Literature

Not Quite Adults

Not Quite Adults
Not Quite Adults
Not Quite Adults gets to the heart of how and why the course to adulthood has become so complicated, what these changes mean for families and for our country, and what we should do about it. | Photo: Richard Settersten | Not Quite Adults, Literature, Book, Richard Settersten,

A book review for the rest of us (slackers)

Amidst the quickly changing life landscape of the first and second decades of the twenty-first century, worries have abounded concerning those who've recently become, or are recently becoming, adults. Various monikers have been used for the concerned generation: Generation Y; Millennials; Generation Next; the terms aren't rigorous, and in general refer to those who're currently ages fourteen to thirty ' those who've been affected in some fundamental way by the rapid rise of technology, and primarily among them, the Internet. Such worries have been, for example, that the current generation is too focused on instant gratification, that they're too coddled, that they didn't grow up with the pragmatic fundamentals necessary to run the country or themselves, or that they're simply too afraid to grow up and remain with their parents late into their twenties and thirties. In an effort to dismiss these worries and frustrations, Richard Settersten, Jr. and Barbara Ray ' respectively, of Oregon State University and the founder of Hired Pen (an editing service aimed at research books) ' wrote Not Quite Adults, a book that attempts to address these issues for the older generations of parents, grandparents, and the curious. Also it makes us confused, tattoo endowed, bearded, vintage clothed, gender neutral, Tom's wearing, Tumblr creating, triple soy latte drinking, locavore eating, or otherwise young people, feel better.

The primary source for the book comes from a ten year study into the matter by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood and Public Policy, a foundation that collaborated with professors and researchers who essentially collected statistics and then went on to interview Millennials to ask how they felt about all this.

During the interviews they found that nearly all of these twenty-something year olds were not simply lazy and had no future plans, but were, in general, holding back and taking cautious steps due to an unstable, house-bubble-busted, bank-swindler, recession-era future. Many Millenials were postponing a college education until they knew what they wanted to pick as a career due to the enormous amount of choices; due to rapid shifts in technology and business models, choosing a specific degree is precarious because they quickly become outmoded. A few decades ago one had to take a slew of college level courses to learn how to properly build and manage computer hardware, but now any high-schooler can build a computer within an hour. Some started life too early ' having a child at sixteen, not graduating from high school, being pressured into a career field not properly acquainted with ' and were looking to cautiously get back on their feet using their parents as guardians once more.

The authors concur with the Millennial's decision, commenting "Expecting young people to be 'adult' by age eighteen or twenty-one, or even twenty-five, is no longer feasible, or even desirable". They say "desirable" mainly due to the changing ideas of two things: business models and marriage. Business in America is changing; the blue-collar sector is rapidly diminishing due to outsourcing and mechanization; jobs that once paid well and provided benefits and pensions now pay near minimum wage and have much less benefits. The white-collar jobs which do pay well are rapidly becoming more complex as business and technology advances, and so rushing into such complexity would lead to failure. The only job market that's increased has been the service sector, and there're only a small few that desire to stake their lives on such things as the career of a barista. So, with blue-collar, apprenticeship jobs dwindling and paying near minimum wage, and white-collar jobs growing in complexity, the authors advise to take one's time before plunging into this tumultuous world.

Marriage also is suggested as being better if delayed. They found that those who delayed marriage into their late twenties were, on average, happier and less likely to divorce. The authors say that it's a wiser decision due to the fragility of the contemporary economy: one might need a masters or doctorate degree to succeed in their field and to take more time focusing on job progression than in previous decades, and having children without financial stability is obviously an unwanted hardship. Even the act of marriage without children has become difficult: often times jobs demand relocation into other counties or states, extended trips to other countries, and the like. Job opportunities can open up on the other side of the country, and in the dwindling job market today many find it necessary to move where the job is, no matter how far away. Unless a couple is lucky enough for their separate jobs to relocate them to the exact same town, they'll be forced into the nearly definite breaking strain of a long-distance relationship.

A great deal of the book is taken up by focusing on relating what kids these days are really about to the older generations who are flabbergasted. The authors take the time to explain what's up: the mental shift from life being work to work being a conduit for living; the change of social structure from real life interaction to online social skills; the newer ways in which Millennials are getting involved politically (like website blackouts); the desire to have their parents as friends as well; and more. Naturally, most of these changes center around the Internet. Social networking sites keep friends in touch and introduce new ones, online donations are often used, and political controversy is simply transplanted from the streets to the comment boards on government affiliated websites. Information is always a second away thanks to smartphones, and the ability to keep in touch with others has drastically increased.

The authors often comment on the amount of media attention that is given to this generation, and at the end of the book ponder: "What do American parents and the public really want for young people?" They attempt a provisional answer: "At the end of the day, maybe what we really want is to be assured that young people will ultimately make it on their own ' for their own welfare and that of our families and nation."

Not Quite Adults is a book that supports the decisions of Millennials in a sea of cultural disapproval and scold the media and the public by saying, simply, that the world is changing, the new generation must change with it, and that's always an utterly confusing thing to do. As an utterly confused twenty-something, I'll like that on facebook.

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Updated May 6, 2017 5:59 AM EDT | More details

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