Innovating to Engage Adulthood, #IMMOOC Week 1

When I started blogging five years ago, I began by exploring the concept of “Emerging Adulthood” and tossed around terms like “the boomerang generation” and “Peter Pan syndrome”. I was looking at my peers — college graduates — who weren’t reaching recognized markers of adulthood until their 30’s, and it scared me. I explored a lot of reasons behind this phenomenon. I graduated college in 2008, so financial difficulties and lack of opportunity certainly played a hand, but the trend had already started before the economic struggle hit. I saw lack of initiative, a culture of complacency, too much focus on “following dreams” and not enough realistic pursuits of paying the bills, good jobs requiring higher levels of advanced degrees, and so on.

I saw a lot of problems before I’d ever heard “innovation” as an educational buzzword. I saw a system that focused more on identity explorations than it did on skill development. I saw grades failing to represent ability, and the grades mattered more than the skills. I saw intelligent, capable men and women moving back in with mom and dad while they tried to figure out what they wanted to do after they graduated, and I couldn’t help but wonder… What had they been doing during college if they still didn’t know?  Continue reading

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It’s Not Just Me

I had a chance to catch up with a high school friend yesterday. What started as a few random texts and an accidental butt-dial turned into an hour-long conversation catching up on major life events and commiserating about the challenges of adult life. At one point she commented on how nice it was that, even though we haven’t talked in years, we could still be on the same page and vent about similar topics.  The mark of a true friendship, right?

(For instance, here’s one complaint we had in common: Unless she brings up the topic first, please don’t ever ask a married-but-childless woman if/when she’s planning on having kids. While the question seems innocent enough, the answer is often far too private and intimate for casual conversation.  It opens the door to personal, financial, and medical issues – all of which are emotionally charged topics.  After fielding that question for seven years myself, I more than understand my friend’s frustrations.  Dear world, unless we broach the topic first, please stop putting us through those awkward conversations!  OK, sidebar rant complete.)

After we finished comparing stories of uncomfortable conversations about family plans, the topic shifted to the working world. Keep reading!

Failure and Flexibility in Intentional Young Adulthood

A friend recently sent me a book recommendation with the comment that she thought of me when she read it because she knew I had “a passion for intentional adulthood.”  I don’t think I’ve ever used that exact term before, but it is a good description.  Growing up doesn’t just happen.  Careers, education, and success don’t accidentally appear in someone’s life – at some point people need to act, choose, and pursue the kind of lives they want.  Those words all imply intentionality.  Yes, opportunities come unexpectedly, and new interests surprise us sometimes, but only if we’re out living life instead of sitting back waiting for it to happen.

Passive education doesn’t even look realistic. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

For students, this means engaging in active learning and taking personal responsibility in their education and maturation.  For adults, this means pursuing a goal with purpose.  We can and should be intentional in our careers, communities, and families.  Make the decision to achieve something, and then take the steps necessary to make it happen.

However, the problem with intentional living is that we can’t do it in a vacuum.  We live among other people, and what they do impacts our lives, too.  What happens when life isn’t all smooth sailing?   Keep reading!

Learning Responsibility, Part 2: Finances

English: An origami flower made of multiple te...

It doesn’t grow on trees, folks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I went to college, people understood my study habits, but many of my new friends couldn’t relate to my budgeting habits.  I was often amused by a certain friend’s reaction when I said I didn’t want to buy something because I didn’t want to spend the money.  “Why not?!” he’d ask, slightly incredulous.  “I know you can afford it!”  Yeah, I had money in my checking account, but only because I didn’t constantly spend it on needless things!  I wasn’t a miser or a Scrooge.  I’d go out bowling with friends and to the occasional movie, but I was careful and rarely made frivolous purchases.  Later I watched that same friend bury himself in credit card debt far too early in life, and I’m so thankful for the responsibility my parents taught me in my childhood.

Keep reading to learn how I learned about money!

They Grow Up So Fast! …or do they?

Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old

My new read! (Image credit: bn.com)

I’ve been reading again, this time following the suggestion of one of my blog readers.  She mentioned a book entitled Escaping the Endless Adolescence by Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen, and I couldn’t ignore the similarities of the title to my blog name.  Obviously, I had to read it.  I checked out a copy from my digital library account, and I’m about halfway through it now.  I reached the transition point in the book, so I decided it’s a good time to stop and write a blog post about it.

You see, the first half of the book lays out the problem, the idea of the “Endless Adolescence,” and the second half will present the potential solutions.  Written by clinical psychologists who specialize in working with adolescents, this book’s target audience are the adults who work with teens (parents, teachers, etc.), but it emphatically takes the side of the teenager.   Continue reading

The Question Marks of Life

Despite the fact that I normally like to mull over my posts for a few days before I publish them, this post isn’t getting that treatment.  There isn’t time.   In 48 hours I should know where I’m living next year.  In 48 hours, for good or for bad, the anticipation will be over and a giant question mark will be removed from my life.   And it’s the anticipation that I want to write about.  The venturing into the unknown, the bend in the road, the moments right before the moments that direct the course of our lives.

We’ve all felt it.  In high school it was waiting for the drama director to post the cast list for the spring play.  It was the waiting for SAT scores and college acceptance letters.  It was the road trip to a university halfway across the country and the moment right before meeting new roommates.  It was the intense emotions in the weeks leading up to our wedding and marriage.  It was standing in my first classroom, looking over the yet-to-be-filled desks.  It is jumping every time the phone rings during a drawn-out job hunt.

It’s the intense heartbeat and the conscious effort to breathe normally, wondering how your life will change.  It’s watching first a calendar and then a clock, but not being sure if you want time to speed up or slow down.   Continue reading

Why We Need to Explore Teenage Talents

As I keep reading StrengthsFinder 2.0 and work through the assessment, I find myself once again pondering the ideas of Emerging Adulthood and identity explorations in teens.  I went back and reread Jeffrey Jensen Arnett’s chapter on “The Road Through College,” and I think this is where I have my biggest problem with the whole concept of emerging adulthood as a good thing.  Here’s how Arnett describes the American system of higher education.

“College in the United States is for finding out what you want to do.  Typically at four-year colleges, you have two years before you have to make a definite decision and declare a major.  During those two years you can try out a variety of different possibilities by taking classes in areas you think you might want to major in.  And even after you declare a major, you can always change your mind — and many emerging adults do.

“Their college meanderings are part of their identity explorations.  In taking various classes and trying various potential college majors, they are trying to answer the question ‘What kind of job would really fit me best, given my abilities and interests?'” (118).

See, I have a problem with that.   Continue reading

Why I Can’t Write a Letter to Me

I’ve always liked the blog posts in which authors write letters to their past selves. I like the glimpses of life experience, the nostalgia, and the lessons learned.  And I really enjoy Brad Paisley’s musical version of the same idea.  In fact, that song has inspired more than one writing prompt given to my students, and every time it comes on the radio it makes me think about my high school experience.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a minute to listen to the song so the rest of my post will make sense (and also because Brad Paisley is just plain awesome).  Enjoy.

Continue reading

Nobody Cares About My Grades

I’m going to brag a little bit here.  I was a good student.  I mean, really good.  In high school I was that annoying kid who blew the curve and cried over a B+ on my report card.  I was valedictorian of my high school class, and later I graduated college summa cum laude with a 3.92 GPA.  And I will always be proud of those accomplishments.

But I’m about to say something that might get me in trouble with some teachers or parents.  I just ask that you hear me out and read all the way to the end of the post.  Because I have a point.  I really do.  And I think it’s a good one.  So here goes…

You know what life has taught me?

No one cares about my grades.  Seriously.  Now that I’m no longer a student, those letters and numbers on my transcripts mean very little.  With the exception of landing my first teaching job – where I had no prior experience to draw from – people don’t care about my grades now that I’m a professional adult.  When I go into job interviews, they don’t ask me about my GPA.  They ask me about my skills and abilities.  What will I be able to do for them?  What I will I provide?  What need will I fill?  Will I be a good teacher and a good match for their school environment?  Because in the end, that’s what matters – they care about what I can do. Continue reading

Adulthood Defined

Holy 24 hours, Batman!  Since my post yesterday, I’ve received three different phone calls and multiple e-mails and facebook responses, in addition to the comments posted here.  I ask you all to bear with me, as this whole “blogging about a potentially controversial issue” thing is new to me, and definitely a learning process!  The responses to my last post have run a wide range from full support to complete disagreement, and everything in between.  It’s interesting see all the different perspectives that different people bring to this topic from their own life experiences.  I sincerely appreciate all the interest people have taken in what I have to say.

I think I should have been more careful about what I’m not saying, though.  I’m not saying that to be considered an adult, all the pieces of your life must fall completely into place by age (fill in the blank).  I took longer than four years to graduate college.  I’ve worked seven jobs in three states in the last four years, and my husband and I are far from being settled.  We both are experiencing career shifts that require spending time in grad school, and he’s much further along in that process than I am!  I have dear friends that are single and still live with their parents for very valid reasons, and I know that they are responsible adults.  Adulthood has become less of a list of outside requirements and has more to do the individual’s maturity and sense of responsibility. Continue reading