20 & 30 somethings are struggling to be considered independent adults, and are ending up feeling isolated instead, but why?
Here in America, we are raised to grow up, get out, and “do it yourself”. There is a push from early adolescence, to be self sufficient and to pull your own weight. In most cases, it is a mark of shame to still live with your parents after college, and you feel like a failure if you, God-forbid, ever have to ask mom or dad for help.
There has become this expectation that teens will graduate high school, go directly to college, get a degree, land a great job and immediately start paying all of their own bills, for their own car, and a roof over their head. Not only is that a lot of pressure, its an unprecedented amount of pressure.
College is more expensive than ever, and the price rises every semester! Student loans are nearly unavoidable for most students. In addition to all of this, the cost of living is sky rocketing, while pay increases are minimal if they increase at all. For most of the country’s population, and especially those just starting out in life, what we are expected to pay out/back is exponentially higher than what we bring in. The truth is, life and currency just doesn’t look like they did when our parents were starting out.
See this wasn’t always “the norm”, and in many countries it still isn’t. There are still many societies that still rely heavily on multi-generational homes. The young help the old, and vise-versa. Villages raise children, and children are expected to remain in the family home to help with the aging parents and grandparents, and the younger children. Life in general is a family, if not a community effort. When difficulties arise, the family unit faces any threat together, as a team.
Even in societies where entire family units don’t live together under one roof, there is support, and training for young adults to learn the various skills needed to succeed in life. In some countries, higher education is provided at least in part, to all citizens. Other countries have mandatory stints in their country’s service to train young adults how to be effective and disciplined citizens. Different countries tend to their youth differently.
America’s Obsession With Independence
We have this unhealthy obsession with independence. The thing is, though it may have started with good intentions, it has had a lot of negative effects.
These days, there is hardly any transition from adolescence to adulthood, it is almost expected to be an overnight shift. Our culture is busy one. The sad thing is, many young adults were brought up by parents who were too busy to actually teach/train them how to be an adult. Young adults are filled with shame and guilt when they have to ask for help, but they were never taught how to live to begin with!
As parents rely on public schools to teach their children, and schools expect parents to actually parent, there are a lot of gaps being left in adolescent education. There are too many things they don’t have time to teach in public schools, so parents are left to teach the “common sense” part of adulthood, which sadly is becoming more and more uncommon.
The result is a lot of 20 and 30 somethings who are too ashamed to ask for help, and who are struggling alone. They don’t want to be seen as failures, so they keep up the brave face of having it all together, meanwhile they are buried in credit card debt, and struggling with depression. Since many of their friends are doing the same (not talking about it, because they have to keep up pretenses), many feel isolated and alone, like they are the only ones who can’t seem to make it on their own, while others make it look so easy. They aren’t just “independent”, they are isolated.
In an age where half of our lives are lived online, social media has a huge impact on the way we see ourselves. How many friends do we have? How many followers? When everyone is posting pictures, and statuses of the highlights of their lives, and only advertising their successes, people are left comparing their worst days to everyone else’s best. No wonder many feel like they are treading water as hard as they can and are barely able to keep their heads above the water, while others are swimming laps around them.
Make a Change
In many other cultures, from Europe, to South America, to parts of Asia and Africa, this isn’t what is expected of young adults just starting out. Many cultures who are poorer than the US, according to studies, are significantly happier. What are those other cultures doing differently? How can we raise our country’s children to be smart, self sufficient adults, who aren’t isolated and depressed? What is to be gained from having a society of adults who are actually mature, and not faking it until they make it?
See, if we taught our society’s members to function properly, and supported them along they way, we would have a people who learned to worked together instead of standing alone. We would be a people who talked about issues, and practiced problem-solving, instead of problem-masking. We would be proud of our accomplishments instead of ashamed of our short comings.
The Hard Truth
Sadly, this would take a huge culture shift. It would take parents stepping up and doing their job instead of relying on schools who aren’t life givers. Schools are there to teach basic academic knowledge. It isn’t the school’s responsibility to shape your child into an adult.
See, as a parent, if you don’t, something or someone else will shape your child. If you shove your kid out the door unprepared, then just as water cuts out rock, they will be washed over, and shaped into whatever circumstance and chance would make them.
Young adults all over our country are struggling to get by one day at a time, taking their best guess on how to do life, and trying to learn everything on their own. They are suffering in silence, like they were told to.
Many of us will continue comparing ourselves to everyone else’s projected best. We will feel like failures. Some will accept defeat and settle for a paycheck to paycheck life of stress and anxiety. Some will keep fighting, they will make all the mistakes, and learn from them and fight on, ignoring criticism, and comparisons. The lucky ones, who had parents who did their job as parents, will get ahead a lot faster and avoid making a lot of the mistakes the rest of us will have to learn from.
Where do YOU fit in
If you are a 20 or 30 something, like me, we don’t have to do this alone. We all struggle. You’re not the only one barely scrapping by, trying to figure all of this out! Find a mentor, and ask for help, even if it isn’t mom or dad.
You want to know how to be successful? Find someone who is and ask how they did it! Don’t keep repeating your same mistakes, learn from them. But especially don’t continue comparing yourself to your friends or anyone else who’s life appears better off than yours. Chances are, they feel the same way when they get on facebook.
If you’re a parent: TEACH YOUR KID HOW TO BE AN ADULT ONE DAY!!!! Teach them about taxes and health insurance. Teach them about tags and titles, and car insurance. Teach them about credit cards, and mortgages. Teach them how to BUDGET! Teach them how to shop for deals, use coupons, and save up for things they want.
Teach them how to interact with people. Teach them how to treat other’s and how to have healthy relationships! Teach them how to work! Teach them how to be a good person!
Teach your child how to be mature by training them how to think for themselves and use their brain!
The thing is, it starts on an individual level in how we decide to move forward from here. How we decide to take charge of our adulthood, how we decide to show up as parents, how we decide to grow and improve, how we decide to support and encourage others…
It all starts with you.