A friend of mine recently started a blog with the theme of emerging adulthood, a theme that applies to many young adults today. Emerging adulthood is a span of life proposed by Jeffrey Arnett in an article in “American Psychologist” and is a concept that has evolved since its original proposal in 2000, garnering a surge in scholarly research and an exploration into a new developmental stage.
As defined by Arnett, emerging adulthood is described as “having left the dependency of childhood and adolescence, and having not yet entered the enduring responsibilities that are normative in adulthood, emerging adults often explore a variety of possible life directions in love, work and worldviews.” This span of life applies to me, certainly, and to many young adults starting off on their own. It is a trying period, an experimental period and even a terrifying period.
I live primarily on my own—I have my own apartment, I pay most of my own bills, I attend graduate classes and I obtain a monthly stipend as part of my assistantship. My parents pay for my phone bill, still keep me on their health insurance and occasionally give me money to help with expenses if I ask them. I also know that during the holidays, I can return home rent-free and be provided with meals. But, for the most part, I have a greater number of responsibilities, both financially and emotionally. Thus, I fall into the category of emerging adulthood.
So much change
And just what a world to be emerging into—everything is so confusing with the wars, debt and industries damaging our world. It is truly a brave new world, to use Shakespeare’s line; a world that is dramatically changing. How can so much change not be without consequences?
Technology is undoubtedly changing the way that we perceive the world and the way that we interact with other people. In just two generations, our world has changed incredibly. Our grandparents witnessed the invention of the television, but lived without cell phones. Our parents had cell phones, but lived without internet. Young adults today are the connectors between the generations—we have the use of technology at our fingertips, and even though it is constantly changing and upgrading, we are able to adapt and learn. We were born in the burst of technology—as a teenager, I remember e-mailing friends to keep in touch, which then evolved into instant messaging, texting, Skyping, Facebooking and now blogging.
Never before had I witnessed just how far technology has come until I was asked to help bring the Clarion Herald up to date with their own technology—we have a working website thanks to a lot of time, effort and learning on the part of countless people in our office, two blogs, and Facebook and Twitter accounts. It is no longer enough to just sit back and watch the world evolve—we have to evolve with it.
Emerging adulthood brings with it a time of confliction, a time for discovery and evolution, not just in technology and in our social world, but within our world of faith as well. Many Catholic young adults are conflicted over what is right, moral and loyal to their faith. It is a stressful time to be a Catholic in a world that is saying that the Catholic Church is old-fashioned and needs to change. So, how do we navigate this world?
I believe Pope Benedict XVI’s message at the final Mass of World Youth Day Madrid helps us with that answer. He encouraged the sea of young adults gathered to celebrate and adore the Eucharist to take their faith and share it with the world: “Let me urge you to strengthen this life of faith which has been handed down from the time of the apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the center of your life.” We must share our faith with others and help others see the authenticity of the morals and values of the Catholic Church, resisting the empty promises of a secular world in which the individual is the master and not God.
Emerging adulthood allows us to explore a number of different paths: we learn how to love and where we want our lives to lead us. Perhaps that’s the key: where do we want our lives to lead us? Who are we and what do we stand for? We must never let our integrity fall away from us even in these confusing times—that’s one of the lessons I’ve learned as I navigate the world of adulthood.
Heather Bozant can be reached at email@example.com.