To be young…

Twenty-somethings are entering adulthood at the rate of slugs, writes New York Times contributor, Robin Marantz Henig. This age group is taking much longer to marry, start families, pay bills, and start fulfilling careers than earlier generations did. But are today’s twenty-somethings completely at fault for their inability to advance?

The article partially blames “helicopter parents” who baby, shelter, and hover over their kin to excessive levels. While the young adults may appreciate extra financial and moral support in their beginning grown-up years, the enabling prevents them from solving their own problems.

Journalist Alexandra Robbins explores the identity issues facing twenty-somethings in her non-fiction investigative reporting work, Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis. Robbins’s approach isn’t quite as negative as this Times piece. Robbins aims to guide conflicted twenty-somethings to the path of success rather than call them out for struggling to grow up.

There’s also something to be said about the endless possibilities of today’s world. Twenty-somethings are encouraged to find themselves, volunteer, join the Peace Corps, travel, or engage in other self-fulfilling activity that will enrich the soul.

Even so, there’s more pressure now than ever before to have a high-profile career and impressive salary, so twenty-somethings have a multitude of choices at hand. Do they wish to be career-driven and wealthy or artsy, worldly, and cultured? Can there be a happy medium?

The article quotes Jennifer, a 25-year-old who expands upon the idea that twenty-somethings may have too many options:

It’s somewhat terrifying to think about all the things I’m supposed to be doing in order to ‘get somewhere’ successful: ‘Follow your passions, live your dreams, take risks, network with the right people, find mentors, be financially responsible, volunteer, work, think about or go to grad school, fall in love and maintain personal well-being, mental health and nutrition.’ When is there time to just be and enjoy?”

The “be and enjoy” concept can also be seen as self-indulgent and naive.

A 24-year-old Virginian added:

“There is pressure to make decisions that will form the foundation for the rest of your life in your 20s. It’s almost as if having a range of limited options would be easier.”

While parental assistance can eventually encourage and allow twenty-somethings to move forward, young adults would probably exert more independence if they were financially cut off (or at least given boundaries) between ages 18 to 22 and forced to make concrete career choices. The less coddling, the better.

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