There's a lot of takes on the Coming of Age story. The moment that one transitions from childhood to adulthood; the moment a person becomes themselves in some important way. I've decided I don't really like this idea; I think it is rude to the process that is the majority of ones life. The simple fact is that the one thing that has changed consistently since the moment I popped (dropped?) into this world is the amount of time I have been alive. That's just a simple little (true) statement. My personality and how people view me is just an averaging of my behavior (with a couple outliers thrown in there for good measure) with a weight applied due to the fallacy of memory. I am not taking this moment to discuss human development, or act as if humans as a biological system don't go through some startling changes in the first couple decades of their time on this Earth (small tangental geek out). I fully respect the massive transformation that the structure of the brain undertakes during this time and how through it's various imprints creates dispositional representations that are triggered through emotion, semantic markers, chemical pathways and other means in order to massively influence my process of decision making and action in the world. Most of the time this is all going on with me being completely clueless of why I am actually doing something, and most of these sub-routines are shaped early on in life/development.
A small aside on my current beliefs concerning the Mind and the troubling Self.I've always thought about consciousness as residing outside of the body in a type of plane; a field, like gravity. I took my line of thinking from a very amateur view of physics, with consciousness being a sort of probability wave created as an emergent behavior of my neural network. There's all kinds of conscious states that I could be in, but at each moment, the wave collapses in a particular way and I'm brought into a particular conscious state. I suppose I saw this conscious plane sort of drifting through my brain; a bit like when I used to get X-rays taken of my teeth at the dentist and they'd stick these plastic prongs in my ears and pull my head up to keep me still. Consciousness I see like those pins. Or maybe it's more like peaking out of a manhole cover where consciousness is the street suddenly crashing into ones head from all sides. But I've been forced recently to take into account the body into this whole equation, and how it plays into ones conception of self. At the start of it all, a human brain was a tool to keep the body alive -- help the body find food, people to have sex with, spot animals that would kill it -- and it would stand to reason that the feedback my body is still giving my brain now about my environment, has as much to do with who I believe I am as are my love for playing basketball or looking over large mountain peaks (sidebar: I got jabbed in the eye very hard a few days ago -- my eye was bleeding with my contact getting shoved so far behind my eye that it didn't come back out for a full day -- and I thought that if the doctor told me I was going to go blind, I was going to jump on a plane and fly somewhere that I could look at a range of tall snow-capped mountains. In my head it was a very dramatic movie, with great cinematography: the camera framed me looking out over mountains in Tibet, or some other place that would invoke, superficially of course, a sense of spirituality (in my vision there was a german shepard next to me, which I assume is some subconscious thing where I find them to be the most stoic of the dog breeds) and the scene slowly faded to black. You can clearly see that my daydreams can sometimes be crushingly formulaic and speak to the immense amount of trashy cinema/tv I have consumed). So as before where I saw the mind and self wrapped up in this probability wave flickering around my ears with the intensity of an angry swarm of bees, I now am thinking about it more in a womb-like way, with my body getting in on the action, too. Cradled by consciousness, is how I would put it. I still hold to my probability wave idea, but the action of collapsing is putting on a full outfit of clothes now, opposed to just donning a cap. I'd also like to throw out that the pace of perceived conscious states play heavily into how I perceive the passage of time and how interesting I find myself at a particular moment. I definitely can look at myself and notice I am being particularly boring, with my consciousness ticking away like an old grandfather clock while a whole family sits on poorly upholstered couches, in silence.
Though these structures are most drastically impacted and formed during our early years, they are anything but permanent. Brain damage aside (this guy seems to always come up during these discussions) the Mind, and self, really comes down to the feedback loop between brain and body. The self rises from that beautiful little ferris wheel that evolution has set up for us. And so what bugs me -- and I admit, it actually pisses me off -- about when people make comments about people becoming who they are, is that it seems to throw away the fact that we are continually becoming who we are; it is a comment that throws away the fact that when we show up in the present there is already a new "us" waiting in the wings. The feedback loop that is us, is always happening.
Karry Mullis describes in his book Dancing Naked in the Mind Field about how he was able to turn on and off a lightbulb attached to circuit that used his skins conductance as a switch. He found that when he thought of naked women that his skin conductance would increase. Think of a naked woman, light on. Think of grocery shopping, light off. Skin conductance is a pretty base response in the body. It actually has been shown that a persons skin conductance changes before they make a decision, indication that their body already has an idea of which decisions are better or worse for them. That Karry could manipulate this through imaging certain visuals, is maybe not so impressive. But there's other examples of people tackling their deeper set processes. Take for example Vipassana meditation and the idea of sankaras. A sankara is described as a cycle of thought that you continually find yourself in that does not have beneficial outcomes. Through repeated exposure, sankaras become more deeply engrained in our psyche, making them harder to escape. One part of Vipassana mediation is that through meditation we can learn to unburden ourselves from these sankaras (note: I've tried one of these courses exactly once, so this description may be about 50% accurate, and gloss over many things. Also my aunt coincidently just sent me this link).
In the first couple decades of my life, a brain has been given to me that allows me a foundation to interact with the world. Some base processes and environmental inputs that set up some beliefs about how my body works in the world. But it is a block of wood, really. It is through living my life that I'm given the opportunity to find what is possible inside of my mind and continually become myself. It's almost as if we are born with a handful of legos. Over the course of some years we learn how they can click on top of each other. What works. What doesn't. How bad it hurts when you step on that one that blends perfectly into the carpet. Then one day comes and we say "Ah, these are legos" and we can suddenly go and start building whatever we want. This point, the launching point, is where I am given the opportunity to learn to be a conduit for myself. It is not the point where I became anything.