On Friday, Oz YA expert extraordinaire Emily Gale delivered a choice tweet on the nature of YA literature:
It's a quote that's stuck with me the last couple of days - the all kinds of amazing in between. However, whilst I have plenty of fond memories of being a teenager, it was also relatively ordinary. I never had any of the wonderful romances, or life-affirming epiphanies, that we so-often get in Young Adult literature. My teenage years were a haze of awkward confusion, buried in school work and musical projects whilst desperately trying to connect with (or at least make sense of) the outside world through Bulletin Board Systems (long before the internet was a thing). But I knew that this was a transitory phase - the necessary hoops that I needed to jump through until I moved into the world of Being an Adult.Ultimately YA is doing what it should: merges into Children's at one end and into Adult at the other, with all kinds of amazing in between.— EmilyGale (@EmilyGale) April 1, 2016
The pieces didn't really start to connect until I was at university. I started making connections, whether they were the bookish / gamer types in the student lounge, the chain-smoking philosophy student clique on the student bar balcony, the theatre crowd in rehearsals, or the intervarsity choral community. This *was* all kinds of amazing... but still a transitory phase - one that I took a while to move on from. I made many many awesome friends, but one-by-one, they all moved on into the world of Being an Adult.
And so did I... or at least, I thought I did. I learned that an Undergraduate Degree alone would only get you so far in life, and so I started working on my Masters in Librarianship. I got an entry-level library officer job, and started getting the hang of the industry. I bought furniture, a fridge, and rented my own apartment. But as much as I'd like to think I had finally passed the threshold into Being an Adult, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was still somewhere In-between, and that I wouldn't be there, until I finished my professional qualification, and established myself as a Real Professional.
And so, I graduated - again - and got myself a Real Professional job. Except that I had to move to the other side of Australia for it. Being a New Graduate professional - a status that apparently lasts for ten years (I have six months left!) - I spent the next 3-4 years learning the fundamentals of professional practice across academic, public, research, parliamentary and high school libraries. Again, another transitional phase of my life, where I was solidly focused on trying to work out exactly where I fit into my professional sector. I figured that, once I'd worked that out, I could land my dream job, and I'd be set for the rest of my career.
And although I mostly figured out exactly where my areas of specialty were, the right job never came along. I was desperately unsatisfied with much of my work, and so when the opportunity arose to accompany my then-girlfriend to Japan for a year, I figured that it would be a great chance to clear my head. And it really was. As a 32 year-old who had hardly travelled overseas, my horizons opened up - both literally and figuratively. I saw a whole new world waiting to be explored and it was definitely all kinds of amazing. My career and Being an Adult could definitely wait!
And then, sometime after returning to Australia in 2012, writing a cabaret/comedy show about the End of the World, which I performed in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, and going on a month-long swing-dancing trip around South-East Asia, I found myself working on Library / Information Management assignments in the International Development sector.
I don't know if it's possible to feel any more transient or in-between as I do, living the ex-pat life. We're all foreigners, we're all temporary, and more often than not, I question whether I really should be imposing my own professional values and standards, regardless of whether they are welcomed or not. I certainly don't belong here. And yes, it's still all kinds of amazing. But I'm still in-between.
I think of all the things that one associates with succeeding at Being an Adult: being independent, professionally accomplished and fulfilled, financially secure, being settled in one's community, owning one's own property, having a family - or at least a lifelong partner, and just generally knowing who you are, where you belong, and what you should be doing with your life.
To be honest, I'm not there yet, and it does worry me. I'm turning 38 this year, and I still don't feel like I've properly grown up. Maybe that's part of the reason that I still love YA fiction - in a strange way, it's still relevant to my life. Maybe I just fail at Being an Adult. Or maybe it's all overrated, and I should just embrace the all kinds of amazing in-between as being a life-long state of transience.