The lost art of becoming an adult

Lately, I feel like I’ve had the same conversation over and over with different friends, coworkers, and family.  The issue centers on a friend of theirs who is 25 years or older and refusing to grow up.  Much like the movie Failure to Launch depicted a few years ago, there does seem to be a lot of feet dragging going on by an entire generation that is supposed to move into adulthood.  I do not mean the following list to be a marker of who is dragging their feet and who is not, certainly there are those who live at home, etc, who are fully engaged with adulthood. But you may notice it as the friend, child, or older brother/sister who:

  1. Doesn’t pay their cell phone bill
  2. Lives at home and doesn’t want to leave
  3. Loves listening to music, watching movies clearly aimed at a younger generation
  4. Perhaps has a job but no desire for a “career”
  5. Has no desire for a spouse

A few times, this scenario is brought up to me in a humorous way, such as why did my older sister catch “Beiber fever?”  In a few cases, it has been a more tragic scenario of a spouse wondering why their husband left them, not for another woman, but for a life free from responsibility.

Part of my new book deals more in detail about the changing nature of adolescence over the last 100 years, (it has evolved from a 2 year process into about a 16 year process) and I’m beginning to realize more and more people are noticing this trend, but they aren’t quite sure what to call it or how to deal with it.  Unfortunately, it is here to stay, and there are very systemic reasons as to why.  I’ll avoid those for now and just keep it simple. Adolescence is a season of life defined by 3 questions:

-Who am I?

-Where do I belong?

-Why do I matter?

These questions (presented by Dr. Chap Clark in his book, Hurt) are essential for a teenager or college student to answer before they can become an adult. In essence, an adult is someone who knows who they are, where they belong, and why they matter in the world.  However, turning 25 doesn’t mean you’ve answered these questions. Often a combination of nature, nurture, faith, and friendship play a role, and if you never know the answer to these three questions you could potentially end up, as Edward Norton says in Fight Club, a 30 year-old boy.

If you are currently waging war or frustrated with a delayed adolescent, it isn’t that they don’t want to be an adult, it is that they don’t know how.  It will be tempting to point to their lifestyle and ask them to quickly fix it, but the lifestyle they live that annoys you is merely a weed growing from a deep root. You can change a behavior like you can cut down a weed, but it will always come back until you deal with the actual source of the problem.  Adulthood is a risky endeavor on such a complicated planet.  But with the right tools and sense of self, anyone has the ability to enter into it.