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On being 20something

We’ve been making the news a bit these days, or at least news in the blogosphere (here, here, here and here to start).  And by we I mean those of us in our 20somethings.  Gen Y-ers if you will.

There’s a lot of talk about us doing things like moving back in with mom and dad.  Of job hopping.  Of not knowing what we want out of life; and not having it all figured out yet.  And a lot of comparing us to generations that have come before us. Particularly to our parents, mostly Boomers, many of whom did what was expected of them – they got a degree, got a job, started a family, and have careers with the same company lasting longer than I’ve been alive.

So what is the matter with us?  Why can’t we just follow in the footsteps of generations before us?  Why must we be so restless? So undecided? So fickle?

If you will, let me purpose my own hypothesis.  I blame our parents and our teachers.

You see, my entire childhood I was told I could be whatever I wanted to be.  At age six I was given a book to this affect, and it purposed that I could be a firefighter, a doctor, a lawyer or an astronaut among other professions.  I was taught to dream big, with a healthy dose of “you’re not going to make it there on your good looks alone”.  I remember at different points in my childhood and teen years wanting to be an artist, a writer and illustrator, a lawyer and an astronaut (apparently that book had a big impact on me, see: bookworm).  And then after graduating and getting some life experience I decided I wanted to go into sustainable energy.  Maybe I’ll change my mind again someday, afterall, my mom did in her late 40s.  Who says what I want to be today is what I’ll want to be in 10 years or 20 years or even in 2 years?

And, point number two:  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been told throughout my school career to do the things that I love, and to do the things that make me happy.  Take a job you love.  Well, how are we supposed to know if we love it if we don’t try it out?  And what happens when we do try it out and come to find it doesn’t make us happy?  We decide to try something new, and see if we love that.

So, you see, I think we’re just good learners.  And I think the lessons we were given were good ones, even if they lead to a bit of unrest.  We’ll figure it out.  At least, I’m pretty sure I am.

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2 Comments on “On being 20something”

  1. Kristin Thomas Sancken Says:

    I agree 100%. I took a personality test recently and it said I should be, “a counselor, a teacher or a writer”. Ha! I’ve dabbled in all 3 and I’m only 26. Spent 2 years as a social worker, and after burning out (and having a child), I tutored for a while, and now I’m writing for a local paper.

    There’s nothing “wrong” with our generation. In fact, we should be blaming the boomers for setting the bar too high.

    I realized the other day in the shower, that I will probably be the first person in my family over the last 4 generations who will not be able to offer a “better” life (monetarily) to my daughter than my parents offered to me. And, you know what, I’m totally okay with that. All she really needs is a song in her heart, food in her belly and love in her family.

  2. Mac Says:

    First, there is nothing wrong with gen-y or mellennials. There is something wrong with anyone (Henig and Arnett come to mind) trying to rob mellennials of the rights that accompany adulthood. As a baby-boomer, I am suspicious that in trying to redefine the passage into adulthood, those of that mindset will try to deny generation-y and the following ones of the right to drink, the right to vote, the right to get into debt, and any other rights that will either allow you to have your own brand of fun or to fully participate in and have a voice in civilized society before reaching a reasonable age. (A reasonable age probably being that of Henig or Arnett).

    There comes a time when a young person is ready to accept the responsibility of their fate. There is a moment when a child stands on their own and can be counted on to live their life and be accountable for decisions made. That moment when each decides for himself or herself whether “it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles.” For most this happens about the time they finish high school or turn 18. Almost all have past this moment when they turn 21.

    Society, and American society in particular, cannot afford to make this judgement independently for each and every member to be. What we are pondering here is not whether a three point parallel parking job was successful, nor whether a column of number can be added and subtracted and a bank account thereby balanced. In America we grant the same rights to all, regardless of race, religion, and age (once past legal age). What Henig and Arnett are asking is whether to acknowledge this generation as equal participants.

    I vote yes. Don’t believe for a moment that this is the first generation that has remained in the homestead beyond the age of 18. This is not the first group that has, in the battle against a dire economy, faced setbacks. This generation is not alone. This generation is no more unique than those that came before it.

    Suggesting that this generation is achieving milestones later in life is an amusing misuse of statistics. No one is normal, and we all try alternatively to be, and not to be. We are, each of us, unique, just like everybody else. Each of us can find areas in our lives where we widely diverge from the group average, and areas in our lives where we are just members of the pack.

    Now is this generation more restless than those that came before? I think not. I just think the tools and action of their unrest have changed. And any twenty-something that doesn’t occasionally feel restless isn’t doing it right. Hell at 53, I occasionally feel restless.

    Here’s what it comes down to. Those who point fingers, who claim you’re different, and not good enough. Well the thing is … they just don’t like your music.

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