Have we become terrified of growing up?

By Jordan Novick | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Dear Fellow 20-Somethings,

Does the idea of growing up totally freak you out?

Well, don’t worry. You are not alone. The rest of us are terrified too.

So much so, that we are delaying the process all together. And since we can’t actually stop time (It’s inevitable, aging another year will actually occur. That is, unless you happen to be Benjamin Button or Demi Moore) we are doing the next best thing — simply refusing to become adults. We are diverting off the traditional path to adulthood that the baby boomer generation put in place. Compared to most of our parents, we are taking longer to graduate from college, even longer to settle into a career, and are in no hurry to get married and have children until we’re in our 30s, 40s, or even never at all.

It is as if the concept of adulthood has become the black plague and luckily all of us under the age of 30 have been vaccinated to protect against it.

I’ll be the first to admit that at the ripe old age of 23 and as a soon to be college graduate, I still have absolutely no idea what I want to do with the rest of my life — let alone what I want to do in four hours from now. And, this seems to be the norm for our generation. On average, we will change jobs at least seven times during our 20s, many of which will be unpaid internships or temporary positions. We have no real desire to permanently settle down, as one-third of us will move to a new residence every year. We have been dubbed as the “boomerang kids,” for the fact that up to 40 percent of us will move back in with our parents at least once. To be completely blunt — we are a generation hell bent on avoiding the commitment it takes to grow-up.

So, here’s the million dollar question: why are we so determined to forestall this transition into adulthood?

A few years ago when the sitcom “$#*! My Dad Says” first came on the air (it’s about a 20-something blogger who moves back in with his parents), The New York Times published an article addressing the phenomenon. Was it a consequence of our nation’s current economic doldrums? Not necessarily. Maybe it is a combination of both social and economic factors, in what some sociologists are calling a transient epiphenomenon? Possibly. A signal from deep within our neurological hard-wiring? Hey, anything can be scientifically proven these days, right? Even with all of these theories as to why we are taking the longer road to adulthood, the great think tank over at The Times still couldn’t quite put their finger on it.

But then again, they aren’t wondering aimlessly through their 20s. How are they supposed to know how we are feeling? Or why we are delaying growing up?

Since birth, our generation has been groomed for adulthood. Our parents wanted us to have better upbringings than they did. To have more opportunities than they had, to be more successful. So if they could, they put us into the best school systems and made sure we were involved in extracurricular activities. In the age of technology, we saw what it meant to be an adult on cable television and became open to their world over the Internet. We were encouraged to grow up so fast that it made us a generation of independent, impatient, powerful, and diverse individuals with strong viewpoints. With such attributes, you would think we would want to hurry up and get on with being adults already.

However, it has done the opposite. As most of us reach the age in which it’s actually time to grow up, we’re bewildered by what being an adult actually means. For the majority of our lives we have had everything planned out for us, always knew where our next step would take us.

But the future is uncharted territory. It is the part of the plan where we take off the floaties and learn to either sink or swim. Our inability to seamlessly transition into adulthood, or rather swim, is how we are embracing our apprehensions about the future. Perhaps we aren’t quite ready to tackle the real world by ourselves, or better yet, we just aren’t ready to tackle the “real world” our parents live in. And that’s OK. We are a different generation. They raised us to be successful, and we will be. We are just doing it on our own time, on our own pace, and down our own unique path to adulthood.

In the meantime, we have plenty of other people to be scared with along the way. Our generation makes up nearly 26 percent of the population.

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