Age as a State of Mind
When do you cease to be a “young adult”?
At the Super Bowl, some of us were having conversations about what constitutes becoming “middle age”. It was mostly folks from my church’s Young Adult group in attendance. My husband and I were on the young end of the age distribution curve, which ranged from 23 to 36, median age was probably about 31 or so. To answer the question of middle age, people tossed potential life events around, things like houses and careers. I was mostly quiet. At 26, you hope you’re pretty far from “middle age,” as least for the sake of your longevity. One fellow, who is 36, said to me, “It’s when you have kids.” I raised my eyebrow and said, “I’m a full decade younger than you.” He replied, “Touche.”
The UUA’s age boundaries for “young adult” are 18-35. It never seemed like an adequate meter to me. The phase of life metric being used above makes more sense: age as a state of mind. The problem with generalizing over chronological years is that it’s a brush painted over a very uneven surface. The paint pools in some places and barely touches others. What does the average 19 year old have in common with the average 34 year old?
I presume the goal was to catch a phase of life which roughly correlates with the ages, perhaps the “Quarter-life Crisis”, or the seeking and uncertainty that comes with transitioning into adulthood and coping with what Erik Erikson calls “Isolation versus Intimacy”. Effectively, you are trying to figure out what you want to do in an with your life, and with whom. This article describes the quarter life crisis in five stages:
“Phase 1 – A feeling of being trapped by your life choices. Feeling as though you are living your life on autopilot.
Phase 2 – A rising sense of “I’ve got to get out” and the feeling that you can change your life.
Phase 3 – Quitting the job or relationship or whatever else is making you feel trapped and embarking on a “time out” period where you try out new experiences to find out who you want to be.
Phase 4 – Rebuilding your life.
Phase 5 – Developing new commitments more attuned to your interests and aspirations.”
I read that and laughed, “Hey, I did that.” You’ll fine me somewhere in step five, with my exit from graduate school, new(ish) job at a non-profit provider of housing to the homeless and the unexpected, if pleasantly surprising, conception of my soon-to-be-born daughter. In any case, you would think that once that existential question is figured out, crisis over, right? Whip out your pen and cross it off the list, you’re done. Sell your angst on Craigslist and pack up the Uhaul: It’s time to move into that new-found certainty.