Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"What Is It About 20-Somethings?"

Virtually everyone I know who falls into the "20-somethings" category feels unsatisfied with where they are currently, especially when it comes to their job. Having recently graduated from college it is hard to figure out how to best use everything I spent 20 years working on. Also, looms the big question: what do I want to be when I grow up? We all want a bigger purpose than pouring someone a cup of coffee. But why can't I just take pride in what I do? I swear I have this dialog internally, with a friend, or co-worker daily.

The New York Times Magazine had this great article a couple weeks ago that addresses a lot of my personal concerns and explains so much about "my generation". Usually writing about our generation are very accusatory, however this article lays out research that simply explains why so many of us feel the way we do. What Is It About 20-Somethings?

"[Jefferey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor, views] the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “emerging adulthood.” Among the cultural changes he points to that have led to “emerging adulthood” are the need for more education to survive in an information-based economy; fewer entry-level jobs even after all that schooling; young people feeling less rush to marry because of the general acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation and birth control; and young women feeling less rush to have babies given their wide range of career options and their access to assisted reproductive technology if they delay pregnancy beyond their most fertile years. "

"Just as adolescence has its particular psychological profile, Arnett says, so does emerging adulthood: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities.” A few of these, especially identity exploration, are part of adolescence too, but they take on new depth and urgency in the 20s. The stakes are higher when people are approaching the age when options tend to close off and lifelong commitments must be made. Arnett calls it "the age 30 deadline.” "

"Does that mean it’s a good thing to let 20-somethings meander — or even to encourage them to meander — before they settle down? That’s the question that plagues so many of their parents. It’s easy to see the advantages to the delay. There is time enough for adulthood and its attendant obligations; maybe if kids take longer to choose their mates and their careers, they’ll make fewer mistakes and live happier lives. But it’s just as easy to see the drawbacks. As the settling-down sputters along for the “emerging adults,” things can get precarious for the rest of us. Parents are helping pay bills they never counted on paying, and social institutions are missing out on young people contributing to productivity and growth. Of course, the recession complicates things, and even if every 20-something were ready to skip the “emerging” moratorium and act like a grown-up, there wouldn’t necessarily be jobs for them all. So we’re caught in a weird moment, unsure whether to allow young people to keep exploring and questioning or to cut them off and tell them just to find something, anything, to put food on the table and get on with their lives."


  1. I am so glad you wrote and shared your thoughts on this life stage you are currently experiencing my dear Amanda. The upbeat attitude that glows from your very being is the truth of you and is exactly what will continue to carry you day to day finding joy in each experience you have. At 51, I your mother, have found value in the combined total of my experiences making me what and who I am. Live each day fully. Keep your dreams alive and one day will wake up and realize you are living them. Love, YOMOMMA

  2. "Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement."
    Henry Ford
    1863-1947, Industrialist

  3. "I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours."

    Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862, Writer and Poet

  4. Never put your dreams on hold.
    - Debra Clemente, intuitive visionary artist