Are 20 Somethings Waiting To Grow Up

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

I need you to go and read this article. Like right now, or maybe later today. But seriously you need to read this article from the New York Times about 20 Somethings.

Click Here To Read

Here is what I am hearing people say about 20 Somethings…

They are taking longer to grow up

And in some ways I cannot argue this, but in many ways I want to argue this with anyone and everyone.

There are a couple of key quotes that I pulled from this post. I will list them out and then would love for you to react.

  • The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there.
  • The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un­tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life.
  • Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once.
  • (describing 20 somethings) identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities.
  • Young people spend their lives lumped into age-related clusters — that’s the basis of K-12 schooling — but as they move through their 20s, they diverge.
  • Arnett says that young men and women are more self-focused than at any other time of life, less certain about the future and yet also more optimistic, no matter what their economic background.
  • what Arnett heard most often was ambivalence — beginning with his finding that 60 percent of his subjects told him they felt like both grown-ups and not-quite-grown-ups.

Are there any quotes that you pulled from this article?
What are your reactions to some of the things listed above?

Let us discuss


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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Brian Notess

    I definitely have friends that fit this model. Mostly they went back to grad school at some point (and are still there now).

    Somehow I ended up jumping right in, getting a job, getting married, getting a house and having two kids before I turned 28. Had I not met my wife in college I imagine my life would have been very different.

    I see that as a tipping point in most of my friends’ lives. Marriage seems to be one of the first, irreversible steps towards adulthood. Maybe that’s why so many 20 somethings avoid it.

    By the way, I think being 27 I still qualify as a “20 something” ;-)

    • Kyle Reed

      oh course, 27 is the new 22 or something like that.

  • brennan loveless

    So what do you want to argue from the article?

    • Kyle Reed

      mainly that it is taking longer for us to grow up.

      I think in some ways it is the system that is forcing up to take longer to grow up

      • brennan loveless

        explain? What is the system and what is it doing to make us take longer to grow up ?

        • Kyle Reed

          Everything is the system. Parents, school, church, media, etc…It just seems that we are allowed to wait to grow up. Myself included on that.

          In some ways we are promoted to take our time, go to college, take internships, and then make some important decisions later in life.

          But most importantly there is no one calling us up, no one calling up to take a hold of our lives and start leading. And when I say no one, I mean that very figuratively. You can obviously point to different situations for different people. But I am talking about an overall picture. And that comes back to the mentoring of gen y and x. It seems that is the system that is failing us

          • brennan loveless

            i don’t that system is the right word. i think it’s better to state that the culture that we (by we i generally mean US) have created has allowed it to be okay. I agree with what the article said though cause I’ve seen it with most of my friends. I also think though that there hasn’t been motivation on our part (gen x and y) to actually grow up. I don’t think it clearly rests on everything around us. People can choose to respond differently than others that grew up in the same system. Of course, like any of us, i speak from the personal experiences/stories that i have, and my older brother is prime example of that. I went down a completely different path and didn’t expect anyone to tell me that it was time to grow up.

            • Kyle Reed

              interesting. I think you are correct in asserting that each individual is different. There is something that is inside of you that pushes you forward, just like there is something inside of anyone else that pushes us forward. In some ways it is our job to respond to that and actually do it.

              That is why I think people will argue with me. Because I often put the blame on others and not on 20 somethings. And in a lot of ways it is 20 somethings fault. We can be lazy and unmotivated. I just wonder if that is a fault of our own or something that we learned from a very young age?

              • brennan loveless

                haha, i think now you’re getting into a little nature vs. nuture argument, which is great, it’s a good discussion to have:)

                • Kyle Reed

                  indeed. But in some ways I think it does come back to the system stuff. Because you see some members of families growing up while others are greatly struggling. It is very interesting stuff

  • Jason Vana

    I think a lot of it has to do with the economy and the way 20-somethings see older generations complaining about things they never got to do. When you grow up hearing older people say they wish they had done this, or gone and visited that place, but never got around to it because of family or job obligations, it definitely makes you want to do some of that stuff in your 20’s before you settle down with a family and career.

    But I think the economy plays a HUGE role in this. I know a lot of people in their 20’s who either can’t find jobs that they can actually live on, or had a job like that and were laid off – so they are moving back home, going back to school and delaying growing up because they can’t make a living. I’m 30 and I would probably be moving back home to live with my parents if there was room for me. I haven’t been able to find a job in over 2 years – just working part time making under $800 a month. Thankfully I have a house mate and do some graphic design work on the side, but if it weren’t for my mom helping to pay some of my bills, I would have lost my house months ago.

    How can you “grow up” when you can’t even find a job you can live on?

    • Graham

      I totally agree with you on both counts. There are a lot of things I want to do in life, while I can still physically do them, and of course now seems like the right time. I am getting married next year and I don’t see that as something that will tie me down. My fiancee wants to do all that stuff too. If anything we will put off having kids a few years so we can go and enjoy “life” together.

      The economy of course plays a huge role in this too. Where I live it is really expensive to live. We have been looking at other parts of the country where we could live a little larger than we do now on our same budget. And that’s depressing… because I really love the Chicagoland area. There are many days where we look at each other and say something like “we should really be able to afford this/that but we can’t.” It’s ridiculous…

    • Kyle Reed

      interesting. And I think that does play a huge part.

      I just wonder where the system started breaking down? Like when did not having a bachelor degree not be good enough? Or when did employers start treating employees like numbers and not people?

      I just wonder if this will ever change or we will continue to delay “adulthood”

      • Brad Blackman

        I think the economy started breaking down when the dotcom bubble burst. I’ve been living in the shadow of that since 2001, when I got out of college and started looking for a job. My career has lurched back and forth (more back than forth, it seems) so I finally went out on my own. I’m not encountering any huge financial success just yet, but it’s so rewarding to spend the mornings with my 2-year old daughter on my lap watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

  • Graham

    I’ve sometimes felt like I fit into this description. I lived at home until I was 25 and did not find my future wife until 25 either. So in that sense… I’ve kinda felt not-grown-up until the past year. However I have held an adult job and turned it into a career since I was 18. I’ve been making decent money since I was 22 and was able to hold a full-time job and take full-time college classes at the same time. I graduated college in 2008 and have been financially on my own ever since.

    This is an interesting article Kyle. If anything it’s kind-of a wake up call/kick in the rear for those of us that still have parts or all of us that feel this way. Of course I’m still as optimistic as ever and I really do believe that one day I will do very well. Doing what? I haven’t figured it out yet… but I know I’m getting closer every day.

    • Kyle Reed

      it is a kick in the pants.

      it was tough to read but very important

  • Erin

    “no one knows yet what the impact will be — on the prospects of the young men and women; on the parents on whom so many of them depend; on society, built on the expectation of an orderly progression in which kids finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids who finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and on and on.”
    Perhaps this is an incorrect expectation. Maybe instead of spending ourselves silly in our “glory days” we should be living beneath our means so that we don’t need to live “on pensions supported by the next crop of kids”. Just a thought.
    But, I do agree with this article that as a general rule, 20-somethings are taking longer to find themselves. Then again, maybe that’s the problem. I’m not convinced one can actually “find themselves”. We are always growing and changing so wouldn’t it stand to reason that if we are chasing ourselves we won’t ever actually catch ourselves?
    I think the economy has a lot to do with it too. I couldn’t find a job after college so I had to move home…or make my home an overpass. i picked the parents’ house. I did eventually get a job. One I’m overqualified for. And now, having been here 3 years, I’m underqualified to switch back over to a field I want to be in. Hmmmm….

    • Kyle Reed

      I totally agree erin, there is a problem with over extending ourselves and committing to things that are way beyond us. We have a problem with the word no.

      And I love that thought, I hope we never catch up to what we are running after.

  • Jenny

    I love how he words “a sense of possibilities” as a poetic characteristic. That’s totally me!

    Are we taking longer to grow up? Or are we just growing up differently. I think we are just growing up differently. I think we are a generation that won’t have the midlife crisis like our fathers and mothers did, that won’t have such a high divorce rate… we are often waiting and finding ourselves before having kids. The next generation will be stronger because of it.

    Or at least that’s my hope. I think its scary to be a 20-something today. As i look at my sister (who is 7 years older than me) and how she seemed so much more grown up at 21-22 than i am. She was engaged, living with my brother in law, and was going to grad school while working a good job.

    I’m no where close to that. I have never actually been in a long term relationship. My mom pays my rent. Am i taking longer to grow up? No. I refuse to think that. (well sometimes i do) But, honestly I am just growing up different. Im able to do big things at 21, and have the opportunities to be a gypsy for awhile to maybe change the world.

    We are just growing up differently, not slowly.

    • Kyle Reed

      here is the thing thought Jenny, and I struggle with this as well because for a long time my parents paid my rent by letting me live in their basement. If you are doing great things then what is wrong with all that you just said?

      In some ways it is important to take responsibility for what we are doing. but in other ways I know from conversation with you that you are serving home churches, the needy, and going to school. You are a nanny that gives way beyond what is required and you are caring. So from an outsiders perspective it looks like you are a typical 20 something, but in fact you are not.

      • Jenny

        thank you that means a lot coming from you :)

        But, honestly… i feel bad sometimes for my mom paying my rent and then i remember it gets cut of when i graduate and that i pay almost everything else. The only purpose of her paying my rent is so that i don’t have to work as hard, and can graduate college on time.

        I honestly think if parents are willing to aide their children so that they can be more successful in the future, then its fine as long as there is a set cut off date. But i’ve seen parents coddle and baby their children during college and after graduation and those kids hurt the most and i challenge that they aren’t the ones “growing up differently.”

        • Kyle Reed

          it starts way before college. It starts at birth. There has to be a process of growing kids up to launch out on their own

    • Brad Blackman

      Something I just thought of: people are starting to live longer. A lot longer. (I think the insurance people predicted I’ll live to be at least 90, which is probably pretty indicative of our generation, or maybe even longer.) And I think as such we may be stretching things out a little bit, subconsciously. Sure, when you’re 21 you think you’re immortal, we all do. But that could be a very real possibility: we know we’re going to live longer so there’s not as much of a rush to grow up. Our great-great-grandmothers married at 17 and that was normal, 150-odd years ago. I was 29 when I got married. (3.5 years later I have caught up though with my 2nd house and 2 kids.) I guess it remains to be seen if this is a phenomenon isolated to this decade (roughly 2002-2012??) or if it’s a new trend or something we have been unaware of until now?

      Thanks for the discussion.

      • Kyle Reed

        that is true. I know though I am on a rush to grow up to get to married life to kids to everything. So in some ways you are right on a whole, but I feel like I am in the minority on the whole marriage thing

        • Brad Blackman

          Well I didn’t meet my wife until I was 26, and I had been engaged before, so don’t rush it. :)

  • Stephen Lynch

    Here are some things I pulled :

    Is emerging adulthood a period of self-discovery or a term for self-indulgence?

    Many view their parents as the bridge to gap (between leaving the house and becoming financially stable)

    There has to be a way to remove the scary out of “growing up”. The person who can put the right spin on that will be the proud owner of the next million dollar idea.

    The response to responsibility should be excitement and energy, not cowardice and complaining.

    • Kyle Reed

      I agree, we have to remove that fear. It goes to just taking a leap

  • Caleb Gordon

    Driscoll had a great article on it, you can read it here:

    love this quote:
    “We are left with indefinite adolescence and a Peter Pan Syndrome epidemic where men want to remain boys forever.”

    • Kyle Reed


      Check out this post from my friend Katie Strandlund

      And thanks for the drischoll stuff, will be checking that out shortly.

      • Caleb Gordon

        So…what did you think?

        • Kyle Reed

          just read it. thanks for sharing that. Love the title of it

  • shellie (baylormum)

    Wow. I have been thinking on this topic for 2 days now. Have so many memories in my head of my time in that transition stage between college & 1st job. And 1st apartment. I loved the post by Katie that you gave a link to. It reminded me of the post you did some time back on why guys your age are still called boys. Then read the post Caleb put up on Mark Driscoll’s take on this same subject.
    Yesterday, my daughter’s housemate (both 20-somethings) wrote on a book she has just started titled “The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence” by Stephen Altrogge. Her post is here:
    She has some great comments on what she has read so far. It really made me think! Such wisdom for a 20-something. You are making that transition as well. Moving out of the basement & taking a risk by moving to Nashville. Ever searching for that contentment that Altrogge describes. Being ok with, not only who you are, but,learning to accept God’s will. No matter what.
    In recovery I finally found contentment for the first time since I was a 20-something. Fresh out of pharmacy school. Ready to take on the world. One thing the Driscoll article discussed was having mentors to lead this group & develop their skills to be ready to take on the world & mentor the next generation so this transition is more seamless. Having a sponsor (12-step way of saying mentor) has changed my life. Surrounding myself with like-thinkers who support me in whatever I do. Good or bad. And love me without judgement.
    Never did I think I would find such a network of support on the internet!! From 20-somethings up to older than me!! They all make a difference in my life. I choose to look at my life as having no bad days. Only good days & learning days. I didn’t have that kind of guidance until I was 50.
    Start a new revolution, Mr 20-something. That it-takes-a-village scenario!! Because it does. I cannot survive left to my own bad decisions. But, I am a survivor because of mentoring I have found in recovery!

    • Kyle Reed

      wow, powerful powerful words baylor mum :)

      You are so right, the support system is so needed and yes I think things are changing. Slowly, but they are changing.

      I look forward to reading that post and that book sounds awesome.

      I just know that without the support of everyone I know (online and offline) I probably would have given up. It takes a lot of courage to stay, and a lot of support to not want to give up because you do not have what others seem to have. I can undrestand why 20 somethings do not step out in faith, especially when there is no support there. Mentoring is the key to all of this.

  • Brad Blackman

    Hey I think this is the article I showed you last week!

    You know, this is a tricky, complicated issue. (Which is why it is so long.) I came across an article VERY similar to this in Time magazine about 5-6 years ago when I was about 26 or so. I had moved home, moved out, back home again, etc. So I’m not sure if it’s just the current crop of twentysomethings or if it is something that happens with every generation but is more pronounced in Millennials.

    I think there are a lot of factors: the economy, our parents, our upbringing. On the one hand, young people grow up too fast, especially teen girls. I wonder if in some way, a lot of people realize that as they’re in their 20s they have to be adults now but they are not ready to surrender to that reality yet?

    Generations X and Y were mostly brought up as latchkey kids, and we don’t want that to happen to our kids, so I think a lot of us have put off marrying and having kids until later (although that is not necessarily the norm) so that our children can be well cared for. Then again the economy has stunk the past 11 years or so and has made it difficult for us to get ahead, plus we all have bachelors degrees and more than a few friends saw how bad the economy was and went to get masters degrees before trying to enter the workforce. Now we’re all overqualified for just about everything.

    I suppose in a way it didn’t really hit home that I was an adult until my daughter was born. And even now I find it hard to believe I’m a thirtysomething dad. I’m supposed to be a 22-year old bohemian painting in his garret, who went and got a corporate job because it was the thing to do.

    • Kyle Reed

      exactly, we really do not have a point where we know that we are not kids anymore but that we are and women.

      And yes, that is the article. thanks for sharing that :)

  • Jeff Goins

    It’s bad news, in my opinion. We’re squandering the opportunity to make a difference NOW. I hope we’ll get our act together soon.