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What’s the deal with 20-somethings?

August 24, 2010

There’s a looong article in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine on lots of new research into what it means to be 20-something. The article surveys work by sociologists, developmental psychologists and neuro-scientists all seeking to prove that we should view the 20’s of a person’s life in much the same way we view adolescence or early childhood–as a crucial and distinct developmental epoch in an individual’s life. The point being that it might be unreasonable for us to expect those in their 20’s to be full-on adults.

My response is sure, okay, that sounds about right. I for one didn’t start acting/living/feeling like an adult till I was pretty close to 30–though I was married and we were paying our own bills and so forth. And certainly, my sense of being called to go to church in the first place and then to get baptized while in my late 20’s was connected with a dawning awareness that it was time to really grow UP.

But all this stuff about categorizing the 20’s as a developmentally specific part of (child) development seems kind of condescending. You know: it’s like saying, “Oh, you’re so passionate and concerned about finding meaning in life because you’re 25 and going through a phase,” pat, pat, etc. After all, 20-somethings throughout the centuries have contributed some of the most meaningful art and thought and technological breakthroughs the world has ever known. So I hope we can recognize all that makes one’s 20’s distinctive without subsequently putting down 20-somethings as “less than” adults.

And as members of a church community, I think we’re called by Jesus to discover all that we can learn from one another, no matter our age or stage. And just like little kids and adolescents, 20-somethings can teach the world a great deal precisely because they are going through such a particular time in their lives. If the rest of us will simply listen.

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