How millennials are navigating the waters of adulthood

Jared Talavera

Yosemite National Park -Luke Pamer
Photo Credit: – Luke Pamer via Unsplash

For people who have lived through or are currently in their twenties would know that this can be a turbulent, but rewarding decade. A decade filled with investing into our values, interests, relationships, aspirations and exploring what this world has to offer us with child-like wonder.

Alice-Azania Jarvis, a journalist at Evening Standard (ES) Magazine in London, was in her final year of her twenties when she decided to leave her job at a national newspaper for, what she said as, “I have no idea.”

When she emailed a friend the news, her friend replied with “Wow! Are you having a quarter-life crisis?” Alice’s honesty was sweet but relatable to most twenty-somethings: “I’d come to realise that I had no idea what I actually wanted to do when I grew up.”

She wrote about how what she was feeling and experiencing was common amongst twenty-somethings in an article called Are you having a quarter-life crisis?

After reading her article, I thought I would do some reflecting.

I opened my high school yearbooks for the first time in years.

These books were treasure chests for memories. The words, the photos – fossilised onto glossy sheets of paper. Each page painted a world before I could even verbalise the words “I am an adult.”

Held in the crevice in one of my yearbooks was a lustreless palm-sized envelope. Hidden within was a Christmas card that glistened vibrant hues of blue and green. Opening the card revealed that the author was none other than my high school English teacher. Inside the card she wrote:

Dear Jared,

I have LOVED watching you open up and blossom this year. Your work is extraordinary. It’s been wonderful to hear your ideas and opinions more and more!

Let the world see and hear more of that wonderful brain.

Merry Christmas.

Mrs I

After all these years, I still adore her words and I want every bit of them to be imbrued into my adult life. I hunger to look beyond my uncertainties while appreciating where I am now. The challenging part of being a Generation Y kid is imagining the people we can be.

Generation Y kids, also known as millennials, are people born between 1980 and 2000. We have been thought of by society as too attached to our technology. As a result, they say we don’t place value on human connection.

However, the truth is that our hearts pour with love and our minds with acuity for others.

Samantha (Sam) Futerman, a Korean-American actor, was born in Busan, South Korea but was adopted by an American family in Los Angeles. One particular day she received a Facebook message from a girl named Anaïs Bordier. She said she saw Sam in a KevJumba video. Anaïs was amazed by how much a girl living in America not only looked like her, but also shared the exact same date of birth as her.

Anaïs was also born in South Korea but was adopted by a couple in France. As an adult she moved to London to study fashion design.

Sam and Anaïs felt their relationship grew closer and closer the more they conversed with each other online. They longed to see each other in person.

“You can come here!! My graduation fashion show is in May. We could trick everyone at my school,” Anaïs said mischievously.

Sam grew up with two brothers whilst Anaïs had no siblings. Her French mother would ask her friends if they could play with her, but she didn’t feel like playing with them. Being adopted made her question whether her biological parents loved her. When she found Sam she secured a sister who showed her how much she deserved to be loved.

You can watch the story of how Sam and Anaïs found each other in the documentary Twinsters. It is available for download on iTunes and streaming on Netflix.

Sam and Anaïs’ connection has reminded me of the priceless love and value our families have in our lives.

The essence of time has made me understand that my parents are human too.

As I grow older, so do they. Sure, they make mistakes but they continuously do their best. After all, parenting did not come with instruction manuals. When I was going through high school I was already concerned about the “what ifs.”

There were always the impending “what ifs.”

What if you don’t make enough money?
What if the economy crashes?
What if I pitched that crazy idea?
What if I asked that girl out?
What if I turned down that job and did this crazy project?

However, my parents’ were greater than the “what ifs.” They have been the roadmaps that have guided me towards adulthood.

Philip Wang, filmmaker for Wong Fu Productions, also explored the challenges of growing up in his blog Wong Fu Phil. I came across an article he wrote entitled My Parents, Are Human.’

“I mean, for so long, they were the ones that sacrificed and took care of us. Poked and prodded to know how we were and how we felt…and now the tables are turning. We have to learn to care for them, to be worried about them” – Philip Wang.

The relationships we form with people are like galaxies.

Earth is an enormous place that we call home, but out there in the vastness of space there is so much that humans have yet to understand. What we do know is that our universe is continuously expanding. Stephen Hawking, British astrophysicist, has said that “distant galaxies are moving away from us. This meant they must have been closer together in the past.”

I believe that life takes people in different directions.

Now in my twenties, I have seen friends exchange vows, birth families of their own and unfold their professional careers.

Particular friendship became transient and fleeting. There have been people that came into my life that I enjoyed being with, but due to distance and time, our life journeys diverged down separate roads. However, I am grateful that I crossed paths with incredible people and I had the opportunity to experience something wonderful while it lasted.

I still want everything to be miraculous. I still want everything to have the excitement of feeling new again.

Dan Gilbert, an American social psychologist, has stated that “just because we cannot predict who we will be, we mistakenly think we will remain as the people we are now.” There is more personal growth between the ages 20 and 30 than any other proceeding decade.

We need to carve new paths for ourselves to discover who we are and what we value.

Caroline Calloway, a 23-year old from New York, described herself as being “wildly unpopular in middle school.” Her lack of friends drove her to enjoy reading. Caroline felt “chronically lonely.” She could only fall asleep to Harry Potter audiobooks because she found the “illusion of company comforting.” 

She applied to all of the Ivy League schools, but was rejected from all of them. However, she was accepted into New York University (NYU), but with less than a year into her studies Caroline felt NYU was not for her. That was when she decided to apply to Cambridge University to study art history.

She was accepted and began documenting her new life in England on Instagram. The photos look like something out of a fairy tale narrated with beautiful prose. More and more people began following her on the photo sharing platform. She wrote about everything from the excitement of being in a new country to the romance she developed.

Her followers began telling her how much they could relate to her stories and began sharing events from their personal lives with her too.

Caroline gained the attention of an agent who is helping her turn her stories on Instagram into a book. She hopes to have her book published in 2016.

The one constant in life is change.

Life is not a race or a competition. Have the confidence to re-invent yourself. You are more than just a collection of cells and atoms. You are a human being with hopes and dreams for the future.

The brain is unfinished during early adulthood. “This is the best thing that ever happened to humans” said Dr. Jay Giedd, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health. His research suggests that the prefrontal cortex is the last brain region to mature. It is responsible for executive functions – planning, prioritising and controlling impulses. Thus, twenty-somethings have time to adapt to their changing environment.

A person’s twenties are a time when the brain has a second and last growth spurt (the first one occurring just after birth – see article). Whatever it is you want to change about yourself, your twenties are the time to do so. You need to forget about having an identity crisis and do things that add value to your identity (e.g. taking a dance class). Make investments into the person you want to be. Changes, no matter how big or small, can have a dramatic impact on the rest of your life.

The brain of twenty-somethings rewire themselves to prepare for adulthood. The choices you make in your twenties can define your life. Your twenties are a time for lots of change with 80% of life defining moments occurring before age 35. What you do during your twenties can have a transformational impact on your work, relationships, happiness and possibly even the world.

Dr. Jeffrey Arnett is a psychology professor at Clark University. His recommendation for parents is to “relax and not panic because your 21-year old or 26-year old doesn’t know what he or she is going to do. Almost nobody has that problem at 40 or 50. We all figure it out eventually.”



Leave a comment below and let me know…

What was your experience like becoming an adult?
What advice would you give to other teenagers and young adults who are trying to find their way in life?


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