There has perhaps never been a time when living as a twentysomething ‘person’ in the United States has held as much simultaneous uncertainty and opportunity. Mark Zuckerberg has proven that it is possible to earn a billion dollars legally…or at least mostly legally…while still in your twenties, but there are millions more twenty-something ‘people’ in the U.S. living at home, sampling jobs like licorice sticks at Costco, and stalling the inevitable, mythological process of ‘growing up.’
I don’t know what to call myself and this horde of similar twentysomething-ers. We are not yet adults, but no longer teenagers; perhaps we are best described as wanderers. We are caught in between in a life stage that did not exist on a mass scale a hundred years ago; we often wander for longer time periods and greater distances than our grandparents and parents. And, at least according to New York Times, our wandering has become more chaotic and less anchored to the traditional human cycle of birth, education, courtship, marriage, work, reproduction, child-rearing, retirement, relaxation, decay, and death.
The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un tethered 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.
The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever.
Just as adolescence has its particular psychological profile…so does emerging adulthood: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities.” A few of these, especially identity exploration, are part of adolescence too, but they take on new depth and urgency in the 20s.
This blog will provide a voice to one of those wandering twentysomethings: myself.
So far, my life has been predictable: I have attended elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. Next May, my life will acquire a new level of variability and unpredictability.
I am excited for the next nine years of my twenties: excited to experience and adventure across the country and throughout the world; excited to entertain foreign ideas and read strange books, to hear new music and to push my physical limits; to test myself and to live, as Scott Young advises, on the edge of my incompetence.
This blog will, if successful, be a somewhat personal and somewhat public exploration of how to build and experience a life that turns the unpredictability of this decade into an adventure and a productive quest toward happiness and originality.
My goal is to post at least two times each week so that this site does not stay dormant for too long.
I’ll pass along some book and music recommendations, and I’ll give my two cents on some issues, but only when I think they may be different from the two cents you have already heard.
More than anything, I’ll try to present the ideas and perspectives of other people—to (hopefully) start a debate that is argued by and aimed at people our age, not the middle-aged talking heads that dominate our current media. I encourage you to leave comments—to tell me when you disagree with something on the site, or to present your own perspective.
The title is a reference to a line written by J.R.R. Tolkien:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
We are wandering, but our wandering can be intentional, not aimless. It can lead to a better life than if we had not wandered at all. At least, that is my hope.