My New York Times rebuttal

August 24, 2010

At 27 I feel…

August 24, 2010

A word from the been-there/wise about our 20-something experience.

August 24, 2010
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Your responses so far to the “AT 20 _____ I FEEL _______” PROJECT have been incredible. Thank you, and please keep them coming!

Below is a little fuel to add to the thought-fire from someone on the other side of the 20-something life stage. Her assessment of what we’re going through comes with both the perspective of someone who was once in this same position and who has raised children many of our sames ages.

Hope it prompts some further thoughts…

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Jess-

While reading both pieces one single word kept jumping into my head. Who. I guess that it’s a question too. Who is accusing your generation of not growing up; of staying a child and hiding from life? Who is calling for an accounting, an explanation, or perhaps, an apology for the current environment your generation has to maneuver through in your 20’s? Parents? Peers? Developmental Psychologists!?

Let the scholars and statisticians play in their own churning black box. Hopefully, they can label it and come to a common language/better understanding of the human condition so that conjecture leads to action. I prefer reality, logic and learning from experience. Call me crazy!
Our generation remembers the traditional cycle because we lived it; not because we wanted to, but because we simply had to – without challenge. Parents ruled and kids didn’t question their parents. We tested our social skills, explored interests and pursued passions as permission was granted and made mental note of our individual desires to be used at a later time; in our 20’s when we were adults.

For many of us, college was our first real opportunity to think, live or discover an independent life outside the purview of our parents’ watchful eye or direct interference in our lives. Four short years to grow up before being launched into the accepted cultural expectation of being an adult. (we got a month or so of down time) We did it and guess what happened? Most of us sold ourselves short, packed away dreams/ talent/passions to be responsible and safe remaining in situations- work and personal- that made “sense” , deemed acceptable but felt wrong. We felt cheated, angry or simply became complacent. The backlash to this traditional “emerging adulthood” is well documented in Henig’s research..Our generation is jealous of yours. We long for a do over. We would gladly trade the limited/traditional options available to us at the time- to decide our life freshman year and have that life ready to start within months of graduation – for the global world menu filled with layers of work, life and, wait for it ….. time, luxurious time, in your 20’s to make you a priority. To selfishly focus on you. To grow up for the first of many times and versions of being an adult.

There was one thing to do and that is what many off my contemporaries did when they raised their children.We encouraged our children, from the time they were born, to embrace self exploration knowing that as parents we are simply responsible to be guides, offer support and keep you, a unique being, safe as you grow. We made it our mission to give you, your generation, many options- Jr year abroad, explore cultural and humanitarian outreach programs, accept that an undergraduate program will likely take 5 years to complete and not 4- the list is long.
My close friend has one child who is a phd scholar/scientist by way of Tanzania where he studied monkeys and blood born viruses while the other child pursues his passion for music not yet tuned into the place or outlet for fulfillment and, hopefully enough salary to pay the rent and food. A parent with no personal agenda, no time frame just support and love.

The 20s are indeed a black box filled with churning. The older churns ran hot and were strictly timed whereas, current black boxes have sensors that adjust for variable conditions before pinging the “finished” bell.

Who cares what scholars or peers think? Perhaps they should grow up.

4 comments

  1. I am fascinated with the changing social norms of our generation. There is an immense rush to fathom and rationalize the behavior of 20 somethings. Only by looking back at the behavior and questioning the motives and analyzing the momentum of the time will answers appear. By trying to understand the current situation will only lead to confusion. The present is hard enough to control let alone trying to predetermine why we do the things we do.

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