Almost, Not Quite

All my friends are confused.

We keep changing our majors. We do not know what to do with those majors. We are looking for jobs, not so much for saving or for growth, but because we need the money, and we need it now. We oversleep and we never sleep. We look for love but can not find it, and when we do, we wonder if we even want it at all. We can not commit to too many things, and we fear the future.

We are nice people, though.

In recent years, our nation—our world, really—has been seeing something we have not seen in generations before us: we are reluctant to become adults. We waddle, indifferent and confused, between adolescence and adulthood. We pick sides; when college starts, we claim to be adults, spending money left and right on overpriced brunch and cheap alcohol, getting fake IDs to get ourselves into tasteless parties. But when the holidays come around, we fly back to the nest and ask our mothers to do the laundry and dishes. We go to the mall and let them purchase our clothes. We get hugged and kissed and patted on the back.

When confronted with the question of whether we are adults, we have no real answer. “Sometimes.” “Sort of.” “I’m trying to be.”

Whether we want to be adults? The question is no easier to ponder.

It was not like that for our parents. Our parents walked straight into adulthood: a career, marriage, having children. At the time, that was expected of them, and the steps were clear. Get an education. Get a job. Get a husband, get a wife, and get some children.

Nowadays, the options for millennials are far more diverse. Go to school, or enter the workforce early. Go find your spouse, but no rush; actually, marriage is not all that necessary. Go have kids, or don’t, because they cost a lot of money and they are a pain to take care of, and you come first.

Decision-making is hard, especially when the decisions you are being asked to make will have considerable, long-term effects on your life. The mind boggles at that these kinds of questions asked of me, and that have been asked of me, for the past several years, and that after all this time I am unable to provide all of the answers. I almost wish that I had my options laid out for me in a step-by-step guide, so I would not have to do the picking, or worse, be held responsible for the outcomes.

This awkward transitional period my friends and I have found ourselves in is called “emerging adulthood,” and it has been the subject of much discussion and research. There are things we know. For instance, creating a family no longer seems to be a requirement for being an adult. People are marrying later. More young people are staying in school for longer, and it is hard to get employed in today’s economy. There are more options now, and less rules like the ones there used to be.

Research is one thing, but it can not help us millennials choose to navigate through the chaos. It does not give us the right answers because there are none. There is no problem to be fixed. There is nothing wrong with being confused and having trouble in a confusing, troubling society. The answers may not be clear, but the process of becoming an adult is one worth observing, thinking about, and cherishing, even in all its uncertainty.