The Push for Prolonged Adolescence

I’ve told you before how I used to buy into pop culture’s hatred of old people. By old people, I don’t necessarily mean grandmas and grandpas (πŸ’• I love my grandma and grandpa! πŸ’•), but I do mean older generations, who are often times portrayed as shallow conservative traditionalists with not much to add to the world. Well, upon discovering that 1800s literature is actually pretty ✨ lit ✨ , I have come to rethink some modern concepts. One such modern concept is the idea of prolonged adolescence.

Sailor Moon being a prolonged adolescent. AKA all of us.

As a 20-something woman on the internet, I have a guilty pleasure for consuming a lot of women-centric online publications. There’s an expectations that I keep well informed with the latest that these magazines have to offer; both in terms of political discussion and lifestyle advice (although often times, one is really the other). One overarching soundbite narrative that’s spewed left and right is the idea that your 20s are for finding yourself. As I approach the end of my 20s, I’m still left at a loss for what this really is supposed to mean. I thought 🎈 life 🎈 was about finding yourself. In fact, scratch that. I thought life was about serving others? I mean, really, since when did we become so self-absorbed?

This soundbite is part of a larger trend to delay adolescence. Once ending at 19, the current consensus is that adolescence now extends to 24 years, and perhaps even beyond. Under the umbrella of “finding one’s self”, I find that we are encouraged to forgive adolescent behavior in adulthood and postpone responsibility. Go out and party; don’t settle for that partner; move around; be wild and free. While any and all those things can be great, none of them are also a sure-fire way to necessarily “find yourself”.

One of my favorite books growing up was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights is a 1800s gothic romance novel about Catherine and Heathcliff that explores a lot of dark, adult themes. I recently read up on Emily Bronte’s life, to see what inspired her to write in the first place, and was shocked to find that she died at age 30. This means, she wrote a gripping novel and was a full-fledged adult in her 20s. What the heck did I do in my 20s besides “find myself”? πŸ˜₯

At 27, I am very much well into my prolonged adolescence. I write this post to my readers, but I write it also to myself. For the longest time, I felt a need to cling onto an artificial easy-goingness, because doing the opposite, would mean coming off as too serious for society. Maybe, however, it’s time we collectively decided to grow up.

I often look at issues I want to make my mind up on, through a lens of “who benefits from what”. Right-leaning people would say delaying adulthood is to the benefit of big government, which wants to control you; left-leaning people would say it’s really to the benefit of evil capitalists, who want to exploit you and sell you things. I’ll say there’s truth to both, and that delayed adolescence benefits no one, and especially not us. πŸ‘Ό

But who is to blame? Surely, it can’t be the media’s fault alone. I think it’s a mixture of everything: media; parenting; comforts of the modern world.

Today, dear reader, I invite you and myself to embrace growing up and growing old with our heads held high, and let go of our modern obsession with “staying young” and coming off as “carefree”. I, for one, have always taken issue with people being late, but have always hesitated to say something out of fear of coming off too disagreeable. Let’s start demanding and encouraging responsibility from one another. Because – to end this post on a soundbite – I think that is how we really find ourselves.