We all live for something. Some purpose statement hides beneath all our desires and decisions, whether we know it or not. We do everything we do out of love — for something or someone. The question is whether that purpose (or person) is worth all the time, money, and energy we’re spending. Freedom and independence may be the purpose of choice among twentysomethings today. Clinical psychologist Meg Jay who focuses on young adults writes, “By the new millennium, only about half of twentysomethings were married by age thirty and even fewer had children, making the twenties a time of newfound freedom. . . . The twenties were now disposable years lubricated by disposable income” The Defining Decade).
The twenties have become this new kind of “paradise” in between childhood and real adulthood, when you can party hard, experiment with new things, and spend lots of money without feeling the consequences. We postpone becoming adults, or at least the responsibilities that come with being an adult, in order to enjoy a decade of gratification without boundaries and autonomy without expectations — a second, more sophisticated round of playschool before “real life” begins.
Jay shows that while twentysomethings are living it up, everyone else is wishing they were in their twenties. Teenagers are acting like they are twenty-one, and more mature adults are dressing and getting surgery to look twenty-nine, again. The “freebie years,” as she calls them, seem to be what life is all about, the height and pinnacle of human existence.
The Quarter-Life Crisis
After years of counseling twentysomethings — the new kings and queens of our society — Jay finds most of them aimlessly wandering and wanting. She writes (and she is not a Christian), “The postmillennial midlife crisis is figuring out that while we were busy making sure we didn’t miss out on anything, we were setting ourselves up to miss out on some of the most important things of all” — it’s the new paradise lost.