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I’m looking for a word, phrase, or comparison to mean a pleasurable, coming-of-age experience or discovery. Possibly with connotations of surprise or embarrassment.

I would really like to be able to compare something to a wet dream, but I suspect that is inappropriate for an audience of potential interviewers.

The context: “My discovery of atmospheric science was comparable to a wet dream.”

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... comparable to kissing someone (politer than having sex) for the first time? – JAM Sep 25 '12 at 3:05
I agree with @JAM: "comparable to a first kiss" could work; it connotes a sense of discovery, along with that coming-of-age experience you allude to. JAM, you should make that an answer. – J.R. Sep 25 '12 at 7:21
@J.R. I don't think those innocent connotations will travel unblemished across to the OP's "audience of potential interviewers" :) – coleopterist Sep 25 '12 at 12:27
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Enlightenment (“...achieving clarity of perception, reason and knowledge”), or epiphany (“An illuminating realization or discovery, often resulting in a personal feeling of elation, awe, or wonder”) probably are appropriate.

You might also say “It was nirvana” (“state of paradise; heightened or great pleasure”) or satori (“A sudden inexpressible feeling of inner understanding or enlightenment”), and the interviewers that understand will be impressed.

Also see numerous suggestions at Read ( Beautiful + Interesting ) stories. These include wonderful, captivating, enthralling, spellbinding, mesmerising, alluring, bewitching, engaging, magnificent, expressive, sublime, delightful, entrancing, amazing, and awesome, as well as the bemusing advice, “There is no common English word which means beautiful and interesting at the same time.”

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+1 for epiphanic. Exhilarating, stimulating, stirring, and inspiring are also related possibilities. – coleopterist Sep 25 '12 at 5:57

My discovery of atmospheric science was orgasmic

noun: intense or paroxysmal excitement

I'm aware that isn't exactly appropriate either. Why not just say

My discovery of atmospheric science was enthralling

adjective: capturing and holding one’s attention; fascinating

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Further to comments, here's my suggestion:

My discovery of atmospheric science was comparable to a first kiss.

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We might be making this more freudian than it needs to be. How about "my discovery of atmospheric science was a real eye-opener." It brought my mind to life. Made me realise what I wanted to do.

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