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Friday, June 12, 2015

David Brooks, "How Adulthood Happens": Or Does It Ever Really Happen?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How Adulthood Happens," David Brooks informs us that for young adults in college, "[s]ocial life comes first," and afterwards, between "ages of 22 and 30," they must endure a "major rite of passage." Brooks writes:

"As emerging adults move from job to job, relationship to relationship and city to city, they have to figure out which of their meanderings are productive exploration and which parts are just wastes of time. This question is very confusing from the inside, and it is certainly confusing for their parents.

Yet here is the good news. By age 30, the vast majority are through it. The sheer hardness of the 'Odyssey Years' teaches people to hustle. The trials and errors of the decade carve contours onto their hearts, so they learn what they love and what they don’t. They develop their own internal criteria to make their own decisions. They fear what other people think less because they learn that other people are not thinking about them; they are busy thinking about themselves.

Finally, they learn to say no. After a youth dazzled by possibilities and the fear of missing out, they discover that committing to the few things you love is a sort of liberation. They piece together their mosaic."

Yes, it's an elegant theory, but at least in my case, it didn't work out that way. After the age of 30, I continued to move from job to job, and learned the hard way that when you say no to a large organization, you must either buckle or abandon ship.

Liberation? Long after the age of 30, I spent many years teetering on the financial edge. And if liberation ever did come, it came in my late 50's, primarily as a consequence of happenstance, when personality, education, experience, acceptance of risk and entrepreneurship meshed with emerging hi-tech opportunities. It was a narrow window of opportunity, and I don't know how long it will last.

And even if there are those who find "liberation" at the age of 30, it has become a savage economic world, providing very little in the way of job security. In addition, the next financial crisis is certainly in the making, as US national debt approaches $19 trillion. It will not be easy for anyone at any age to weather this impending storm, as financial institutions again fail, and the underpinnings of social security and health care are rocked.

Today, sorry to say, I don't envy the prospects of 30-year-olds, whose Odyssey has just begun.

1 comment:

  1. Who decided childhood now extends to age 30 in the USA?

    what a waste of a keyboard