Like it or not we develop – good, bad ways, baby steps, large leaps, crises, steady states. Much has been researched on this – that as adults do in-fact change, generally in cycles of 5-6-7 years of relative stability with 2-3-year bursts of instability, with growth challenges along the way.
Here is an unofficial, personal, yet somewhat clinical view on the first-half of your adult development:
20’s. Breaking away from home (hopefully), education, defining and starting a career, intimacy, relationships that lead or not to marriage, even children. Big challenges -- whew!
Crazy busy, so much focused on getting somewhere, being liked by yourself and others. And lots of things happen – big or small. Get locked out of your apartment for a night, car breaks down in the highway in the middle of nowhere, don’t get accepted into a program because of grades or don’t get a second date because…you have no idea. Overwhelming, always in motion or stuck, struggling to define a self and place.
Little things are important but the big picture is still blurry – "I do", but what happens next. "I learned this weekend that I need to be careful about …" but not sure how to do that. "I still lean on my parents, but I don’t like it," or "I like it a lot but feel guilty and that its somehow wrong." "I compare myself to friends and measure the differences emotional micron by micron."
So how do you move forward though not clearly sure how – fate, luck – who knows? Got a job, a partner maybe -- good. If you have kids this is your life right now, though you worry a lot about fitting some stereotype of a good parent, of providing, of being responsible. Moments of joy, dark nights of "What am I doing, how well am I doing? Is this the life I planned or is life being dropped on my lap and I just need to deal with it?"
30’s. Turning a corner. Actually looking back on it, those 20’s were crazy, wouldn’t want to go back there, but at least not as crazy as those teen years -- thank God for some experience and prefrontal lobes. Career is nailed down pretty much. Even if you changed jobs you have a sense of what your good at and or not good at. On good days you can see a path.
But maybe you can't. You've drifted from job to job, you realize it's time to get serious – go back to school and get some degree if you ever hope to make more than the minimum wage. No more fooling around, time to be a grown-up. Get your own place rather than continuing to live with 3 other folks who are various forms of you.
And if you are fortunate to be in a space of stability, this is possibly a time of reflection. Thinking about your childhood a lot for no particular reason. Your mom comes to visit and she drives you nuts and you worry that you might turn out like her. You hate that your dad always gives you advice, or doesn't give you advice: Why didn’t he give it to you when you needed it, or why didn't he shut up; his life is certainly not a model you want to follow. You decide you need to stand on your own two feet, have your parents back off and leave you alone. Maybe do some therapy?
And if you've been doing the marriage, the kids, or the job thing for several years now, the restlessness creeps in:
"Did I marry the right person? We used to get along but now he drives me crazy. I’m doing everything, he is doing...less and I’m resentful. Should we get divorced? Maybe my career isn’t the one I want – should I go back to school?"
If you don't have a partner you are likely still looking at what's missing: You're single but thinking of having a child, regardless of what your parents may say. You're divorced and wondering if you just need to blow this place and job. Or develop your hobby into a business -- bead bracelets anyone?
40’s. On a good day you're clearly more grounded, more in your own skin; you know how to temper those demon voices that can occasionally get stirred. But the kids are driving you crazy a good amount of time, especially if their hormones are brewing and if you have to go to one more soccer game you may have to consider taking a lethal injection. Your partner and you are great parents, but ain’t much happening on the couple front. Sex down, intimacy down, going on autopilot. Beginning to realize that there’s stuff you want to do or used to think you wanted to do and time is getting short – the black balloons for your birthday didn’t help.
Switch jobs, careers? But kid's college is coming up. Fantasize about having an affair – what’s up with that? Bored at home, okay at work. Future after kids are gone? Not sure. Getting rid of teenagers – priceless. Are you a better parent than your own? Why do you keep making the same mistakes? Are you where you imagined yourself to be 20 years ago? What do you want for the next 20?
LIfe...to be continued...