30 January 2010|
1. Prolongation of Youth and Living Dependency
The prolongation of youth is an Italian phenomenon, characterized by the protraction of the youngster’s length of stay in the parents’ house. In 2000 70% of young Italians between 25 and 29 years were still staying with their parents (Iard 2002) and did not acquire a living independence. This percentage has increased from the 1996 survey (63%). The latest survey carried out in 2004 shows a slight reversal in this trend: 68% (Iard 2007); nevertheless, 36% of “young” Italian between 30 and 34 years are still living in the familiar nest.
The aim of this research is to understand how this long-lasting permanence in the parental home can affect the construction of the youngster’s sense of identity during his or her complex passage to adulthood.
Italian sociologists have construed this phenomenon as being connected to a variety of historical, economical and socio-cultural factors, which lead to a lengthening of the juvenile phase of the life cycle, so as to create an uncertain existential period, a sort of “no man’s land”, that can be ascribed neither to the dimension of adolescence nor to that of youth or adulthood.
This phenomenon, along with others, indicates that the transition through the culturally sanctioned thresholds to adult status has changed.
From a sociological point of view, the transition to adulthood can be seen as the passage from states typically associated with young age to states associated with adult age:
- 1. the end of formal education;
- 2. the entry into the labour market;
- 3. leaving the parental home;
- 4. entering the first (married or unmarried) union;
- 5. becoming a parent.
Leaving the parental home is one of the crucial steps within this transition. It represents the acquisition of a sense of autonomy and socio-psychological independence from parents. The construction of a private space distant from parental protection and prying is a fundamental challenge for an individual. The delay of that physical and psychological separation can be caused by the postponement of the two previous main passages. When formal education and entrance into the labour market become a never-ending story, the departure from the economical and affective familiar shelter (we will see that the image of familiar labyrinth better represents that situation) is institutionally inhibited.
In the debate about the causes for this pattern of late home-leaving some sociologists have spoken of a “Mediterranean” or “Southern European” pattern of leaving home, emphasizing the underlying cultural roots of the late home-leaving and the strong synchronization between leaving home and first marriage. This cultural interpretation is based on some historical evidence concerning a tradition of late home-leaving or even lifelong co-residence with one’s parents. It is also supported by the fact that even in rich Northern Italy young people who have finished their studies and reached an economic autonomy do not leave the parental home until they enter the first (married or unmarried) union.
Therefore, we may state that within the Italian modernization process, the conditions for a pacific and negotiated cohabitation and coexistence among parents and their young-adult children have to be redefined. The Italian family institution has been capable of adapting to the changing social, economical and cultural features of the modernization processes.
Young Italians “emancipate themselves within the family rather than emancipate themselves from the family” (Cavalli 1993).
“In fact young adults rather than becoming emancipated from one’s family, have negotiated substantial spaces of freedom within it. They often benefit from a private space in the dwelling, which they manage autonomously, both as regards people who are allowed access and the choice of room furnishings” (Cavalli 1993, 212).
In conducting a survey, I entered into that private space, that Room of One’s Own (Woolf 1929): the youngster’s bedrooms. The analysis depicts the ambivalences nested in this émancipation manqué, and tries to understand how that housing style affects the construction of identity.
The bedroom of Italian youngsters who prolong the length of stay in the parental house seems to represent a space of compromise with parents, and symbolizes the coming to terms with themselves, the external world, and their expectations toward the future.
These hypotheses have been confirmed by the evidence. For example, the bedroom is perceived by the young interviewees as “their space”, conquered within the family’s territory; a sphere that has a complex relationship with the rest of the house, characterized by the ambiguity of an independent dependency (Birindelli 2006). On the one hand, the individual evades domestic control, while on the other he or she still looks for and demands the parents’ protection. Depending on how it is experienced, this ambivalence can assist or inhibit the youngster’s process of detachment from their families on their way to autonomy.
This sort of protected independence could seem comfortable and reassuring, although it is not a true independence; rather, it is a hybrid that does not fit either side (young or adult).
“The room is too close to all other rooms. I would like to have a twenty meter long corridor that communicates with the rest of the house. The word ‘corridor’ is meaningful. I don't want to live by myself, I could not make it, and the ideal is to live 20 meters away from my house. I am used to living like that: I’ve never been autonomous. The corridor symbolizes my mood: the desire for autonomy but not a total break-up: I have no interest at all in being single” (P. 26, male, student in law).
Some interviewees appear to be lost within the labyrinthine paths that sometimes seem to connote these families territories. In this case the institutionalized “psycho-social moratorium” (Erikson 1968) which youngsters exploit to train themselves for adulthood, turns out to be a period characterized by indecision, hesitation, and the suspension of their vital journey. However, other individuals are capable of recovering from this impasse and turn this juvenile “condition” into new “processes” (Cavalli 1980) of individual growth: the passive compromise is replaced by an active adaptation attitude. The capability to generate further identity transformations, reactivating the vital tension toward an adult Self, occurs mainly through a renewed self consciousness; an outstanding self reflexive capacity by which the individual experience is being elaborated and redeemed by sentiments of regret.
In the survey, I have attempted to identify the general and specific means of identity, whose presence or absence could affect the Self-construction processes of the young adult. When the transition to adulthood becomes uncertain and the symbolic rites of passage are less evident, the Self Narration could be the general means to conquer an adult identity, at least mentally.
If personal memory seems to be cut from family and collective memories, the honor and burden of being the only witness to ones biography is left to the subject of the late modernity; therefore the Self Narration becomes an essential tool for the Self-identification process of a youngster “without fathers or teachers” (Ricolfi and Sciolla 1980).
The youngsters’ ability to narrate their life story, in fact, can potentially link the three life times (from Saint’ Augustine’s perspective: the present of the past, the present of the present, the present of the future), overcoming the “presentification syndrome” (the flattening of the sense of the Self in the present, disconnected from the past and the future) and bring the sense of being back to the sense of becoming.
In the case of the young adult, his or her objects and personal belongings help us understand how a sense of identity is created in the private sphere of intimacy and whether or not this can be considered an autobiographical resting-place.
Expanding Winnicott’s theory of the transitional object (1958), and “playing” with Austin’s approach “How to do words with things” (1962), these objects can be considered objects for the transition to adult life and for the recognition of the Shadow Line (Conrad 1917). These are memory objects, rich in autobiographical meanings and loaded with symbols recalling crucial phases in the young person’s biography. Through these objects the subject can develop a “visual thinking” (Arnheim ) and a narrative thinking: a way to overcome the conception of life experiences as “Erelbnis” toward “Erfahrung” (Benjamin 1955; Gadamer 1989).
2. Narrating the Self: the Autobiographical Resting Place
The plots of life’s story can be considered as networks of sense that, if wisely reconstructed, may enable the young adult to individualize, circumscribe, and organize the feeling of personal and social identity. On the other hand, every Self history can be manipulated by some deceptions to convince others (or him/herself) of the positiveness of one’s biography.
The autobiographical plots are frequently rebuilt in a coherent and rigid way that breaks the “autobiographical pact” warning the individual not to manipulate his/her own history.
“The autobiographical pact is a form of contract between author and reader in which the autobiographer explicitly commits himself or herself not to some impossible historical exactitude but rather to the sincere effort to come to terms with and to understand his or her own life” (Lejeune 1975/1989, 21).
The narrative plot is flattened onto a standard and reassuring script, searching for consequentiality and a socially acceptable logicality. Another feature of the autobiographical revisiting of the youngsters interviewed is their scarce ability to overcome feelings of regret, recrimination and non-acceptance of themselves. Thus, the narration of the Self is not a way to absolve oneself; rather it may be a self-empowering process, a learning itinerary.
I have briefly mentioned some fundamental dimensions of the narration of the Self, understood as a general means for identity construction. Now it is time to focus on specific means (objects, symbols) fit to support the biographical revisiting, and the contexts (spaces and times) suitable for facilitating or, on the contrary, inhibiting the exploration of the memory, the construction of the story, the knowledge of the Self.
As regards the contexts, I have noticed that the autobiographical thought comes to be part of the intellectual experience of the young when, so to say, a space and a time is given to it. Better: when the organization of the Private Sphere allows the young to observe him/herself on the scene, fostering a virtuous circle of openings and closings, necessary withdrawals and new immersions the Public Sphere (Hirschman 1982).
One of the fundamental requisites to activate this process is the possibility-ability to manage in an autonomous way the inside-outside dialectic, the involvement and detachment (Elias 1983). This mechanism blocks up if the bedroom is a space in conflict with the rest of the family territory. In this case the Private Sphere no longer facilitates the positive construction of a sense of identity in intimacy.
The bedroom does not represent a constructive withdrawal from the ongoing public negotiations of one’s individuality; a place in which changes are validated mainly by individual autonomous decisions — partially unbound from what is temporarily left outside the room. The presences of a conflictual threshold house-bedroom bring into question some meanings that the relationship human being-dwelling generally has. ‘Home’ may be understood as the center of a physical and conceptual space, a place elected as one’s own privacy, the container of the Self and of one’s memories (Corigliano 1991). In the presence of either an open conflict or hidden and ambiguous forms of conflicts, the home and the “home at home” can be perceived, more or less knowingly, as existential traps that do not help the interviewees to become emancipated from the endless prolongation of their juvenile phase.
“Sometimes my room represents an oasis, a bay where I can disembark and rest like a pirate. In other moments, when I am upset, it is a place not to be in and I have to escape from this room” (F. 25, male, student in social science).
The youngster tries to prepare a choreography of the bedroom suitable to his/her personality: a temporary Self-Room while waiting to build in the future the true Self-Home (an attempt that has illustrious predecessors)
“I am the room with its objects! Anything in there is me. It represents what I wish to have in my future home. I just use the rest of the house for eating and washing” (G. 26, female student in medicine).
The walls of the house enclose an orderly and known world that is in contrast to the disorder of the surrounding reality. The main door of the house is a barrier to the external threats: the extraneous, the heterogeneous. The house becomes an essential component of the organization, stability and continuity of the personal identity.
Even for the subjects of the survey, the shelter from the uncertainty of the external world is the bedroom and not the house: “My room in comparison with the external world is a little shelter, here I feel safe. It’s a little house on a tree, nobody can disturb you”. The subject interviewed uses a telling image to describe his Private Sphere: a bubble.
“This room is a bubble. Even though you think you’re tough, all of us create a niche, like someone who believes in an ideal and shelters himself within it, protected by what he thinks. A bedroom at a material level is the same, a bubble that differentiates you from all the rest. You go out and you are on the stage, no longer in your room” (E. 27, male, student in political sciences).
Not only do the interviewees’ room contain the time of daily life but also a good part of their biographical time. The choreography assumes the function of a biographical file, facilitating the access to the mnemonic materials and contributing to the evoking of the memories aided by certain objects that hold a particular meaning.
The Private Space may link the three time dimensions of a biography: the time of the actual experience, the time of the past preserved in the memory, the time of future desires, expectations and plans.
“My room is a mix, a cocktail of past, present and future. It preserves my memories, it is being lived in the present, and it casts my mind into the future” (C. 25, female, student in biology).
“The room ties me to the past: my history, after all, is here. I live it in the present, for example studying here, and in this place I project my future. I staged my room thinking about the house of the future” (V. 26, male, student in law).
The three components of the biographical time coexist and cohabit without being arranged in a rigid chronological scanning. A cohabitation that, sometimes, may be difficult. This space might hinder the temporal flow, especially if the past contained in the room is a little troublesome.
“This is a room of the present, that lives moment by moment. I think I unconsciously do not decorate the room with objects of the past because I fear the past, I do not like it, in the sense that I am so tied to the past that perhaps going over it again bothers me. Yet I would have many things to learn from the past” (F. 27, male, student in economy).
Some interviewees conceive the room as a place that helps to project and plan for themselves in the future.
“I don't know about the future; this is not a great bridge for the future. On the contrary, perhaps I wish I could move to a different place and live by myself as soon as possible. However I surely plan my future here. (G. 25, male, student in humanities).
In other cases the room has nothing to do with the horizons of the future: the desire to leave the parental house is strong and the room has exhausted its possible function.
“My bedroom surely preserves my memories, helps me in the present, not for the future. I will go somewhere else, but I do not think much about the future. I wish I could leave this place right now” (G., 26, female, student in psychology).
The family house and the youth’s bedroom are not always an oasis of peace, a base that supports the youngster’s process of identity construction: the domestic environment seems to be a territory pervaded by ambiguity,
Nevertheless, even if the family circle is perceived in a positive way, as a shelter, for the young going through a difficult passage to adulthood, the quietness and the effortless life in the parental home could turn into an existential trap. This suspicion is brought to our attention by the same interviewee who coined the image of the bubble-room.
“The bubble has to be partially burst, so that the youngster gets accustomed to reality, otherwise the room threatens to become a pacifier that sooner or later has to be taken away. Such a strong shelter may be risky. The true growth-change happens out of that room, when you can’t have everything under control. That’s why a real break-up sooner or later has to happen, breaking up means finally growing” (E. 27, male, student in political science).
3. The Choreography of the Room. Objects and Dispositions: some examples
Beyond the relationship bedroom-home, four white bare walls cannot be an autobiographical resting place unto themselves. In this sense the choreography of the room and, above all, the objects in the room provide interesting clues. In fact, the survey consisted in an ethnographic investigation of young adults’ bedrooms: I asked the subjects to tell me the story of the room’s objects. I assumed that certain objects, incorporating the meanings projected into them by the holder, acquire a mnestic power and constitute a memory support for the reconstruction of one’s narrative identity. The way an individual surrounds him/herself with objects and organizes the Private Space reveals much about his or her values and tastes; more importantly, through the manipulation, the use, the refusal and the destruction of objects we communicate to others (and to ourselves) certain feelings that we often don’t dare to speak out.
Telling one’s story through an autobiography requires a remarkable reflective competence. Nevertheless it is reasonable to imagine other “alphabets” through which it is possible to visit personal memory. I have sought for the presence, or lack thereof, of objects immune to obsolescence, and I have called them memory-objects.
In psycho-sociological literature (Baudrillard 1968), objects are considered as symbols that present and sustain a self image in relation to the other (reflecting one’s self perceptions, aspiration, and values) in the context of social interaction. I was not interested in the relationships between individuals and objects in the interaction with others; rather, I considered the objects as signs of an auto-reflexive process, which reconstructs a private system of meanings parallel to public one. These memory-objects helped the interviewees develop their Self story, a process not exclusively anchored to mental processes.
I found two types of memory-objects: passage-objects and warning-objects. The passage-object evokes an important and successful biographical turning point: a “before” that has been overcome and a necessarily different “after”. For example the poster of a musical band may represent the end of a troubled period and the following rebirth.
“It was a particular moment of my life, all messed up. This poster marks the end of a difficult period and the beginning of a better one. The poster is a gift from someone who helped me during this transition” (C.27, female, student in humanities).
A portrait picture that shows the winning of a prize during high school graduation ceremony marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new season of the life cycle.
A tennis racket hung in a hidden point of the room signals a disagreeable moment: the end of his passion for tennis due to a bad fall while riding a motorcycle: “It’s there because it reminds me of ugly things, an ugly period”. The reason of its presence is the desire never to forget the danger of riding a motorcycle and the toil of rehabilitation following the leg injury. For the same reason, another interviewee preserves the key of a car destroyed in an accident: “I was lucky; I will never go fast again”. These are some of the examples of a warning-object, though they are not just connected to accidents. For example, an interviewee placed a law encyclopedia in the less accessible spot of his bookcase: “It’s my father’s gift, when I enrolled in law school. Those books will remain there”. This encyclopedia, never consulted, remains in the room to point out the refusal of the father’s wish that his son would become a lawyer. The son, in fact, changed his mind and started studying philosophy.
Another example is a teddy-bear, a gift from an ex boyfriend, kept in the room to show a kind of relation of the past that has to be refused.
“The teddy-bear is symbolic, there is an engagement ring in the pocket of the little bear. It’s there because if anybody should ever try to give me another ring I will remember not to accept it” (E. 25, female, student in economy).
It is critical to note the object’s placement and orientation. Generally passage-objects marking a positive turn are kept in the foreground of the room’s choreography, hung in a visible point; the warning-objects will, instead, often be positioned in the background or in hardly accessible points of the room.
Some warning-objects can be placed out of sight, in a drawer. Certain things, in fact, recall stories or people from the past that the owner prefers to forget; like the memory of a love story that still makes one suffer.
“I put them (his ex-girlfriend’s pictures), in that closet because it is not easy to open. The table blocks it, so that it only opens if you deliberately try to do so. Those objects bear memories that I would rather keep out of sight” (F. 26, male, student in political science).
In this case the object has not been expelled from the room. Sometimes the process is more drastic and the memory-object is expelled from the room, usually it is stacked away in the basement of the house, hardly ever thrown away. This is the case of the interviewee that has traced the end of a love story, and even of a biographical season, revolutionizing her room. Since that moment the room’s choreography has changed gradually and she believes that one day the objects hidden in the basement will be readmitted to her bedroom, when the mourning caused by the loss of the beloved person will be elaborated.
“I have marked the change in many ways: the room and its objects, the clothes, the hair cut. I have revolutionized the room, throwing away things. I threw away my ex boyfriend’s memories. I did not definitely throw them away, I packed and stored them in the basement. I am convinced that some of them will return to me, in my room” (P. 27, male, student in economy).
Thus — whether they remain in the foreground, preserving all their loquacity, or hidden away in the background of the bedroom, where they them become momentarily silent, or remain an idle presence that is never questioned — objects are able to tell the owner that he/she has a history.
If these objects are questioned by the owner, if he/she lets them speak, rather than just be accompanied by them, their role becomes fundamental, not only in tracking down oneself through the memories they support, but even in meeting the meaning of the Other objectified in them (the biographical plot is not a solipsistic spiral, it may make us rejoin the others).
Undoubtedly, through interrogation and conversation with these memory-objects (the old toys, the school diary, the first bicycle, their personal “Rosebud”) the young interviewee is able to reconstruct fragments of his/her narrative identity. In a certain sense, we “were” our first bicycle and the first rides on it. If that bicycle has been thrown away, the owner will miss a fundamental piece of his/her history. I am not saying that it is essential to keep all our memory-objects, a healthy individual growth process presupposes the abandonment of certain objects. Something is taken away from the bedroom, something else is kept in this choreography; perhaps what remains is essential to guarantee those fundamental memories feeding one’s sense of continuity throughout time; while the excess, the museum, could asphyxiate the necessary tension toward the future.
“A neglected room, without any meaningful object, is a kind of closure toward one’s biography; it’s the incapacity of expressing oneself. The bare room means to keep everything inside of you. The incapacity of communicating one’s weaknesses. On the contrary a room that becomes a museum signifies the incapacity of detaching from one’s past, renewing and going through life changes. Keeping the room like a museum shows the failure to face the future” (A. 25, female, student in science).
Thus a replacement of objects will take place. This may happen gradually or, when biographical turning points are underscored, in a more abrupt way. If these transformations do not take place, the relationship with one’s past, mediated by the objects, will be problematic to say the least: when all remains identical, perhaps the past is not adequately reflected upon, perhaps one remains engulfed in the past.
Therefore, through a memory-object reorganization the relationship between memory and change is invested, where sometimes it is necessary to create a fracture with the past to answer adequately to the demands of the present. A bedroom transformed into a museum could be, then, an indicator of the inability of creating this discontinuity, immobilized by the fear of disarticulating a sense of “stable and weak Self”.
In any case, when the pieces constituting the stage of our intimacy contain an evocative power, holding throughout time the attributed meanings, their permanence will be rather long, without any sudden change. This to preserve a certain identity continuity, as if to form a logic of the presence, removal, restoring, introduction ex novo of objects.
In order to be part of the Private Sphere choreography and to support the memories of one’s biography, representing a portion of our life, the memory-objects should not only be meaningful. The feelings recalled by the object have to stimulate the owner positively both in the present and in planning the future. Generally, when an object is visible the owner has been able to accept the supported feelings, integrating it within a narration that opens itself to its presence, tracing borders and conjunctions, in order to enrich the mnestic power of the object and the young adult narrative at the same time.
In this sense, the active or distract glance at the memory-object should activate positive feelings for the present of one’s biography. Shortly, the object has to be useful in the present of everyday life and for the future; otherwise it’s a disturbing presence.
4. Transitional Spaces and Objects
At this point a doubt may be raised: that my reflections are focused on a private imaginative world, unbound from the surrounding reality, closed on itself: feelings that could fit some youngster’s Private Spheres, but not a priori.
I can simplify and underline two main polar representations of the Private Sphere that have emerged so far.
1. On one side we find a preferential relationship with the intimacy space depicting a closed, unreal, pathological world. A sensation of anxiety rises from that private world full of things minute and meaningless to other people.
2. On the other emerges a conception of a healthy private space, where setting the stage for a meaningful play supports the young adult’s sense of identity. This way the young adult has a place that will sustain his/her self reflexivity and help the engagement in the public sphere.
Now, is the Private Sphere a place populated by ballast -objects of a biographical past from which the young adult is not able to detach himself to pursue his/her life project or, rather, is the kingdom animated by memory-objects capable of supporting, throughout a delicate period of transition, the emancipation process from one's family and the necessary projection into the future? Worded differently, can some of these objects be considered as transitional objects?
The transitional object is a soft toy or a blanket the small child carries with him and uses as a comforter, especially before going to sleep. The transitional object starts acquiring importance when the child emerges from the symbiotic relationship, and begins to distinguish between me and not me, between himself and his mother. The transitional object represents both of them. It has the mother’s smell, but it stays with him. It remains under his control, while mother is absent. Thus, the transitional object helps the child to increase his independence. By extension, any personal possession can function as a transitional object.
In the theory of the transitional-object, Winnicott (1958) underlines how in moments of anxiety, when the child goes through a separation from an affection and protective niche (a reassuring place) he needs some images and concrete things to bear this loss. The transitional objects are important means to calm the feelings of void and abandonment. The transitional object used by the child in the passage toward the perception of a clearly separated object from the subject, doesn’t fade away in the following phases; often this magic object reappears in moments of distress.
The meanings and the underlying processes of a hypothetical object that supports the young in the transition to the adult phase are necessarily different. I am not thinking of a Linus blanket that reassures the nearly thirty year old youngster: it is difficult to imagine that the young adult will benefit from a reassuring pocket-mother.
However, some of these objects can be considered objects for the transition to the adult life. These are memory-objects rich in autobiographical meanings and charged with symbolisms that recall to the young adult crucial phases of his/her biography. This original point of view can be synthesized paraphrasing the title of Austin’s book “How to Do Things with Words”: How to Do Words with Things.
From a psychological perspective the private sphere of intimacy, the Self-room, organized in terms of “inside” and “outside” can be interpreted as a “transitional space”. If the subject becomes aware of the meanings — developing the negatives in his/her darkroom (Proust 1927) — supported by these objects, he or she has a text that will facilitate the process of evoking. These objects of childhood and adolescence can constitute a series, if not a story, containing and showing all the feelings that the youngster has to overcome to become an adult. Following the spirit of this survey, the objects’ presence will support a certain Self-awareness and consequently help the young in this passage.
From another point of view, the presence of these extremely personal objects may signal the precariousness and the fragility of the Self. A Self that grows exclusively hidden in the Private Sphere, out of reach of the others’ denials, indicates “danger”. It means defending an image of oneself, which seems to be fragile. A privileged relation with the objects of intimacy, verging on exclusiveness, shows an insecure identity, at the bounds of pathology (fetishism). In fact, a relationship with objects is undoubtedly less problematic than one with people (objects do not judge and compete, but they simply reflect the subject projections). This kind of relation may constitute a dangerous shelter. The fetish-objects are not evocative, even if emerging from one’s biography, such mute-objects cover, instead of disclosing, portions of the biographical memory.
Each Private Sphere needs to be examined with accuracy and analyzed in depth to avoid any kind of erroneous labeling. The process through which a subject partially commits the preservation of his/her sense of identity to some objects, rich in meaningful memories, possesses a sense of dignity. In the intimacy sphere the relationship with these objects makes an individual emerge from the typical identity recognition process into the public sphere, that depends on others; and in this sense, the room, more than a form of narrow withdrawal, may be considered a reserved place that guarantees one’s identity in a difficult period of transition. Therefore this hidden dimension should not be superficially labeled as a desolated sphere, a withdrawal from the struggle of everyday life. The construction of the identity in the spaces of the intimacy, not shared and not vulnerable to other’s denials, is a fundamental and necessary moment to reorganize the self reflexivity process and then get back into the fray.
I will conclude stating that this intimate reassuring sphere, beyond certain boundaries, indicates the fragility and precariousness of one’s sense of identity, but not a priori. To understand whether or not this is a positive support to the Self empowerment process, I believe that valid indicators are the presence of constructive meaning supported by some memory-objects and the subject’s capacity to elaborate and creatively reconstruct a plot among the different objects, integrating them into the Narration of the Self.
We have seen the young adult bedroom in the parental house with its different types of objects and their layout; that bedroom confuses the biographical time, the regrets, fears and expectations of the young adult. Even the teenager represents him/herself by setting the choreography of the bedroom. Such a self representation is strongly projected toward the future and anchored to an ideal-Self, if not mythical-Self. As regards the young adult, time goes by, therefore the self-representations created using the objects of the adolescence need to be challenged and changed. Some of the teenager desires have clashed in the public realm; other objects (warning-objects) have come to be part of the representation, objects that indicate the end of a biographical season and the need for a redefinition of one’s expectations toward the future. The self-representation of the young adult can’t be any longer unbalanced in the hypothetical and imaginary grounds of future. The young need to rethink the past kept in some meaningful memory-objects. At this point he/she has to plot a Self-story which manages to link past, present and future. Representing exclusively oneself in a potential future is no longer practicable. This is the time where the narration of the Self constitutes the powerful means to reread one’s biography, liberating it from feelings of regret for what has not been accomplished, and to kindle the desire to experience fully and work in the present to project again the future. A future that, it is useful to remember, begins out of that room.
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Paper presented in the 2nd Conference “Philosophy and Literature”: “Word & Disclosure”, Gonzaga University, Florence, February 19th-21st, 2009: pp. 1-13.