twenties it is helpful to keep in mind not only the fact that these are difficult years as we attempt to find our place in the world, but also that we are finally releasing our last attachments to childhood. If we can hold the awareness that it is completely normal to grieve and struggle, the transition into adulthood will be more fluid.

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Sheryl Paul, M.A., is regarded as an international expert in transitions. In 1998 she pioneered the field of bridal counseling and  has since counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, “The Conscious Bride” and “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner,” and her websites, www.consciousweddings.com and www.consciousmotherhood.com. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. Phone and Skype sessions available internationally for all types of transitions.

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