I’m in my mid-20s, but sometimes I fall into the habit of acting far less mature than my age when I’m around other people. It’s something I find myself regretting later on when I’m finally by myself. I feel childish just asking this question, but is this really what it’s like to be a grown-up? Wasn’t I supposed to get married or something?
Yep. This is it.
Welcome to 21st-century adulthood.
You’ve been out of college a few years now, and you know what it’s like to put in some of that entry-level grind. Maybe you’re waiting tables. Maybe you’re in grad school. Maybe you’re bucking for some junior-level corporate gig. Whatever. Point is, you’re not the new girl anymore, but you aren’t management yet either.
Take a good look around at the view, because for better or worse, this is all you can expect out of being a grown-up. Sure, you might squeeze out a child of your own in a few years, but other than that, the American experience isn’t gonna come along and saddle you with any life-changing, pillbox hat-wearing, polyester blend responsibility that would otherwise clearly indicate you’re not still one yourself.
Sorry, kiddo — it doesn’t work like that anymore.
Your state of emotional maturity might seem stunted by previous generations’ standards, but we Millennials have been blessed and cursed with an unusually extended adolescence filled with social networks, smoking bans, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
The befuddled boomers and bitter Gen Xers before us are quick to talk all kinds of smack about our relative immaturity, but do your best to ignore the negativity, because quite frankly, this is how they raised us. Besides, it’s their turn to be old and in the way, and they should shut up and be thankful that we’re willing to pick up the tab on their ballooning Social Security and Medicare. But I digress. How tacky.
Speaking of attention deficit disorder, our generation’s extended adolescence is part and parcel to a much grander sociological cycle that also includes the crumbling of the institution of marriage and the death of the American dream. Good times. I’m not suggesting that you owe your individual immaturity to such abstract generalizations, but it’s food for thought next time you find yourself with nothing but a throbbing hangover and morning-after regret.
Marriage was once the threshold to adulthood. It wasn’t just something you wanted to do in a happily-ever-after sort of way, it was also something you needed to do to survive, but shifting gender roles and skyrocketing divorce rates came along and turned an economic necessity into a lifestyle option, and in so doing, unblazed the trail to official grown-up status.
Things are different now. There is no clear demarcation line, but you know what? It’s better this way. Such things were always arbitrary. Forty years ago, a housewife in her mid-20s was no more a grown-up than you are today. She just thought she was, and ultimately her confusion resulted in things like daytime television, ennui, and the aforementioned skyrocketing divorce rates.
You’re just as confused, but don’t worry — that’s what your twenties are all about.
Read “The Coquette” Sundays and Wednesdays in The Daily.