the slow moving maturation of Generation Y

First RDL article

My father sits with me at the dinner table, retelling that same story I’ve heard so many times before—the autobiographical one about a teenage boy, hot off that college stove, crispy and ready for action.  He tells me a story of a hardworking kid, determined to land the best job out there.  He tells me a story of a kid going to school in the 60s at a time when there were more jobs than educated workers.  After WWII the economy was injected with steroids.  By the end of the 60s, the average Americans income had increased 50 percent.

I hear the story that we, as students in our 20s, all so desperately are straining to hear—a story of opportunity.

There was an article in the New York Times a few weeks ago addressing the trend for Generation Y’s, or the Net Generation—also sometimes adequately dubbed the Peter Pan Generation, proclivity to inch their way to adulthood.

The article is called “What is it about 20-somethings?” by Robin Marantz Henig

Henig looks into the new movement lead by professor Jeffrey Arnett to view the 20s as the “emerging adulthood” stage.

Rather or not you find creating a new stage of growth for our children called for, it is worth noting that “one-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year.  Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once.  They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s.  Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married”.   The early 20s of most generations are riddled with questions of identity and direction.  It is an age in which one might quail at the first infelicitous remark that implies they just aren’t good enough.  Your typical 20 year old hasn’t been beaten down enough times to have built up his courage reserves, to have learned to be resilient.

The basic gist is that we, armored with our 20 some odd years, a handful of adventurous “gap year” and summer work experiences, and a degree from a four year college, are taking longer to accomplish those five milestones that are said to denote maturity: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially solvent, getting married and having a child (or 5 or 6 if we’re looking to the past to get an idea of what is normal).

The fact of the matter is we are not settling.  If a white picket fence, five screaming kids and a luxury minivan is the answer; I don’t want to know the question.  We are simply “coming of age” in an entirely new era—one that is actively being documented and written.  I sometimes look to the stories of my parents and grandparents with envy.  They were given a map with a destination.

The pressure to propitiate our parents is overwhelming.  And why shouldn’t it be?  They are the ones who provided most of us the opportunity to go to college in the first place, the ones who provided us life when we unable to feed ourselves.  Why shouldn’t they view our attempts to find our passions jejune and insipid?  They don’t hear the plangent sounds of our hearts pounding like the foot of a nervous sinner in church.

In an era in which the answer to almost any question or curiosity may be found with just a few swipes and clicks on our smartphones, the demand for excellence and creativity has been skyrocketed out of a canon.  We are living in an era in which we are not afforded the luxury of a promised job.  We are also living in a time that offers some of the most extraordinary opportunities but they are obtained through different routes than ever before.  We are explorers.  We are creating and following our own paths and they are paths that have never been followed in the past.  There is no cookie cutter answer.

So I would urge advisors, parents, teachers, anyone in a position to offer the youth some wisdom and guidance, be demanding of your young adults but realize that what they have to accomplish has no road map, they are creating the road map.

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