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April 21 2011

Re: Emerging Adults

Hadley Heath

Remember Wendy?

You know - Wendy Moira Angela Darling - Peter Pan's friend?

Wendy has to make a choice about whether she wants to stay in Never, Neverland with Peter, or if she wants to go back to reality where children must grow up.  Charlotte just blogged about a NYT magazine article about 20-somethings stuck in "emerging adulthood."

I'd like to offer some personal thoughts on the current crop of 20-somethings:

Earlier this year, I was listening to an emerging adult talk about how we all deserve to be happy.  I tried to mention that only people in privileged social classes could afford to bounce around the 20's decade looking for the ideal situation in life.  I've spent time in several foreign countries, like India for example, where many young adults have to settle down and take responsibility for themselves a lot earlier in life than my fellow American youths.

She shut me up and told me that we had worked hard for college degrees so we deserved better.

What?  I know I worked hard in college, but there are a lot of hard-working people who are less affluent who just can't afford college.

I don't know the background of the young woman with whom I was talking, but I know I would've never made it to college, or through college, without the help and hard work of a lot of other people - mainly my family.  It was only a couple of generations ago in my family that my grandmother (number one in her high school class) decided to work as a typist to finance the college education of my grandfather (already her husband at the ripe old age of 18).  It was her sacrifice, and the hard work of my grandparents and parents, that paved the way for me to go to college and find the opportunities that I have today.

The modern-day approach to "emerging adulthood" may have serious repercussions in the future.  My concern is that too many 20-somethings will not make better life decisions after a decade of wandering... But that this life-as-theme-park decade will actually create an unrealistic view of adulthood for my peers.  It's not as if we can all wake up on our 30th birthday and say, "Yes, today I am ready to be an adult."  If we all get used to moving on from every unsatisfying job or relationship in our 20's, what will magically change our attitudes in later decades of life?

I'm not advocating that we all abandon the inner childlike spirit - just the childlike lifestyle.  (Hey, even my grandparents still have the childlike spirit!)

Growing up is generally not very fun.  It involves sacrifice, responsible living, and thinking critically about the long-term.  But growing up at age 30 instead of age 20 doesn't make it any easier.  My generation needs more Wendys, and fewer Peter Pans.  More responsibility, less entitlement. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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