I think that the notion that 20-somethings are all fragmented, dissillusioned, dreamy-eyed wanderers is simplistic at best; history is full of stories idolizing the noble wanderer (the Beat generation, etc). I think the real question is, what has our society done to incentivize joining the “rank and file”? Without pensions, and with our shrinking 401(k) plans and our inability to buy appreciating homes and properties; without the knowlege that joining the “rank and file” would actually be better than, say, freelancing our unique talents, or collection experiences in different jobs rather than stasis in a career, why would anyone make such a choice?
Same thing with the spouse/kids thing. The world is smaller now and more accessible, but more expensive. People want experiences that were never available to our parents or our grandparents. Our grandparents fought and feared the Japanese; today its a tourist destination known for its food and quirky fashion and oddball vending machines. Will our grandchildren buy tickets to Disney’s Iraq Theme Park? Or will it all just be gone, obliterated, dusty bits of old money and sand and ash? We don’t know. There’s so much uncertainty.
20-somethings are not shirking “adult” responsibilities. I think the definition of what an “adult” responsibility is has fundamentally changed. 20-somethings are merely adapting their outlook and actions to a world where security, responsibility, and the notion of “the adult” is much different than the generation before us.
Apr 6, 2009
A pretty cool response to this post about 20-somethings delaying adulthood: