I recently finished reading the book, “Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It’s Good for Everyone” by Richard Settersten. It was eye-opening, how we talk about young Americans (not positively) and how the cultural and economic landscapes have changed since my parents were kids, and their parents were kids (more competitive, more expensive,) also how young people “swim” or “sink” in association with their access to resources.
In the greater cultural conversation, I hear a lot of blame: kids today just don’t know how to work hard, young people are too deeply in debt because of their college decisions (subtext: who told them to go to those expensive schools?), kids today might not surpass their parents in wealth or social mobility. I don’t hear a lot of solutions, and even rarer an honest discussion of the inequities that hold steady through all the centuries of this country’s growth.
I’m one of those kids who went away to capture the alluring “gold-plated degree” that was to open all manner of magic doors. Emerson College is a well-known and respected institution: I chose it in part because I was immediately smitten with Boston and also because the college seemed more silver than gold: not at the tippy-top of the prestigious school pig pile (consequentially, with a lower price tag), but close enough to award me many of the benefits. And the benefits I’ve received are still unfolding -it’s been a steady win.
I’m also one of those kids with loan debt not-so-quickly repaid.
If I may, I’d like to quote from the book what I took to be the most important and exciting suggestion regarding how to think about growing up, going forward:
“One wonders whether a more relevant milestone in today’s world is not the achievement of independence, which has long been the central defining characteristic of adulthood, but instead the achievement of strong ties to others -what we might instead call interdependence. To compensate for new uncertainties and the weak scaffolding provided by some families and governments, an effective strategy for young people making their way into adulthood is to build wider and webs of relationships with others. A strong social network of personal and professional contacts can foster development and provide a set of supports that can be activated as needed. Interdependence is not about completely relying on others for one’s own welfare, but is instead about knowing how to make and maintain positive, healthy, reciprocal relationships that offer a safety net for oneself and contribute to the safety nets of others.”
To this, I declare a solid HERE HERE. I’ve long claimed that one of the most important benefits I gained from my time at Emerson is the human connections; the intentional family of friends I’ve developed, (including my first roommate -one of my favorite people to this day.) I’m glad to see someone else has noticed.