Posted by: Dan | October 10, 2007

The Odyssey Years and Fluidity of Life

I’m not sure how to categorize this post, but I couldn’t pass it up. This blog is about migrations, and hence journeys, progressions, and passages of life, at least in part. I’m also married now to a Greek Cypriot, so the NY Times column on The Odyssey Years caught my attention.

And the column is about a phenomenon that some observers of society have noticed – that it is more common now than ever for 20-somethings to create their own life phase, between adolescence and adulthood.

Through their work, you can see the spirit of fluidity that now characterizes this stage. Young people grow up in tightly structured childhoods, [social scientist Robert Wuthnow of Princeton] observes, but then graduate into a world characterized by uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering. Old success recipes don’t apply, new norms have not been established and everything seems to give way to a less permanent version of itself.

While Wuthnow is looking at this phenomenon through the lens of religious practices (which I of course grumble over), I actually think that he’s more or less correct, at least as columnist David Brooks describes him. Brooks continues:

The odyssey years are not about slacking off. There are intense competitive pressures as a result of the vast numbers of people chasing relatively few opportunities. Moreover, surveys show that people living through these years have highly traditional aspirations (they rate parenthood more highly than their own parents did) even as they lead improvising lives.

Is he talking about me?


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