Bring Up Puberty—When a Transition to Adulthood Becomes Unavoidable

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For the sake of being completely honest with you, I don’t remember much of my puberty. Nonetheless, there is one particular element that will be forever in my mind, my first period. Being a girl, you know menstruation is taboo. We all know it exists, even boys, but for heaven’s sake, we should never mention it, ever. Well, sorry everyone, I cannot help but mention it. Yet, even though I don’t entirely remember the full extent of my puberty, I can recognize that I have gone through all of its associated symptoms, except for acne. My situation is really not that different from the experience shared by so many other girls. I started having breasts, developing hair in places where I had none before, growing taller and even more. This story is from my point of view, a girl’s point of view. As for the boys, despite not sharing entirely the same experiences, there are still some evident similarities. 

My first period happened about 18 years ago, and if my memory is anything reliable, that day started like any other day. It was a beautiful, sunny and warm summer day. It was during the weekend, and as such, my family and I had to do chores. Mowing the lawn seemed especially fun, but my parents would never agree to let me use the lawnmower. They told me that the machine was too dangerous for a young girl (it was probably a wise decision). However, after months of begging, they finally gave in. On that beautiful sunny day, my dad finally showed me how to use the lawnmower. My mom looked particularly pleased as she didn’t especially like completing this task. 

I proceeded to mow the entire front yard, and I had lots of fun. Only once I began to mow the backyard did I realize that I was feeling a bit different. I was feeling all grown up, adultlike. A moment later, as I was finishing up mowing under the only apple tree in my yard, I started feeling something wet in my panties. I immediately dropped what I was doing and went to the bathroom to have a look. If earlier, I just had the feeling of becoming an adult, then looking at the wet brownish-red spot at the bottom of my underwear was the confirmation. My body was violently agreeing with me.

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I didn’t particularly feel like sharing the news with anyone, not even my own family, including my mother or sisters. I was planning on padding my underwear with toilet paper. Then, my mom came and knocked on the bathroom door. She was wondering what was happening to me since I had stopped mowing. I was so close to being done with the task entirely. Also, the fact that I didn’t put away the lawnmower was decidedly out of character for me. From inside the bathroom, I proceeded to tell her what was happening to me. I knew perfectly what that blood was. I have had sex education classes in school before, and I knew that this was my first period. I don’t remember my mom saying much. She frankly made me feel okay about this whole situation. I cleaned up my underwear while my mom brought me another pair. I padded the clean underwear with toilet paper (my mom did not have any period supplies) and pursued on with my task. A couple of days later, my mom presented me with a humongous pack of menstrual pads. I didn’t know exactly how I was supposed to use them. 

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Too shy to ask, I tried figuring it out on my own. The basic concept was quite simple. You first remove the protective sheet. Then you stick the pad at the bottom of your panties. What I had the most trouble with was finding how high or low I had to place it. Any slight misplacement would mean a massive overspill, which would have to be cleaned. After a week or so, I had become adept. For years, I kept using pads that were working fine with me. Yet, one day going on a camping trip with my oldest sister, I got my period, and it was utterly unanticipated. My menstrual cycle was still pretty irregular at that point. I had no pads on me. I asked my sister to hook me up, but the only thing she had was tampons. I had to use them, but I did not know how to, and I was way too shy to ask for help yet again. I knew that I had to insert the tampon into my vagina, but I wasn’t sure how far. I was afraid, afraid it was going to stay stuck if I inserted it too deeply. Also, when I first started inserting the applicator in, I started feeling pain. I was only more worried about going too far. It turns out that, in the end, I didn’t insert it far enough. The tampon, after a few hours, started leaking down onto my underwear. Many tampons later, I figured out how they worked (the instructions on the box helped). Until recently, tampons were my preferred tool to use. 

Even though most people consider puberty to really start once you’ve had your first period, menstruation is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of other physiological changes are going on way before your first period. For instance, girls start to develop breasts which at first are called breast buds. Typically this development occurs around two years before the first menstruation. Although I am not sure about the exact moment when this all started, I can accept this timeline. My first menstruation occurred in the summer, just before I entered high school. However, I clearly remember having breast buds in elementary school. 

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One day in elementary school, I decided to wear a new silky shirt that I positively adored. I remember my young self feeling truly stunning in that shirt. Regardless, while waiting for the bus to bring me back home when school was over, some boys cornered me. Earlier, the boys had seen my buds peaking through my shirt as I didn’t have a training bra yet. They felt as if it was their duty to point it out to me. They probably hoped to embarrass me, which it did. Once I got back home, I told my mom about this encounter. She told me that I was too young to need a bra and to ignore those boys. I remember at this point feeling weird and ugly. I wanted to hide, which is what I mostly ended up doing in the end. I started wearing a camisole under my shirt and a sweater on top. 

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I had learned to hide any changes that I was going through. My newly acquired armpit hair was no different. From this moment on, I had stopped wearing tank tops in school. My mom, with her best intention at heart, forbade me to shave before my 14th birthday. Even though this restriction was in effect for all of my sisters, I still felt like an outsider. All my friends had training bras, razors and parents that would throw them parties for their first periods. I could not wait long enough for me to be fully grown up. I believed that only then would I be able to buy myself anything I needed. And growing up happened, not necessarily in terms of maturity, but in terms of length. By the end of puberty, I was 165 cm (5’4’’) tall, which is right on the woman’s median average height. Also, my hips and thighs got wider, which I interpreted as a sign that I was finally becoming a woman. 

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At last, there was finally one change that occurred but didn’t need concealing. It was plenty invisible in itself. That change was the size of my uterus. It was becoming larger to make room for future offspring. Fortunately, the increase in the size of my reproductive organs is not unique to me. Most girls and boys will also experience similar alterations. Yet, for boys, it will be more apparent since their reproductive organs are essentially external. Their penises and testicles will grow bigger. From the moment their reproductive system matures, they get susceptible to having wet dreams. During wet dreams, boys will ejaculate in their bed, which can cause, in some cases, embarrassment. In the beginning, boys will also develop some breast buds, but they will disappear entirely by the end of puberty. They will gain muscle mass and also get taller. They, like the girls, will have an increase in body hair quantity. So, for both sexes, most changes are the same. However, for males, there is one main difference, the deepening of their voice. 

You can observe the change starting with voice cracking as if it couldn’t pick a tone. It is, in truth, pretty much what is happening. Once a boy reaches puberty, we can observe an enlargement of his larynx and his vocal folds getting thicker and longer. Meanwhile, before the change gets completed, the boys must learn to use a new instrument every day. This challenge can account for the weirdness of the sound they produce, and I can now fully understand how stressful this might be. However, this will never get as stressful as getting a massive burst of acne. I was fortunate enough as a teen to have avoided acne altogether, but I knew some friends who were not as lucky. They would go to extended lengths to hide the pimples away. Anyway, we can all agree that puberty is an awkward period, and as adults, we should all aim to be a bit more supportive and present for all teens around us. 

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Biophilia—What makes us particularly attracted to nature

No one can dismiss the amazing feeling we get after spending some time in nature. We instantly feel relaxed and reinvigorated. Some might attribute this effect to time spent far away from work, and even though they could be correct, it is not the whole picture. Biophilia is a relatively new concept that brought the…

Bring Up Blood—How our oxygen gets carried throughout our body

Good evening my dearest followers, Please, take a moment to enjoy this excerpt for my newest post (Bring Up Blood). We could most certainly not live without blood. It is absolutely essential for the survival of our most distant limbs and organs. Even though almost all of our respiration is thanks to our respiratory organs,…

Bring Up Ageing—What We Can Expect With Growing Older

From where I stand, there is nothing sweeter than a newborn baby. It is so pure, an impeccable blank slate. However, this condition only lasts for a moment. Indeed, as soon as babies are born, they begin growing older, which embarks them on transformative journeys. Actually, this last sentence suggests that ageing starts at birth, but this is not exactly right. We now have legitimate reasons to believe that it would happen before labour even kicks off. Scientists are claiming that they observed the first signs of ageing at the blastocyst stage, which occurs as early as five days after fertilization. Not quite yet an embryo, the blastocyst is composed of three main parts: an inner cell mass (embryoblast), an intramembranous liquid (blastocoel) and an outer cell layer (trophoblast). 

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The embryoblast, which results from many cellular divisions, is responsible for forming what becomes the early embryo. So, we seem to possess a better understanding of the moment when ageing begins. Yet, we don’t really grasp what is going on before the blastocyst stage, but we know a few things. We realize that the blastocyst comes from the cellular divisions of the fertilized eggs. We also recognize that the female gametes, at the time of fertilization, can be very old. They can be anywhere between 12 and 51 years old, which corresponds to our reproductive age. Thus, the reason behind our ability to produce offspring that are cellularly and physically younger than us is pretty enigmatic. Somehow, the cells go through a reversal ageing process, but there is no existing explanation yet revealing how this process could even be possible.

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Anyhow, even if research on ageing is still failing to reveal the mysteries behind this rejuvenation—maybe it is time travel, we do not know! 😉—, we are still discovering quite a lot about ageing in human development. We presently realize the power we each hold in slowing down ageing and potentially reversing it to some extent. At this point, we are all aware of the public recommendation promoted by our respective health officials to reduce physiological ageing. We should adopt a healthy diet that may include fruits and vegetables, oily fish and nuts. And should exclude most, if not all, processed food. We should get at least 3 hours 30 min to 4 hours of physical activities per week. One-third of that time should be used toward vigorous aerobic activities and two-thirds toward moderate aerobic activities. At last, we should all sleep enough, which approximately corresponds to eight hours per night. I know you’ve heard about all these health recommendations, and each of them probably more than once. Yet, the recommendations for proper brain care are clearly not as well advertised, even though some of them are considerably similar.

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Still, we should be even more careful about our brains since they contain the oldest cells of the human body, neurons. Even though we can still generate a few neurons throughout our life, most neurons that we have will never be substituted. Typically, once neurons die, they are gone forever. Thus, we must take great care of these wondrous cells and provide them with the proper stimulation they require and rest. Research has revealed some crucial roles that the brain must fulfill in order to thrive. It seems to all rest on these three elements: executive function (thinking and reasoning), social cognition (interacting with others) and emotional regulation (maintaining a state of well-being). And similarly to the physiological health guidelines, our cerebral health also has its own set of recommendations for us to follow.

Caring for our brain might very well be the same as caring for our gut microbiota. Our gastrointestinal tract hosts a vast and complex range of microorganisms. These microorganisms are essential to our overall health, as well as our brains. They are responsible for absorbing minerals and nutrients, synthesizing enzymes, vitamins and amino acids and producing short-chain fatty acids. Moreover, in recent years, it has come to our knowledge that these microorganisms were also responsible for even more than previously thought. For example, scientists have discovered that a few were able to produce certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin. This revelation suggests that our gut may have more impact on our well-being than what we are attributing them. But caring for our digestive tract can be a sensitive task since any slight change to our environment might jeopardize it. The most important risk (after a faulty diet, of course!) might be regularly switching our intimate partners. Kissing exchanges microorganisms, some foreign to us, which may attack and endanger that sweet balance gained over our lifetime. On that front, I risk nothing; I’ve kept the same partner for over ten years. I’m safe!

Although our gut may also benefit from a stable and healthy diet, our brain might prefer a fattier diet. Beware that I am not talking about fast food or processed food here; I am merely talking about healthy unsaturated fat. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids have been gaining a lot of attention in the last decade. And now we know more about their impact on the brain. Even though we eat lots of omega-6 fatty acids, we don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids. We now consider the ideal ratio to be 1:4, compared to our average consumption ratio of 20:1 (omega-6: omega-3). Omega-6 is essential, but we should consume it moderately. Whereas omega-3 fatty acids have a neuroprotective effect and, as such, we should eat more of them. A good source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish, spinach and flax seeds. I typically also enjoy chia seeds and walnuts as my source for omega-3.

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To protect our brain, we also need to stay active. Other than the previously mentioned guideline, we must remember to get up every hour of sedentary work for at least 10 minutes. Otherwise, we risk abolishing all the gain produced from our regular activities. If you follow these rules correctly, you might fully deserve your beauty sleep. And it is genuinely as important to sleep as to eat or be active. Despite what we have all come to understand, it is wrong to believe that we need to sleep less as we age. Studies have revealed that it does not matter how old you get; you still need those 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night. Personally, I love going to sleep, and I won’t complain about this recommendation.

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Now that we have mentioned digestion, diet, physical activity, and sleep, what more can there be? Three more things. We must try our best to nurture our social relationships. Being social is essential to reduce stress and loneliness, which comes under emotional regulation. Then, we can find a new skill to learn. How about learning a new language? How about Russian? Learning Russian was the endeavour I assigned myself three years ago. Although I am improving, I am not nearly disciplined enough that I can speak it yet. Still, I can understand a decent amount of written words.

There is one last piece of advice to strive for, which is to stay happy. Personally, this pursuit of happiness is not technically a pursuit. I have learnt to embrace all the positive that life has to offer while trying to let go of the negative. Happiness seems to be not the absence of the negative but the experience of the positive. I realized that achieving an overall state of happiness meant staying present. I had to learn to let go of regrets and past trauma and explore the distant future only as a thought.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Tattoo—How it can be possible to mark our skin permanently

Not all appearance alterations are created equal; some may be more short-lived and others more permanent. If you think of tattoos, they mostly belong to the second category. So thinking carefully about certain aspects of the tattoo becomes imperative. Things like the symbolism or the artistry behind your new piece shouldn’t be random. Choosing a…

Bring Up Grad School—What Is the Reality Behind Higher Education

For people who want to pursue studies after completing high school, university studies may look very attractive. So, undergraduate studies may lead to graduate studies. However, undergraduate studies are not the same as graduate studies. The latter is not only more complicated, but it is also very different. First of all, contrary to your undergrad,…