There seems to be a lot of talk about the New York Times article about 20-somethings (thanks to those who shared it with me!). Since I’m a 20-something myself, I thought I would use this post to comment on the article. Check it out here.
If you haven’t read it, it’s basically about how 20-year-olds in this day and age are taking longer to reach adulthood (if you can even define adulthood) because many of them are using their twenties as personal time to explore career options and the world by living in different places, traveling, dating, seeking out unpaid internships, trying out multiple jobs, or going to graduate school. Apparently, by engaging in these activities, we 20-somethings are ‘avoiding commitments.’ The author also talks quite a bit about young adults who are choosing to move home in order to save money.
The main question in the article is whether or not the time 20-somethings are taking for exploration is creating a new life stage between adolescence and adulthood, called ‘emerging adulthood.’ If, in fact, 20-somethings are in a unique life stage, the author asks whether or not this stage is ultimately beneficial in helping adults make better decisions about their careers, partners, and other life choices.
Being in the psychology field and all, I appreciate that psychologists want to base theories on rigorous scientific research, but I don’t really understand the controversy over whether or not a new stage exists. After all, it was psychology class where I learned that people go through stages differently and don’t necessarily need to pass through each stage to be normal. There is no normal.
I obviously believe that there should be an emerging adulthood stage because the whole point of my blog is to find that stage. I’m frustrated that society expects an instant transition from college to adulthood. One of my problems with my twenties is that I feel like I’m oscillating between the college stage and the adulthood stage, and I don’t want to have to choose between the two. Like I said in my post about post-college partying, there seems to be people who are on both ends of the spectrum, but not as many people balanced in the middle. Since beginning graduate school, I’ve always felt like I’m stuck in this weird in-between period and that my real life can’t begin until I’m in one stage or the other. And since I can’t go back to college, I’ve felt pressure to go ahead and reach the adult stage, but I’m resisting it. Does that make sense? Anyway, the point of all this rambling is to say that yes, there is an emerging adult stage because I’m in it!!
On the topic of 20-somethings moving back home, I really don’t see why it’s a big deal, as long as it’s for the right reasons. What I mean by ‘the right reasons’ is that if someone is moving home because they’re in grad school and want to avoid loans, are in between two activities in their life and need a place to stay, or simply working near home and want to save up some money to get on their feet, as long as its ok with the ‘rents, then who cares? The only time it might be a problem is if someone is living at home because they are afraid to live on their own or they don’t know how to live on their own.
As for the question of whether or not ‘emerging adulthood’ is beneficial to 20-somethings in the end, I really can’t say. For me, I think having time for personal exploration is important, and I’m glad that I chose to go to graduate school to have some transition time before beginning a career. However, I often wonder if I had gone straight into the working world and became financially independent right away, if I would feel less like I’m ‘stuck’ in a weird stage.
I think the amount of time needed for exploration depends on the person and I definitely don’t think that getting married, having children, and establishing a career are what determine if you are an adult or not. I think becoming a successful adult is more about maturity, financial independence, autonomy, and being a [semi] responsible citizen. And, it shouldn’t matter which path 20-somethings use to achieve these things or how long the process takes. So, I say don’t worry about what society thinks, take all the time you need to become the person that makes you happy:)