Thursday, August 19, 2010

Emerging Adulthood: Sense of Possibility

The NYTimes recently published an article looking at Emergent Adulthood, a 'new' developmental period characterized by continued dependence. For many young adults the article hits close to home.
As a result of the economic downturn, the ubiquity of college education, as well as some large cultural attitude shifts, a lot of us young adults aren't rushing into careers or marriage and family life as quickly as many of our grandparents and parents did.

In the Jewish community, this has produced a crisis, as many organizations are built around a now outdated family and life cycle. This is witnessed by the falling numbers of young adult representation in synagogues, Federations, and the collapse of more and more well established Jewish institutions.

While many in the organized Jewish world are kept up late at night worrying about the future of the Jewish people (or at least their beloved institutions), there may yet be a great source for optimism.

One of the pieces of this Emergent Adulthood phenomenon is a 'Sense of Possibility', an entrepreneurial and positive outlook that isn't beset by an acceptance of the harsh reality of life. If we look around us, we find young adults are already solving many of the problems and filling many of the needs they have identified for themselves. The independent Minyan movement is one such indicator of this, as are the number of interesting and innovative start up ventures popping up all around the country.

The challenge, at this point, is the cross generational cultural differences between young adults who are solving their own problems in unorthodox ways, and members of previous generations who are seeking to reinforce or maintain the status quo to which they have grown accustomed.

For many outside of the Gen Y and Millennial cliques, these innovative approaches don't make sense and seem redundant. Also, for someone who has been doing things a certain way, change can seem pretty terrifying.

So how do we come together and leverage the experience and resources amassed by those with a few more years under their belts with the new ideas, approaches, the 'Sense of Possibility' that we as 'Emerging Adults' bring to the table?

The solution lies in not seeing ourselves as pitted against one another but to realize that we are looking to solve the same issues, and have complementary resources that we bring to the table. Seeing this as a balanced yin-yang situation is as (hopefully) easy as not focusing on the two parts, but on the whole which they combine to form.

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