Monday, August 30, 2010

Notes on Adulthood: August 30

Everyday we learn something. This is how we grow. Here is what I learned this week.
  1. @theficklenickle says "Adulthood is finally coming to understand why you have to clean the house BEFORE the cleaning lady comes."
  2. Just because you love the German restaurant you eat at every week, it doesn't mean you should apply for a job bar tending there... Right?
  3. Wanderlust can sometimes be cured by moving the furniture.
  4. From my husband: If it says dryclean on the label, it's not a suggestion.

by Lorelei92950 via flickr

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guest Blog - Life of an Emerging Adult: An Uneven Slouch Toward Adulthood

Our discussion continues about last week's New York Times article about Twentysomethings as "emerging adults." Our guest blogger, Lukus Williams, provides his witty and insightful take on the ups and downs of unemployment as a recent college grad. Enjoy!

Life of an Emerging Adult: An Uneven Slouch Toward Adulthood

By Lukus Williams

April 15, 2010

Just when it was appearing to turn bleak, I got a response! I’ll be interviewing next week at a large university for an editorial assistant position I applied for nearly a month ago. This is the exact, perfect position for me and words simply cannot describe how psyched I am for this chance. If I get this job I’ll be able to move back to the city I love so much and be closer to all my friends once again – essentially I’ll get my life back, which has been on hold ever since graduation.

April 22, 2010

I aced it! He shoots, he scores! After running the interview through my head, and calling up every friend to get their thoughts… I just know I got the job. My portfolio, my experience, my enthusiasm – they were impressed, I could tell. The definitive way in which they spoke about the nuts and bolts of the job after the questions were through (*when* you start, etc…) is a sure sign I’ll be packing my bags soon. This is finally happening, I’m getting my life back.

April 29, 2010

Received my rejection letter today: no job. They wrote as if I had been the runner up in a competition, that over eighty people had applied and they only interviewed the four most qualified. They were incredibly impressed by me, but in the end decided to choose someone with an advanced degree in the field.

Seriously? What? Not only do I have to beat out over eighty people for a chance to be interviewed based on my cover letter writing skills alone, but now I have to compete for entry-level jobs, that barely pays a living wage in San Diego, with hopefuls who have Master’s degrees? How am I ever going to come out on top in that situation? I need to spend another $20,000 on education so that I can make $30,000 a year?

I thought this was my ticket out of my parents house. I thought this was the start of my life again. I thought I could finally begin doing all the things I’d been dreaming about, all the things my college education would allow me to achieve. Will I ever get out of here?

August 26, 2010

I’m up to five interviews now since my first one back in late April. Each one I do better than the last, and each one I receive an even more heartfelt rejection from my almost-employer:

“We had over 100 applicants, and interviewed five of the most outstanding candidates. You truly had exceptional skills and interviewed well, however we have decided to offer the position to a more experienced candidate, who has accepted.”

The job hunt, the interview process – they are a competition, only there is no prize for second place.

After reading Robin Henig’s piece, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or hurl my laptop across the room.

The author haughtily muses about the advantages and disadvantages of letting us 20-somethings meander into the responsibilities of adulthood, as if there is some committee that decides what a generation should be doing, while I pray that my 1400th job application isn’t just being tossed into the void. If there is some societal authority allowing me to languish in this lifeless existence in the doldrums… I would like to kindly ask him/her/it/them to cut it out and let me move on.

Where Henig sees an awkward moment of exploration and questioning, wondering if maybe we should all be cut off and told to “find something, anything, to put food on the table and get on with [our] lives,” I just thank God/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Your Favorite Deity that my parents don’t just “cut [me] off.”

What would happen if I was kicked to the curb? Easy answer, I’d be homeless at best. Some “tough love” isn’t going to erase a 20% unemployment rate. Henig’s audacity astounds me to no ends; presuming that I and other’s in my age group are futility attempting to hold back the flood of adult life and responsibilities, but the reality of our situation could not be further from her postulating.

The reality is, I don’t date anymore – I have no desire to even entertain the possibility with my life the way it is currently. The longer this goes on, the further and further away I get from meeting her milestones in the most ideal fashion. When I finally get back on track, I’m not going to have some wonderfully advantageous career thanks to my excellent college degree. No, I probably won’t even make enough money to avoid needing roommates and simultaneously pay my student loans back. And owning a house, or even a car is going to be totally beyond my means – exactly the type of scenario I want to start a family in, right?

I don’t need sympathy, but some empathy would definitely be nice. Mostly, I’d really just like to kill this blatantly false idea that every college grad goes off to search for the meaning of life and their purpose in it while becoming a drain on their parents and society.

{Photo credit here goes to Mike Licht, via Flickr}

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Roaring Twentysomethings and Reclaiming Adulthood: A Response to The New York Times

Last week the New York Times published an article entitled “What is it about TwentySomethings?” that has generated frenzied conversation around the web. I have purposefully avoided reading The Slate’s, and the Huffington Post’s, and Salon’s responses to the article until I could really delve into the piece, draw my own conclusions, and bring them to Welcome to Adulthood for discussion[*]. At the end of it all, I want to hear from you. After all, we are a blog about adulthood, so this is a territory we are experts on – whether we are twentysomething or not.

[*]I have said it before, and I will say it again, we are so lucky to have a brain trust of super smart, interesting, and insightful readers who, time and time again, prove just how valuable collective wisdom is. A fellow blogger once told me that the soul of a blog is in its comments, and I really believe that is true. Thanks again for all your infinite wisdom, Adulthooders, and keep those comments coming.

The author of the NY Times piece, Robin Marantz Henig, relies on one main source as she explores her topic, a professor of psychology at Clark University named Jeffrey Jensen Arnett. Arnett’s claim is that twentysomethings represent a new developmental stage that he calls “emerging adulthood.”

According to Arnett, this stage is when twentysomethings are finding their way, either in college or out of college, with a job or without, and he sees this as a time period of self-exploration.

He believes that in the 21st century, where there is less pressure to “become an adult” so quickly (he is equating adulthood as marriage, good job, house, and family, pretty much in that order), twentysomethings are instead using the time to languish in the decade. Many live at home with their parents, many do not have good jobs or a career path, and many engage in serial dating (not a term he uses, but he may as well have) as opposed to getting married.

Henig offers interesting data (or should I say data couched in judgement, see my comments following) to support Arnett’s claims:

The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation.

But the problem with Henig’s rhetoric here is that a loaded sentence frames her data: she likens the 20s to a black box, with “a lot of churning.” A black box reads to me as a mysterious, closed-system only really examined in times of disaster. And "a lot of churning" seems to indicate that within this closed-system is a lot of noise and movement, but not much logic.

At another point in the article Henig writes:

The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un­tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life.

Here she is suggesting that the twentysomethings’ lack of relationship and good job, as well as taking the option of a graduate degree or Teach for America are because they are languishing in not having responsibilities. The word “forestall” suggests to me an active kind of laziness that is premeditated in an effort to put off responsible living.

But it might not be our fault, she intimates.

Henig cites some studies on how the brain is still not fully mature in these twentysomething years, and thus we are not ready to be stable and mature adults. She also talks about how many parents aid and abed the twentysomethings by continuing to support them emotionally and financially while they find their path. So, for twentysomethings it is Nature and Nurture that contribute to their lack of “adult” motivations, at least that’s what Henig seems to suggest.

While she does mention the economy, and that the economic downturn may have something to do with this generation’s challenges, it comes near the conclusion of the article as an afterthought:

Of course, the recession complicates things, and even if every 20-something were ready to skip the “emerging” moratorium and act like a grown-up, there wouldn’t necessarily be jobs for them all. So we’re caught in a weird moment, unsure whether to allow young people to keep exploring and questioning or to cut them off and tell them just to find something, anything, to put food on the table and get on with their lives.

In the end, Henig endorses Arnett’s call for a “middle road” that lets twentysomethings “meander” but which ultimately makes them better and more successful real adults (I say real, because that seems to be what they are implying with this “emerging adulthood” business.) If this is true, she says, “then Arnett’s vision of an insightful, sensitive, thoughtful, content, well-honed, self-actualizing crop of grown-ups would indeed be something worth waiting for.”

One problem I have with the article is that the tone seems snarky. Her use of loaded words and phrases like some of the ones I have already pointed out, as well as some I didn’t point out but should have (“ cut them off and tell them to just find something, anything…”), makes it read like an accusation rather than an expository article. If an author comes off too judgemental, she is bound to expect some criticism. And maybe it's because I am 29 and feel defensive. Or maybe it is because I blog about adulthood and feel there is real value in learning lessons all throughout your life, not just in your twenties. Either way, I think her tone didn’t do much for her credibility and ethos.

As far as the actual argument, I think there is a lot of truth to the idea that the twentysomething years are a lot more complicated than they used to be. In fact, it is something we have even blogged about before on WelcometoAdulthood.

What Henig's article lacks is a bigger-picture contextual analysis of the changing and challenging road that twentysomethings have faced since probably the 1960s. She also does not take into consideration the complex racial and gender politics that existed historically (and still do in many ways) that severly limited opportunity for many twentysomethings.

Recently on Adulthood, we learned from our discussion comments on feminism and the modern housewife that the feminist movement allowed women to make choices. It opened up opportunities and dialogue for women, and slowly but surely affected change unto the workforce and into the domestic realm. Women today can choose their path, and don’t have to run off at 18 years old and get married and start a family if they don’t want to.

I take issue with the term “emerging adult” because it insinuates that during this twentysomething period our decisions are uninformed and immature. To make a choice to find a career path before starting a family is, in my view, more of a self-actualized adult then the under-employed, unskilled 18 year old who gets married and starts a family. (And here is my disclaimer: not that being 18 and having a family is a bad thing, but these days I think it probably is a lot harder.)

And this isn’t just about women. Men too have more choices without the pressure to "settle down" and start a family and bring home the paycheck every week. Men and women alike are choosing to go back to graduate school not just “for lack of better options” (though the economy does really suck, and grad school isn’t a bad decision when the alternative means sitting around doing nothing in between your entry level retail job at The Gap) but because we will be more competive in the workforce, and thus have more choices with a graduate degree. And putting in the hard work and financial investment into college and graduate school is a very adult decision because it insures there will be choices.

And choices=security. And secure adults hopefully means secure families one day. And if that takes me ten years to work towards, I am entering my thirties a wiser person.

Instead of framing it like Henig does, “Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?” (she actually does write that) we need to celebrate our twentysomething years. I contend that twentysomethings are not “emerging adults” but should be more appropriately labeled “evolving adults.” The lessons learned during the twenties are lessons that previous generations of adults never had the CHOICE to learn.

Being given the option to learn these lessons on our own timeline, in the long run probably will make us more evolved adults then the generations that preceded us.

And though I’m destined to be one of those “forstalling” twentysomethings that doesn’t have kids until well into their 30s, I’ll proudly pass down the same sense of wonder, mixed with my decade-of-twentysomething-wisdom, to my kids and applaud them all along the way, just like my mom did for me.

29 years old and I have almost made it through the 20s: but not without my share of college drop-out semesters, 3 different colleges, many waitressing jobs, 3 different boyfriends, 3 times moving home with mom, 5 different cities of residence, 16 different apartments, and a head-first jump into grad school. I am the archetypal twentysomething. I turned out ok.

Adulthooders, what about you? Do you agree with Henig’s assessment of the lazy twentysomething crowd? How have you/did you survive in your twenties? Any and all thoughts on this subject are welcomed in the comments!

-Mara “Those Darn Kids Are So Noisy” Stringfield

Photo via Flickr by Dpstyles.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Inspiring

Photo of Salvation Mountain by Morgan

Monday, August 23, 2010

Notes on Adulthood: August 23

Everyday we learn something. This is how we grow. Here is what I learned this week.
  1. In adulthood, people you love will move away sometimes. Unless they are going to join a team of researchers on Antarctica, you can probably keep in touch if you care about them.
  2. Everyone thinks their family is "crazy."
  3. Fifteen pounds of barbecue is a lot of barbecue.
  4. And from my husband: Time won't make itself.
Irrelevant photo of two giraffes in love by me.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Never Being Able to Avoid "6th Grade Soccer Hair"

No matter how old you are, you still have those days where it looks like you played an entire soccer game and scored the winning goal with a header.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Forever's lasting impact

I heard this book review on NPR last month and it was the kind of thing that made me sit in the car after I parked so I could hear the end.

Courtney Sullivan talks about the effect Judy Blume's Forever had on her as a teenage girl and as an adult. She says that when she first picked up Forever, she had no idea it would have such a lasting impact on her feminism and her identity.

Do you have a book that you read as a young adult that you think helped shape you into who you are today? Let us know in the comments.

photo of Forever cover, via

Monday, August 16, 2010

Notes on Adulthood: August 16

Every day we learn lessons, and that is how we keep growing. This week's lessons includes what I have learned, as well as contributions from Twitter buddies. Collective wisdom, my friends, collective wisdom.

1) Treat others as you would like to be treated. A golden rule easily forgotten.

2) A random woman (who clearly was very wise) told me this week, "The decolletage ages quickly, so always wear high SPF sunscreen daily." Duly noted.

3) @erinava said "I learned that if I want to jog, I have to wake up at 5 a.m. just to squeeze it in!"

4) @antheajk said "Do #not buy #MythofMaturity, #Borderlinedribble." Then, "This is the *worst* book by #TeriApter. Read #RevivingOphelia instead."

5) After a trip to Stone Brewery in San Diego, I learned that Mikkeller Imperial Stout, a Norwegian beer made from the droppings of civet cats, is actually pretty delicious.

What did you learn this week? Share your notes in the comments!



{Picture I took at Stone Brewery of the 14th Anniversary Stone IPA and the Mikkeller Imperial Stout.}

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Family Dinners

I moved in with my husband a little over two years ago when we came to San Diego. One of my favorite things about living together has always been... dinner.

Cooking dinner was special in the very beginning because we lived with his sister-in-law and we rarely had the chance (or more likely a reason) to cook for just the two of us. When we did, everything from grocery shopping to cleaning up after eating was like part of a date and we made it fun.

We moved into our own place after a few months and grocery shopping and washing dishes became less and less exciting but we still love cooking and eating. My favorite thing though, is something we started doing last December after he came home from deployment: Sunday night dinners at the local German restaurant.

That's right. Every Sunday. German food and dark beer. Best thing ever.

It's been 9 months now so the waitresses know us by name and because I am so boring they know what I am going to order. It's the best two hours of the week. We catch up on anything we haven't gotten to talk about and just have a big relaxing meal that we don't have to clean up. We have a tradition.

One day, our little family will be a party of three or four instead of just the two of us so I'm really enjoying these miniature family dinners and all this German food.

What about you? What family traditions have you started around dinner and food?


Photo by avlxyz via flikr

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Transitions: The Continuing Education of Adulthood

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.”
-Isaac Asimov

Adulthood is about contending with transitions.

Granted, childhood is about transitions too, but there is something about being an adult that makes transitions seem pretty…complex. It is not just about things like your parents moving across the country and having to start a new life, change schools, make new friends, and it is not just about being a child dealing with divorcing parents. While I have dealt with all of those transitions, and they were much harder than most of the little transitions I deal with periodically in my adult life, as an adult I am responsible for more than just myself -- and that makes the transitions of adulthood much more complicated than the those of my youth.

As an adult I responsible for my family, my relationship, my pets, my rent payment, my student loan payments, the upkeep of my savings, my health and wellness (including feeding myself and exercising), my career choices, the work I produce at my job, paying tuition, my graduate coursework, and getting up every morning (even though I am exhausted most of the time) to do it all again while trying to remain a positive and upbeat person.

So, when it comes time for a transition, I feel the responsibilities I have precariously (but mostly comfortably) balanced for so many years become unstable. Transition can mean uncertainty, and as an adult, uncertainty is scary and exhilarating all at once.

I try to think that the fates have lead me on a certain path so that I can learn as many lessons as possible and continue to evolve as a person. In the midst of the hardest transitions, this is what I try to remember, and then no matter what the outcome, I am content in the fact that I'm still learning.

What about you Adulthooders? What are some of your thoughts on transitions? How have you learned to cope/deal/handle/celebrate transitions? Do the transitions ever get easier?

For more dialogue about transitions, check out this oldie-but-goodie guest post by The Fickle Nickle’s Nicole Carpenter: All I Need to Know, I Learned in Pre-School

Keep thinking, keep trying, keep learning,


{Photo courtesy of the wonderfully talented Pete Tomaszek. Contact me for more info on his photography.}

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Complicated

(photo by me!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Notes On Adulthood: August 09

Every day we learn something....Making most of these lessons is how we keep growing....

1. The things that give me the most road rage when I am driving, can be the things that make me laugh the most when I am the passenger. I especially like when people blatantly cut a car off and look so serious and sleepy when they are doing it.

2. This week I took a look at my priorities and realized I don't do that enough. Look at what you are spending the most time and energy on in your life and make sure that you want it that way.

3. Don't rely on cell phone cameras for anything important.

And from my husband..

4. Make sure you already have your belt and watch off when you go through the security line at the airport.

What did you learn this week?


Photo by bradleygee via flickr

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Guest Blog: Rated "R" Movies and the Quest for Adulthood

"To me, in my 13 year-old brain, seeing this movie is what being a grown-up meant."

Rated "R" Movies and the Quest for Adulthood

By Lukus Williams

The A.V. Club is where the cool, smarmy kids (like me!) go to read insightful ruminations on entertainment media of all types. After scrutinizing the latest review of a movie or album with the acuity of my liberal arts education, I often race to the comments section to see what other like minded readers have gleaned from a reviewer’s unabashed praise of a movie like “Inception” or the total smackdown of “The Last Airbender.”

Like any other blog, large or small, the life is in the comments section – which is the inspiration for the A.V. Club’s AVQ&A series, where staff and readers discuss pop-culture question of high substance.

This week’s AVQ&A just so happened to invade Welcome To Adulthood territory:

I was 10 or 11 when the Atom Egoyan movie Exotica came out, and I remember being really intrigued by it. It seemed, in my mind, to be this sophisticated, adult movie—the kind of thing real grow-ups watched instead of action films and romantic comedies. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to watch it. Are there any similar cultural items which represented “adulthood” to you as a child? And did you ever check them out? If so, how did they play to your expectations? I eventually rented Exotica as a 19-year-old, and found it kind of boring. –Kristen

At various stages of my youth, there were always different movies that appeared as a marker of adulthood to me.

When I was in the first grade, the lady who babysat me had a son in fifth grade named Ryan. Ryan liked to regale me of his tales of being a fifth grader, how he got to play on the cooler side of the playground, and of course how freaking awesome Terminator 2: Judgment Day was. My mom, of course, wasn’t going to ever let me watch it. I did everything I could to see the movie, I even worked to make enough to buy a ticket for me and my dad to both go, but still I was denied.

It wasn’t until I was 11 years old that I was able to see the film, and you know what? Ryan was totally right, it is freaking awesome. Best Terminator movie still, to date – and Ryan was right on his second point, the movie was totally cooler than RoboCop ever was.

Not wanting a repeat of this Terminator fiasco, I longed for a clever plan to see Starship Troopers two years later. Mark, a 14 year-old god amongst the rest of my 12-13 year-old group of friends had managed to see the R-rated movie without a parent, and told us we needed to see it. Following his advice, we went to a matinee on a weekday where the old man who sells tickets barely cared enough to take our money, let alone check how old we were.

To me, in my 13 year-old brain, seeing this movie is what being a grown-up meant. The main characters were cool, they cussed, they shot giant bugs in outer space and oh… there were boobs. Thanks to a shower scene and a sex scene, my teenage mind was forever changed!

Looking back, Starship Troopers is a terrible movie. It’s a very poor adaptation of its source material. The entire thing is simply bad, even for a pulpy sci-fi flick. And while I’d like to believe I’ve totally outgrown the idea that seeing dudes blowing up aliens is a sign of adulthood and manliness… at the very least, it would be a lie to say that Dina Meyer’s breasts weren’t burned into my psyche, and who knows what damage that has wrought?

What about the rest of you adulthooders?

What movies or TV shows were the forbidden fruit of your youth, and did they stand the test of time?

(Photo via Dietrichthrall)