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Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?

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Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

I hit 25 in July. According to brain development studies, I’ve just now reached maturity. I have developed emotional control and higher-order cognitive functioning. I have pruned synapses and shaped my brain according to the demands I have made of it. But now what?

The New York Times published an article called, “What is it about 20-Somethings?” which explored the reasons why so many of us are taking our sweet time to grow up. Not everyone, but there’s enough people fluffing around to draw attention to the idea. We’re bouncing around different jobs, failing to put down any roots, and not really slotting into typical models of “success”. There have been no dramatic catalysts to thrust us into adulthood. So we are enjoying our wiggle room.

Young adults of the 1960’s got off their arses for Women’s Liberation, Civil Rights, Gay Power, and the Vietnam War. Our generation has global warming, oil spills, water shortages, and terrorism. Perhaps these issues are less emotive, and therefore less motivating, because they are less directly associated with our immediate freedom. Unlike the shock of the Vietnam War, we’re now de-sensitized enough to violence to post “choking games” on You Tube and kill whores to get our money back on video games.

With our social freedoms granted we can cut the protesting and - psychologists say - mature in sync with the natural development of our brain. But if that is the case, why measure us against the standards of past generations, who grew up within completely different social contexts? With a lack of challenges to our personal liberty plus an economic recession we’re undefined, uninspired, and freaking out about the “30 year deadline.” Oprah (who else) pointed out: “you can’t do everything and have everything.” Well educated, yet unemployed? Lack of material possessions and downsizing’s becoming trendy? Good. With so little to lose, maybe now we have a better shot of being free.

"What is it about 20-Somethings?" Well, maybe when our generation, re-defined as emerging adults, does eventually grow up, this “vision of an insightful, sensitive, thoughtful, content, well-honed, self-actualizing crop of grown-ups would indeed be something worth waiting for.”

Of course we are.


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