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The International Writers Magazine
: Philosophy

Tolu Ogunlesi

Adulthood is an initiation ceremony without advance notification, without invitations

When does a person become an adult?
When s/he begins to vote? Or fall in love, or have sex, or earn a paycheck? Or is it when they discover their parents are not the Statesmen/Stateswomen they have assumed them to be all along?

Is it when you feel you are not so far from the time when:
your dreams are spammed with funeral scenes
where you're not in that black-clad crowd but you are
present, staring out of that gold-plated boll-lined box
humming "all eyez on me" to the tune of the crowd's
"Shall We Gather At The River",
everyone filing past, emptying tear-clouds
for/on you, and you wanting to scream:

Then you wake and your eyes are glued to that cupboard where lies your wills - versions many as the Bible
and cherished memories are a sunny morning's fading fog. With no mean amount of 'The most humble Trepidation', I intend to propose what I consider a more probable answer.

I think that we become adults everytime we learn something new. Everytime we take our place in the classroom of life’s ironies, paradoxies and lessons, we are on our ways to graduating once again and and then once again again as adults.

Everytime we discover that a Truth, a Belief, a Hallowed, a Taken-for-granted, a Given, (that we have allowed to serve as a Base into which we have poured the concrete of our lives) is Unvalid, Ungenuine, Fake; we shed a Childhood.

The Truth may be Innately Defective (for example, operating on several different patients without any attempts at disinfection, which was standard medical practice centuries ago, is an Innately Flawed Process, whether then or now) or not - in this case only portraying Falseness by virtue of the passage of Time and/or Chance over its surface.

For example, while it is impossible for the telegram to cease being ie: Innately a means of communication, in the light of present technology it shows up as a highly defective, disfigured means of attempting to get in touch. For a girl who has always known that boys are evil, the day she discovers the exception to the rule, she becomes an adult. A man who has always believed in the undisputable goodness of pastors (being Men Of God); the day he discovers a greedy one, he becomes an adult.

Adulthood is an initiation ceremony without advance notification, without invitations, without a guest list. You swear your oath of allegiance on the spot. No time to savor the passage from one phase to another.
A second ago you were but a child, just a child.
Yet this new adulthood is only just another childhood. The childhood of another impending adulthood, that will grab you by surprise. You are a Child-Adult, an Adult-Child. For the child is the father/mother of the man or woman, and the father/mother of yet another child. In a child are ONE adult and Children.
We are born as babies, infants with an infinite number of layers of adulthood to be shed, one after another.

The Paradox is this:
That the shedding does not deplete us. If anything it completes us further. It increases our girth, adds more rings to the trunk of our lives, rather like what losing our teeth as children did for us.

When I grow Up I want to be...

Tolu Ogunlesi was born in 1982 in Edinburgh to Nigerian parents, and has lived most of his life in Nigeria. He has just graduated in pharmacy from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His essays have appeared in The Journal of contemporary anglo-scandinavian poetry, and in Hackwriters(
tolu ogunlesi, in addition to being a member of the advisory panel of The MUSE APPRENTICE GUILD ( is the author of the just released poetry collection LISTEN TO THE GECKOS SINGING FROM A BALCONY (Oct 2003; Jacobyte Books, Australia available for sale online as a paperback and also in ebook format. you can click here to see the book,view an excerpt and/or make a purchase.

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