There's something different about being in your 20s in this millennial age that is garnering closer acknowledgment by casual observers and social scientists alike. Floating from job to job, staying unemployed to pursue whimsy "projects", living with 7 roommates in a 3 bedroom apartment for years: There is no denying that being a "20-something" today means something much different than what it meant to our parents' generation.
The New York Times ran a story about this last week, entitled What Is It About Twentysomethings? which discusses the changed nature and quality of this decade.
This week, the reader comments have been published in the print edition, all of them validating the exploratory phenomenon of what it means to be in one's 20s today. Surprisingly, few of the published comments are negative, as I had anticipated they would be. Largely absent is the curmudgeonly tone to the effect of, "grow up, get a job, stop mooching" within the comments, most of whom are from older adults. On the contrary, most of the reader comments seem to come from people who speak to the utility of having a "figuring it out" decade, as opposed to jumping into marriage, career, home ownership and other responsibilities the moment the tassel on the mortarboard turns to the left.
With how long people live these days, it makes sense to have a socially accepted post-adolescence / pre-adulthood period devoted to simply figuring things out. Life is long, and ever changing; the economic and social stability enjoyed by our grandparents is no longer a guarantee, nor is it necessarily desired. Our lives are much more complex and varied, affording us changing incarnations of their different stages -- perpetual reinvention.
I wish that more instructors, college counsellors, and mentors had lectured about using one's 20s in this way. Rather, it seems to be a self-created phenomenon, invented by our generation as we went along, rather than through permission from our elders.
While still in the latter half of my 20s myself, I finally feel like I'm figuring out my path and getting on track. It took a lot of mistakes and wandering (sometimes aimlessly) to get here. The advice I'd give to those a few (or more) years my junior who aren't sure of their next destination, would sound something like this: Make like a shark and keep moving. You need not commit yourself to one thing, but keep doing the things that interest you. Pursue your interests with abandon and vigor. Try all of the things that intrigue you. Exclude fear as an option. No matter what, stay busy and keep moving. You'll eventually find yourself exactly where you're supposed to be.