Adulthood: What's the Rush?

The truth about 21st century 20-somethings.

Welcome to "Adulthood: What's the Rush?"

A slower path to adulthood is not a bad thing.

Ashley @ http://highbrowlowbrow.wordpress.com/
You're probably already shaking your head at the title of this blog. I know, I know, I get it all the time. "'What's the rush? I'll tell you what's the rush," you're probably saying. "I want my kids out of the house and on their own, so I can get on with my life. When I was their age, I was already married and supporting myself."

I know--because I was too. I like to say that when I graduated from high school in 1980, my graduation gift was a suitcase. And it was meant to be used. I hightailed it out of my childhood home as quickly as I could. I left a small town for the big city at age 18, and never looked back.

But between then and now, a lot has changed. Just think about it. When I was in college, we didn't have Google or a cell phone. Heck, we didn't have a computer. They just didn't exist outside the enormous temperature-controlled rooms of IBM. When I was in my 20s my high school classmates could still find a decent job in the steel mills of Gary or on the farms of Iowa. Globalization was unheard of. A kid didn't need a resume in high school. I showed up for the ACT test the morning of, with no preparation. On the home front, parents still raised "free range" children, spending more time with their own friends than their kids.

What I'm getting at here is that shaking our fists and saying "kids these days" is fruitless. Times change. And in a very short span, they've changed enormously.

Along with those changes, the stakes for a "successful" adulthood have gotten higher. Jobs are harder to get and hold. There are no "company men" (or women) today. Our living standards are higher. We are more educated and therefore expect more from our children. And on and on.

Because the stakes are higher, young people today need to prepare longer and harder for the race they're about to enter. They're also at greater risk of falling, and falling hard.

Over the course of this blog, I hope to show how young adults are thinking and feeling about this new and slower path to adulthood, and show why they're doing it differently today. I'll draw from my recent book I wrote with Rick Settersten, called "Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood and Why It's Good for All of Us" (coming out in December).

As the subtitle says, this slower path is not such a bad thing--once we all get used to it. In fact, rushing into adulthood too soon, especially if young people sacrifice education, can almost guarantee an early life of struggle.

We just happen to be at a historical moment when a path all of us knew and took for granted suddenly changed. Because it's happening before our eyes, there's not yet a clear roadmap into the adulthood of today, which can be scary and confusing for everyone.

So check in from time to time and let's have a conversation about this momentous, confusing, exhilarating, and misunderstood passage into adulthood.

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Barbara Ray is the coauthor of Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood and Why It's Good for All of Us (Delacorte, Jan. 2011).

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