The Changing Culture of Adulthood: Why 30 is the new 25. :)

If you are about to turn 30…congratulations…you can technically still enjoy your 20s!

And if you are approaching your “over the hill” 40th birthday, don’t retire your sneakers and jeans just yet.  You still have some time.

You’ve been hearing it for a while:  your thirties are the new twenties…40s are the new thirties, and so on…giving everyone roughly about an extra five to ten years of relative social youth.

The fact is, due to many socio/political factors a new culture of young adulthood has emerged.  Gender roles and the state of gender equity have significantly evolved, the emergence of a global economy has put strain on our American economy, and Boomer / Gen X parents have taken to  a slightly different, more empathetic parenting strategy that allows their kids to feel comfortable relying on them and staying “close” for just a little while longer.

All in all, this has lead to a shift in life-stage evolution for youth.  It used to be that you evolved pretty quickly from dependence to “sowing your oats” (if you were a guy) to settling down into adult responsibilities that combined job, family, maintaining a home, etc.

These days, there are three distinct life-stages of youth that extend well into the 30’s…leaving full-on adulthood until almost close to “mid-life” (depending on how hard you are living, of course).

First:  there is an extended-dependence  life-stage that has emerged as a young-adult reality:  from legal 18 until often mid twenties or later, young people who have to go back to school or can’t find the right job are either staying at home longer or relying on their empathetic parents to help support them financially until they can get on their feet.  This is the extended adolescence you keep hearing about:  young adults can eschew the burden of being a grown-up for just a little while longer, giving them license to enjoy the trappings of youth and play that they might not have gotten to enjoy in thier over-scheduled and overly therapeutic childhood

Second:  There is an extended-autonomy lifestage:  whereby once young people finally are out on their own, supporting themselves, they are also mostly throwing themselves into their very demanding jobs.  And consequently, as compensation for working hard they are playing harder and longer.  Enjoying a social life and being independent and single.  This goes for the girls as well as the boys since there are more female college graduates than males these days and everyone realizes they can go-it on their own and have good time. And they are spending their time and money (again) enjoying those youthful treasures they didn’t have the money or time for as kids…especially since they realize that the work-force isn’t going to give them a trophy just for playing or cater to their self esteem needs.  This means young adults are staying single just a little longer, often into their mid thirties or later.

Third:  there is the “wind-down” stage of youth where by young adults  finally start settling in: co-habitating, buying houses and starting families. Flash back to as late as the sixties and seventies and this phenomenon was largely happening in one’s 20’s.  Today, all of those trappings of adulthood and responsibility have gotten pushed back until everyone is satisfied that they have explored and found themselves  (which also staves off and changes the nature of the mid-life crisis) as well as proven that they can sustain a living.  This means most young adults don’t really start settling down until they are into their thirties.

So, to my dear “young” friend Bill who is celebrating his 30th birthday today, I say don’t mourn the loss of your youth just yet.  While you are a little more ahead-of-the-curve than most of your generation, you still have the culturally-approved right to enjoy  your youth for a little while longer.  Consider your early thirties your new mid-twenties and don’t sweat the hair loss.  You are young and vibrant and, despite being slightly accident prone, have some immortality left in you yet.  Enjoy the day and enjoy your 30’s!  I can tell you from experience they are the best years yet.  Happy Birthday, Bill.

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Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Emerging Workforce, Generation Y, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Changing Culture of Adulthood: Why 30 is the new 25. :)

  1. Bill

    Haha, my dear, the hair has been being lost to a razor since I was 17, the accidents are a result of combining mountain bikes and large cliffs, and the immortality…well, I read that as immorality and can only smile & nod. 🙂

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