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Opening Arguments


You remember the midlife crisis. I certainly remember mine, vaguely. A lot of 20-somethings today don't believe in putting things off, so they're having quarter-life crises. Well, actually, they do believe in putting things off: They're taking an awfully long time to grow up, A New York Times article informs us. The article drew a lot of response from the younger generation, including this one, which I have trouble disagreeing with:

Unlike our parents who hit the job-marriage-kids goals at a traditional pace, "[Today] the 20s are a black box -- and there is a lot of churning going on in there," reports the Times.

That churning equals "identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between," the opposite of what was/is traditional adulthood (choosing a path, settling down, and creating a stable life for you-plus-family).

As a person who took from graduation to her five-year college reunion to even choose a path, I can attest to the churning. I have churned, damn near professionally.

I have also talked to dozens and dozens of 20-somethings over my years writing the blog about what it feels like inside that "black box." While it is a stretch to say the experience is universal (some people do not have the means to not know what they're doing at 25, but that's a whole other article), many of us do feel less focused and less certain. We are more driven by our personal interests than family-oriented ones.

And our goal is to get to the right place, not to get there at the "right time." It's not that we don't know what it means to be an adult and how we're supposed to do it -- it's that we do.

We are painfully aware that decisions in our 20s lay the foundation for all of adult life. We know exactly how old our parents were when they had us, and exactly what they sacrificed as a result. We know that time is precious, age isn't really just a number, and having kids changes everything.

So, we can absolutely see the forest through the trees. We just figure it's best to deliberately navigate through those trees so we arrive at the forest in one (better) piece. And -- this may just be the crux of it -- we don't see why we should rush. We were raised not to.

Every generation thinks it is smarter than the last one, will undo all the mistakes and do things the right way for a change. My generation didn't invent that conceit, but we got more attention for it than any previous generation. So when baby boomers turned out to be just like every previous generation, all its plans for rebellion and change inevitably diminished by the realities of jobs and family obligations, it was a little more embarrassing for us.

History tells us that the current crop will go the same way -- maybe just a little later than previous generations is all. But they do seem to be taking their time and thinking seriously about what to do with their "time that is precious." So maybe this will be the generation that finally does get it right. Or not. At any rate, more power to them, even if they just delay the inevitable a little longer.


Mon, 08/23/2010 - 10:27am

You know, somewhere in line, there practically has to be a generation that was smarter, more industrious, and liked better music than their parents. But all of the "kids these days" articles I've seen over the last 30 years (and I suspect at any given point in time) have pretty much been in the opposite direction.

Bob G.
Mon, 08/23/2010 - 3:59pm

OUR generation was better...by FAR (biased? You betcha...lol) But our parents' generation was better still.

As to THIS generation?
Well, they ARE trying (somewhat), but you know the saying:
The harder they TRY, the BEHINDER they get!