At 28 years old, I am with other members of my generation straddling young adulthood and adulthood. There’s a palpable pressure to enter adulthood fully, from within ourselves as much as from the outside. But with the economic situation as it is, and the resulting shift in the “normal” order of life events, we are struggling to figure out where we belong.
Sometimes, I really feel like an adult. In fact, as I grapple with 2011, sure that 2001 was only 2 years ago, I even feel OLD.
What makes me feel like an Adult:
- I’m married
- I have a car, a house and a mortgage
- I pay bills
- I’m no longer eligible for student discounts (though I still carry my student ID with me)
- I buy anti-wrinkle cream
- I shake my head at “today’s youth” for things like excessive texting and not wearing pants
What makes me feel like a Not-Quite-Adult:
- I don’t have an established career (or a career-like income) and I still wonder what I want to be when I “grow up”
- I am not quite ready to have kids
- Young adult-appropriate dreams like dropping everything to go backpacking for several months are still valid options in my mind
- The items on the “adult” list above sometimes make me say, “Jigga-what?!”
I imagine that these conflicting notions of self are common in one’s twenties. But in the current economic situation, I wonder if it’s especially confusing for us Generation Y-ers, if perhaps, there’s a paradigm shift in our whole economic and social system.
The notion of what constitutes a career is changing. It’s now the exception rather than the rule to fall into a career with a company that you will stay with for your whole working life. The American Dream is morphing to fit modern realities. Many young people are moving back to cities, where owning a home is very difficult (or maybe even impossible–in places like New York) unless you’re in the upper economic tiers.
I wonder if we’ll compare the changes of this Great Recession to the changes of the 1960s. The significance is perhaps as great, though now it’s maybe more economic than social, quieter, more forced than voluntary? We’re not eschewing the norm out of principle; we’re being pushed like little birds, finding our own way in the unknown and unfamiliar.
But I don’t know. Things often look much bigger when we’re in the middle of them. Or it could just be me, a bit self-absorbed and whiny, typically young-adultish.
What do you think?
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Jean, you’re ONLY 28? And we’re friends? I’m not sure what that says about me…
It’s funny you’ve written about this when you did. We went on a road-trip, b&b vacation this past week (yes, a very “adult” thing to do) and Sarah Harmer came on my ipod and I started crying (not just because I’m pregnant – yet another “adult” characteristic) but because suddenly it hit me like a sledge hammer, my days of young carelessness are gone. Like you I find it perfectly acceptable to drop everything for a 6 month long backpacking trip, but now that seems very unlikely for the next 20 years. I loved not knowing where I’d be living and what I’d be doing next year, but things seem a lot more predictable now.
As much as I fear becoming more like my parents, gaining weight and getting wrinkled, I’ve also noticed that my preferences have already changed to be more “adult”. For example I really do like b&b’s and all-inclusive resorts! I still love backpacking, but my most recent trip made me realize I prefer backpacking with air conditioned taxi’s and comfy hotels.
While I can’t ignore the adult tendencies I am now inclined to, I am determined to maintain my youthfulness if only by denying that I am a mature adult but in fact a youthful adult. I’ll keep you posted on my progress 😉
We can help keep each other youthful! I agree–I still reminisce about my cheap travel days proudly, but AC and bug-free is definitely preferable to me these days as well!
i wouldn’t worry too much about what you want to be when you grow up – at almost twice your age, i still haven’t decided either (much to the dissatisfaction of my bank account).
And i feel as if you’ll know when you are actually ARE old. It strikes you the minute you realize that you wish you could go back to the kids table…
Thanks for commenting! I suppose we’re lucky in our “modern medicine” age because we can have many “lives” in one long lifetime. I tend to have mini moments of oldness realization–when I find myself judging young kids, or remembering something that happened a LONG time ago. Little catch-my-breath moments.
Great post once again! 🙂 I completely understand your dilemma. My age (same as yours) makes me feel like an adult. (My car, mortgage and endless utility bills confirm this even more.)…However, there are times when I still can’t believe that I am an adult. It’s a category I technically fall in, but it doesn’t seem to fit me, at least not in the stereotypical sense.
FYI, you are not self-absorbed and whiny! I can’t stand when older people refer to all young people like that. They call it self-absorbed and whiny, I call it being reflective and possessing critical thinking skills! 😀
Thanks for assuring me I’m not self-absorbed and I love your redefinition of that common criticism. I agree!
Yeah, 28 is existential crisis time–you’re practically 30, and I at least thing to myself, well, 30–that’s definitely adult age! I don’t think I’ll “freak out” about turning 30 or anything like that, but it is definitely a big milestone and somehow it feels way closer at 28 than it did at 27 🙂
I would say children certainly motivated me to define my values, my work ethic, how to tend a home. Once children come on the scene, there’s not that much time for reflection…a lot of exhaustion during those years.
Someone asked Henry Kissinger “How do you make decisions so quickly on a daily basis?” He answered, that the years he spent in education, earning his doctorate degree were the years that shaped the decisions he made. He acknowledged that there’s not too much time for reflection once on the job and facing family responsibilities. (something like that…I wish I could find the exact quotes)
It makes a lot of sense that having kids tends to sharpen the focus. I imagine it’s hard to dwell on the past or future when this little person needs you Right Now!
Oh and as for Kissinger, it’s funny he mentioned grad school as sharpening his decision-making skills. Having studied policy for my Master’s, I actually studied how other people make decisions quite a bit. I think part of it too is that as you get older, you begin to trust your instincts more, even when your instincts take you further away from what’s expected.
Nowadays, it is said that a person will have 4 – 6 different jobs in their lifetime. It is not good for someone to stay with one company forever as they tend to become dormant and unchallenged.
You ask “when do you become an adult”? Once you have left home and started your “own” life is normally considered becoming an adult. Along with this comes the chance to vote, purchase homes, travel, party and more responsibly.
There are very few people who start out with “everything”. Personally, we worked our way up the ladder of home ownership to a nice home and then as we aged, we started to go back in size and thoughts on preparing for our senior years.
Over the years, I have learned that it doesn’t matter where you live…..”home is where you make it”.
Just my thoughts…..Judy
I’ve also seen it said that people not only have multiple jobs, but even multiple careers. I like that possibility for sure, but I think we’re still struggling to find a feeling of security given that change.
I agree that having everything isn’t necessary, especially not right away. I think the young adult years are when you are still trying to figure out what the dreams and priorities are. And I have to share a song with you that really reflects your last statement!
What is the song that you mentioned that really reflects my statement?
Many, many years ago, I was a perfectionist and things had to be done in a certain order and I did not do well with sudden change. I am no longer a perfectionist (I do like a neat, clean and tidy home) as I learned that other than me – no one else really cared. lol
I can honestly say now that I am more spontaneous. Whatever I was going to do (unless a committed appointment), it will still be there when I get back. I missed out on a lot of things in life because I didn’t go at a moments notice. Things always worked out in the end and I had made myself happy at the time.
It’s so funny–I totally agree that other people rarely notice the results of perfectionist behavior! It just drives ourselves crazy and then everyone wonders what the problem is!
Thanks for the song. never heard it before but it is good.
I remember the old days of “having to vacuum and dust EVERY day”. My house was so clean any ways that no one would have known if I missed one day but I did. The good thing is that we can and do change gradually as our lives change and we don’t even see ourselves gradually changing. Funny how that happens.
Have a good weekend!