This NYT article has made quite a splash this week.
"What Is It About 20-Somethings?" explores life during the tumultuous decade as a (whaddya know) 20-something--a time of life dubbed by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., as a distinct life stage, which he calls “emerging adulthood.”
I was especially intrigued with Arnett's general characteristics of this age, specifically with what he had to say about our hopefulness:
"During the period he calls emerging adulthood, Arnett says that young men and women are more self-focused than at any other time of life, less certain about the future and yet also more optimistic, no matter what their economic background. This is where the “sense of possibilities” comes in, he says; they have not yet tempered their idealistic visions of what awaits...Ask them if they agree with the statement “I am very sure that someday I will get to where I want to be in life,” and 96 percent of them will say yes." (Page 4)
96 percent! That's pretty incredible. And, at least to my emerging adult ears, a powerful message of encouragement. Because while most days, I do feel that hope, there are times when life just gets so messy, so complicated, so convoluted that I feel it slipping away. And it's nice to know that together, even when my tank is a tad empty, our hope still runs high.
Of course, as we all know, there is more to our emerging life than merely blind hope.
It also comes with a tall order of expectations.
'“It’s somewhat terrifying,” writes a 25-year-old named Jennifer, “to think about all the things I’m supposed to be doing in order to ‘get somewhere’ successful: ‘Follow your passions, live your dreams, take risks, network with the right people, find mentors, be financially responsible, volunteer, work, think about or go to grad school, fall in love and maintain personal well-being, mental health and nutrition.’ When is there time to just be and enjoy?” (Page 6)
This time of life is hard. It's like we have all the puzzle pieces and are told we should know how to solve it by now and yet...we just can't seem to get it together!
And look over there! THAT person is so far ahead of us there is no WAY we can keep up and now we're embarrassed by the few pieces we've hesitantly hooked ourselves (albeit disjointedly).
So we're scrambling, smiling, looking around hoping no one notices yet desperate for SOMEONE to notice...SOMEONE to say "Hey, it's okay! You're doing a great job!"
And then someone asks us for our five-year plan.
This article struck a chord in me. I don't really care if the world embraces this new "emerging adulthood" idea or blows it off as total crap from a generation that just won't grow up.
Sure, we are narcissistic. And yes, we are privileged into thinking that we deserve something different.
Maybe we'll drive ourselves crazy trying to have it all and maybe one day we'll realize poof! our la-de-dah hope is gone and then we'll be Adults.
But maybe--call it the emergence in me speaking--maybe this tug of war, this wrestling with expectations, this questioning of societal values, will push some of us to really change something.
And by changing something and refusing to sit back and blindly step into the Expected Norm of Adulthood that consists of A then B then C plus D then eventually E...
Well, maybe we'll wake up one day and NOT be in our 20somethings but still feel that hope.
Time will tell.