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Guest Blog: Stuck in Normal — On Adulthood, Careers, and Creating a New ‘Normal’

Hello, my dear Adulthooders! We are having guest blogs galore here on Welcome to Adulthood and I couldn’t be happier! I really enjoy hearing insights from other people as they blaze the trail of adulthood. This week’s guest blogger, Randy Crane, talks to us about how to break out of the “working to live” mold to create our own “living to work” lifestyle. Randy took a big risk and changed jobs entirely to find a career path that he felt really utilized his talents and interests. How’d he do it? Find out below.

Guest Blog: Stuck in Normal — On Adulthood, Careers, and Creating a New ‘Normal’

By Randy Crane

What did you want to be when you grow up? Who told you that you couldn’t be?

Maybe no one actually said the words, “Give up. It’ll never happen. You can’t do that.” But somewhere along the way, our dreams got put on the back burner, then the burner got turned off, then they just got put away somewhere. Oh sure, we never meant to give up on our dreams. We’ve always said that we’d come back to it someday…

Welcome to adulthood. Now, give up your dreams. Put the toys away. Forget fun. Forget meaningful work. Just find a job, do your job, hate your job, and live for the weekend. Thank God it’s Friday. Oh God, it’s Monday. It’s just the way things are, right?

Wrong! Somewhere we got the growing up means having to accept work that we hate (or at best, tolerate) and try to squeeze in everything we value and enjoy in whatever time we have left. I don’t believe that’s how we’re supposed to live, or how we have to live.

In his book “Quitter”, Jon Acuff says, “We’re becoming the ‘I’m, but’ generation. When we talk about what we do for a living we inevitably say, ‘I’m a teacher, but I want to be an artist.’ ‘I’m a CPA, but I’d love to start my own business.’ ‘I’m a _____, but I want to be a ______.’”

I’ve been there. I’m still there. But I’m not staying there. Not anymore. And I don’t believe you have to either. I’ve had a traditional job for quite a long time—and it feels longer than it’s really been. I’ve worked in retail. I was a pastor, and that was good, but I learned that what I had been trained for and the reality, were two very different things. I’ve done office jobs; in fact, that’s what I’m doing now. I don’t hate my job, but I certainly don’t love it.

Does that sound familiar? I’m here to tell you that we don’t have to live there. We can find work that is fulfilling, productive, meaningful, and profitable. It may not look like what our parents or grandparents did. It’ll be risky. If you try to do something different something outside the norm, people may not understand. Your friends might make fun of you. Your family may try to talk you out of it. They just want you to be secure, to be safe, to be normal.

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned over the last few years, it’s that guaranteed safety and security in a traditional job is a myth. And do you know what “normal” looks like? Normal is living with credit card debt, student loan payments, a car payment that could be a house payment in some parts of the country, and living paycheck to paycheck. It’s spending a quarter of our lives doing a job just for the sake of getting a paycheck, hoping every day we still have a job,  and trying to squeeze in that which gives us meaning and purpose in between all the rest. In other words, “normal” sucks! So I say that “adulthood” for me means it’s time to be weird! Who’s with me?!

Without intending to sound arrogant, I know I’m capable of so much more than what I have now. I believe God made me with a unique combination of skills, talents, abilities, dreams, and passions—which combine into what I call my purpose. When I live according to my purpose, I live in a way that gives me the most fulfillment and meaning, makes the biggest positive difference in the lives of those around me, and sets me up to really succeed—as I choose to define success, not as society defines it for me.

So, how am I doing it? I started a blog almost 2 years ago, with the goal of turning it into a book within the next 2 years (I’ve got a lot of material to cover). I’m working “on the side” (for now) as an independent travel agent, specializing in helping people create meaningful experiences through travel—anyone can just find cheap tickets and take orders, big deal. And I’m starting my own business as a life and career coach. Put these ventures together with some planning and goal setting and I’m on a 12-18 month path to move out of normal.

How about you? Are you stuck in normal? What’s your “I’m, but”?

***

Thanks for that great guest blog, Randy!

Do you have something to say about adulthood? We want to hear your stories! Email us at welcometoadulthood [at] gmail. com.

Photo by Steve Heath via Flickr.

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Busy

 

[Photo by Jared via Flickr.]

Adulthood is Winning! Handmade Earring Give-Away!

Designs by Corinne

Handmade Jewelry

Give-Away!

One of the great joys of being an adult is being able to hone your craft. Perhaps you play an instrument, you paint, you do photography, or you write. Adulthood is about celebrating the joys of your craft, and sharing your joy with others.

In the spirit of this idea, Welcome to Adulthood is announcing some very exciting news! The lovely and talented Corinne Burnett of DesignsbyCorinne is giving away one pair of her exquisite and fun handmade petal earrings!

I was introduced to Corinne’s work because I saw someone wearing a pair of her earrings. “I loveeeee your earrings!” I gushed. The woman’s earrings were bright yellow and the pop of color was striking and fitting for the perfect California summer day.  The woman graciously put me in touch with Corinne and I am now the proud owner of red earrings and Carolina blue ones. Literally, every single time I have worn these earrings I get at least 2-5 compliments.

What is most exciting about these earrings is that they are all handmade, one little petal at a time, from polymer clay.

My favorite pieces of jewelry are the ones that are handmade. Jewelry designers meticulously craft every detail and every piece is unique. Handmade jewelry is also my favorite because I believe that adulthood is very much about community. To that end, it is important to me to support local artisans, small businesses, and handmade products that I really like.

And I LOVE Corinne’s earrings.

Corinne has graciously agreed to give away one pair of her fabulous earrings to one lucky winner! The best part, you get to pick the color you want!

Here’s how you enter the contest:

1)      Your shipping address must be in the United States. (Sorry, my dear international readers! But you can still buy from Corinne’s Etsy site!)

2)      Visit Corinne’s Etsy page and check out her earrings.

3)      Leave a comment on Welcome to Adulthood about any of the following topics: say something wonderful about Corinne and her jewelry, say something interesting about handmade jewelry in general, or add your thoughts on the topic of Adulthood as Community. (To comment, click the “Read More” button below)

4)      To win, you must enter a valid email address on the comment form.

5)      Limit one entry per person.

6)      Contest ends Monday, September 12, at 12:00 p.m. PST.

7)      Winner will be selected at random using Random.org and will be contacted on  September 13 via email.

Good luck everyone!!

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Craft

 

Handmade rose earrings by Designs by Corinne. Love them!

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Complex

 

[Photo by Shonk via Flickr.]

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Innovative

(photo of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain via Hisgett on Flickr.)

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Exhausting

(image via Dawin Bell on Flickr)

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go : Happy Labor Day!

For most of us, adulthood is about working — 80% of our waking life is spent at work! Therefore, Labor Day is a holiday we really should celebrate and take full advantage of! Hope everyone is living it up, enjoying this day of respite with family and friends.

As for Morgan and I, you won’t hear much of us this weekend. We will be working away on our final preparations for the big move and site revamp!

That’s right, WelcometoAdulthood.com is movin’ on over to WordPress which will give us many more options for organization, creativity, and expansion. Not to mention we will be having a HUGE makeover to the site. I don’t want to give away too many details on our new look, but let me tell you WE ARE LOVING IT. We hope you will too!

Stay tuned for more from us on Tuesday! Until then…

Whistlin’ while I work,
Mara

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, Notionscapital.com via Flickr}

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 (“…to 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.

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