Being a psychology major is a lot of fun, sometimes you learn about phenomena that apply so directly to your own life. This semester I'm taking developmental psychology, and on day one we read an article that brought my attention to something that I think a lot of people can relate to.
There's a new developmental phase that people in industrialized Western cultures often go through. Experts call it "emerging adulthood". It's for people who are 18-26 (roughly, it can last longer or shorter for each person). This period comes in between adolescence, being a teenager, and young adulthood, which is typically characterized by marriage and children.
Being an "emerging adult" is something I believe every college student can relate to. I couldn't count how many times one of my friends has said "I don't feel like an adult" or "I'm not ready to be a real adult". Yet, none of us feel like we're still teenagers or children. We're not adults, ready to settle down, but we're not children living at home and going to high school anymore.
Our society has changed a lot in the last 100 years. Women can have goals instead of just rushing to find a husband. It's more acceptable for people in this 18-26 age range to run around, date, move cities, attend higher education, and to, in general, not settle down.
So it's time to stop asking your kids when they're going to settle down. It's time to stop slut-shaming people who aren't in a committed relationship yet. It's important to have goals and to work hard, but let's let people try out different ideas.
Experts characterize this emerging adulthood phase as a time of identity exploration and instability. While that can be scary, it makes life ultimately more fulfilling. In high school, we had to ask permission just to use the bathroom, so you can't expect us to make lifelong decisions and choose career goals two seconds after that period ends.
I am currently pursuing two majors and a minor because I like keeping my options open. I'm not dating and I plan to apply to internships all across America this summer. I just turned 20 and I am far away from being ready to settle down in any way. I want to be very unsettled for the next 6 years. I would like to live in multiple cities and attend graduate school. I am not ready to get married and try to build a life in one location.
To the freshman who feels lost, to the seniors about to move into the workforce, to the 29-year-old who isn't married, you're not alone. You are allowed to explore, to move about, and to "settle down" when you feel ready. Some people never do! Some people spend their lives traveling and never get married, and that is alright.
I love the quote "be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire." Don't choose a job that you have to stick with forever and get married and have kids at 22 because you feel like you need to. Pursue what you want with fearless passion. If you don't know what you want, try out everything with enthusiasm.
Don't settle down too soon.