Around here, there’s a lot of pressure on young people to attend a college that looks good on a back window decal, join the best greek clubs, maintain a good GPA, score the best summer internships, do a semester abroad, finish in four years, and then go onto the other rites of adulthood — employment, apartment, marriage. Don’t get me wrong, all that is FABULOUS. Many of my favorite young people have hit those milestones effortlessly and are super happy. Others, not so much.
While it might feel like there is only one path to a fabulous life, that’s actually not the case. Most people need a little more time to check off items from the adulthood checklist; others find entirely different routes towards adulthood. There’s no one right way to do get there, and there are no deadlines. After all, it’s not a race to adulthood.
15 thoughts on “It’s Not a Race: There’s no adulthood deadline”
I was very 4-years-or-die as a college student, and I look back and wonder, whyyyy?
Granted, you don’t really want your kid to take 6 or 7 years to get a BA, but there might genuinely be stuff that they can do in college that they won’t be able to do afterwards in terms of internships, etc.
We have an unusually good situation in terms of college costs (free tuition and the possibility of living at home), so we have told our kids that if it takes 5 years, it takes 5 years.
Some of my kids’ former K-12 classmates have taken more than 4 years to complete a degree due to internship requirements for engineering degrees. And of course Covid has thrown everything out of order. I’ve heard of lots of college students taking semesters or years off during the pandemic, as they did not feel the remote education nor the “experience” was worth the time and money. The social isolation has been devastating for many people.
I’ve also learned over time that some of the people who seem the most successful and happy might not be, in private. You can never tell from the outside.
However, I do think “kids” should become “adults.” For example, it’s a bad omen when the wedding shower is Disney-princess themed (ask me how I know…)
Yes Cranberry, my best friend from college is married to a highly successful lawyer who works insane hours. He’s totaled more than one car from dozing off while driving and she ended up being a SAHM purely out of necessity due to his hours. In her case it’s a bad fit. She’s not happy but externally they look successful.
Had a friend-of-a-friend who went down the whole high-profile lawyer route.
Did law at uni (prestigious, and pleased his parents), graduated into a high-profile law firm (smart guy and knew the ‘right’ people), and started on the rat race (gotta put in the hours, pull the high profile clients, in order to get a partnership). Got married in his late 20s and had kids – and then had all the private school bills, etc., as well as a mortgage.
Only problem. He actually didn’t like law. I think the intellectual side was fine – but he just didn’t like the practice (or the stress). He was good (maybe even great) at what he did – but was deeply unhappy.
Very sadly, ended up committing suicide.
In retrospect, there was more going on than just not liking his job. But a self-perception of ‘doing the right thing’, of being a ‘pleaser’ – first to his parents, then to his wife and colleagues – just added to his mental issues until he saw no other way out.
Really, he’d never grown past the kid who saw getting an ‘A’ in his classes was the best way to gain the love of his parents.
That’s a huge problem around here. High flier who don’t enjoy the high flying. I kinda hope that by talking about my less-than-perfect family, I can normalize “normal.”
Normalizing is very important.
Also, though, I assume that there is no perfection, even in those families that mostly project “perfection”. Some may be camouflaging, others might just not feel comfortable sharing on public forums, but perfection is just not a thing.
I worry a lot about the people pleasers, especially the high achieving ones. Suicide is the most extreme outcome, and, I am sure, is combined with mental illness, but, the number of high achieving athletes I’ve seen break (both in our world, and in the wider public world) is scary.
My parents stressed because I was 30 before I got into a “real” career job. But I enjoyed my 20s and I was self supporting and even saved enough to do a month backpacking in Europe in 1991 (plane tickets were cheap perhaps due to the Gulf war). Sometimes I wish I’d pursued money earlier but we have enough. Plus I have to remind myself that I wouldn’t have done some of the things I did if I’d been career focused sooner.
I do feel bad for young people dealing with higher housing costs these days.
I’m getting my Hon. BA in October at 51 years old, so hey, it’s never too late.
My spotty history was – dropped out of school A with 3 courses to go, kind of fallout from a campus rape in my first year/childhood abuse PTSD (which the rape also set off). I transferred those credits towards a bilingual degree at School B (the one I will get) but got married and dropped out a second time with 2 courses to go, intending to go back but then we bought a house, I got a full-time job and never really looked back.
I haven’t missed having a degree but when everything went online with Covid I did a UX/UI certificate at a different university and it was so positive I called up School B and found out I just had to pay a library fine to continue taking classes & finish up….so I did. The best part has been academic library access. 🙂
Yay! That’s awesome!!
“The best part has been academic library access”
I miss that a lot, though for now, I can still lean on my kids (of course, I could also always contact people, but don’t want to).
I’m currently annoyed at the Annenberg Institute at Brown (which writes on education) and sociologists who write in paywalled journals (and complain that people don’t pay attention to them because economists don’t cite them — the social capital project at the opportunity institute, which was published without a paywall). I understand the issue, of who pays for the journal, but, publishing behind paywalls will mean that your work can’t be widely as read (though economists at harvard can’t use that as an excuse not to cite, since they can access it).
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bj wrote, “I’m currently annoyed at the Annenberg Institute at Brown (which writes on education) and sociologists who write in paywalled journals (and complain that people don’t pay attention to them because economists don’t cite them — the social capital project at the opportunity institute, which was published without a paywall). I understand the issue, of who pays for the journal, but, publishing behind paywalls will mean that your work can’t be widely as read (though economists at harvard can’t use that as an excuse not to cite, since they can access it).”
When a tweet misrepresents an article and everybody saw the tweet but nobody read the paywalled article.
I think there ought to be a twitter death penalty for that particular behavior from high-follower accounts.
Love stories of people who didn’t necessarily take a direct path but got where they wanted to go anyway (and liked the path they traveled). Congrats on making the degree!
Jenn said, “I haven’t missed having a degree but when everything went online with Covid I did a UX/UI certificate at a different university and it was so positive I called up School B and found out I just had to pay a library fine to continue taking classes & finish up….so I did.”
I won financially because the fine was $36 in 1995 and I paid $36 in 2021 dollars. 🙂
Jenn wrote, “I won financially because the fine was $36 in 1995 and I paid $36 in 2021 dollars. 🙂”
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