image by sarah mccoy photo

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wandering Inwardly

If you’re under 30, you might be caught up in it.  If you’re under 25, almost definitely.  There’s even a term for it: emerging adulthood.

Popping up in articles and blogs, this term refers to the putting off of settling, committing, and generally being a grown-up.  We go back to school over and over (or just never leave in the first place), we take our time moving out of Mom and Dad’s and try on a new career or path or partner in search of the mythical perfect fit.  We are always looking for ourselves.

Of course this phenomenon is cousin to that of entitlement complex, and we can blame some of it on the Me culture I love to rant about.  It’s the lie that parents have recently been preaching to kids, and kids to themselves, of attainable (and even soon-attainable) perfection.  So a perfect marriage is something to seek, not to make.  The perfect time for kids is awaited, not created.  And so on.

We seek not actual growth (which is painful work) but to tailor a world to our specifications.

“Emerging Adulthood” is euphemistic.  It sounds like a celebration of immaturity.  So I propose that “lagging adulthood” more aptly describes this ever-lengthening phase of life.

The Biblical treatment of youth entertains no such nonsense.  In Ecclesiastes, having established the pointlessness of everything outside of our ultimate purpose, the writer exhorts the young in particular not to lose time, to waste their lives.  Paul encourages Timothy to be bold and decisive in leadership despite his youth.

I think there is only one solution, and it is to be found in Thomas the Train movies.  On the imaginary Island of Sodor, the worst sin imaginable is to “cause confusion and delay.”  Conversely, the ultimate goal is to be a “really useful engine.”  Notably, the usefulness is not defined in terms of self-fulfillment, but in terms of the larger operation and community.  And what happy little engines they are.

As a cure for lagging adulthood, apathy, lethargy, or entitlement, we won't go wrong embracing the Sodor notion of industry and broader purpose.  These are the real tools that turn a career, a relationship, a life, into a success.

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