Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The New Adult

Sometimes, when life gets too heavy, I shuffle on over to the CDP for some humorous reading. Today, that fine blogger failed me, though, by posting an all-too pertinent and thought-provoking list of "truths" that included this bit:

25. I sometimes become intensely aware of my adulthood responsibilities; my home, my wife, my job, my expenses and profits, and convince myself that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I start thinking that it's only a matter of time before I'm discovered as a fraud, and they throw me back into school. Then I stand in front of an open refrigerator for 10 minutes, eat cookies before dinner and remind myself that I'm entirely in control of my destiny.
While his experience is different than mine and many others in my generalized age group (I think we may technically be "generation Y," but I don't really give a shit), there is a central theme that rings true for most of us. As recently as our parent's generation, the majority of kids went to college, got married, bought a house, had kids, worked and then retired. Standard formula. Certainly that didn't apply to everyone, but it was the norm.

These days, out of everyone I know, the college-marriage-family track types are in the extreme minority. Most of us went to college or worked, then floundered around looking for a steady job but never really had our hearts set on anything long-term. We don't save for retirement, we don't get married or have kids until much, much later in life, and many of us are far from what you might call "career minded." We're working blind, creating a new life path, one for which there is very little cultural or historical reference.

So I suppose it makes sense that many of us have this nagging doubt about our adulthood. Lacking many of the traditional hallmarks of "adulthood," we're left to suspect that we're all just irresponsible and immature. And while that may be true of some, I don't think it's the greater truth of the situation.

In the end, weren't our hippie parents fighting for our right to live our lives however we so chose, regardless of whether or not they fell in line with the traditional college-marriage-family idea? Aren't we eating the fruits of the past 100 years of progressive values and ideals? So of course it's weird, different, hard to figure out. For better or for worse, it hasn't been done before. We're left to blaze an oftentimes awkward, fumbling trail. Honestly, though, I'd rather be awkward and fumbling on a trail of my own choosing than on a path that someone else laid out for me. Even if that means never being sure if I've become a real "adult" - whatever that means.

The real trouble for us, I suspect, lies in the fact that we're part of the first wave and as such it becomes inevitable that we'll clash with the old system. It's going to take many years before our path becomes the status quo, because it will (and what an odd thought that is--can you imagine what our generation will look like when we're elderly? Faded tattoos, saggy piercings and fond memories full of Simpsons references?). In the meantime, we struggle to figure ourselves and our world out. And I don't suspect we ever will.

Then again, maybe this happens with every generation and my perspective is woefully limited (which it is, regardless). The last century saw some of the most rapid and dramatic change in human history, though, so I don't think I'm totally off-base here.

So while I sit here trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I'd love to hear other thoughts on the subject. Comment away, my three fearless readers!


The CDP. said...

That was eloquently done.

I think we sometimes forget how responsible and independent we've become over the past 10 years, and in looking where all the time went, forget how awesome we've become in regards to making it all happen correctly.

You start to think you can't handle it, that you're going nowhere and lack a plan. Truth is, we've done so much already in this important stretch of adulthood in terms of evolving, that we're now starting to understand that perhaps the worst is over. Perhaps.

The way I saw it, I only let my fears only floor me for a few seconds, and I then remind myself how far I've come. It does the trick, and is so packed with motivational speaker-sap that it would make Sanya Claus himself vomit with rage.

I'll be quoting the Simpsons when I'm 70.

Emily said...

Thanks, and yes, I generally agree. I still don't feel like I have a plan, but you're right in that when I really sit down and think about it, I've managed to accomplish a fair amount in the last 10 years. And my how things have changed.

I actually look forward to being old and quoting the Simpsons.

The CDP. said...

Sanya Claus? Who the hell is that?

Emily said...

See, I thought you were just making some ultra-cool and obscure pop culture reference that I naturally didn't get.

You gotta use your new street cred as the number one pop culture blogger to cover for all your typos!

The CDP. said...

True 'dat. It's not my fault you didn't get the Sanya Claus reference. Sheesh, do I have to explain everything to everybody?

The Lost Albatross