Have you left adolescence but don’t feel like a fully functioning adult just yet? Are you currently in college, about to graduate, or are a recent graduate? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this blog post is for you.
During my time in college I have learned a lot. I’ve learned how to market myself to obtain jobs, I’ve mastered the ability to connect with people of diverse backgrounds, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge through my degree program and I’ve learned a ton about myself overall. However, it wasn’t until last weekend that I learned something in my courses, specifically my Psychology of Adjustment course, that connected with me so personally. Lately I have been battling a lot of emotions and feelings underneath the surface in terms of the stage of life that I find myself in. I am 22 years old, about to graduate college and I am gearing towards the next step of life: adulthood. However, I’ve discovered that I’m not officially in the stage of adulthood, but somewhere in between adolescence and adulthood. All of this being said, I have found that these feelings are quite normal and that there is actually a theory behind the stage of life before complete adulthood. That theory is the Theory of Emerging Adulthood by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett. Arnett found that emerging adults exhibit five features: The Age of Identity Exploration, the Age of Instability, the Age of Self-focus, the Age of Feeling In Between, and the Age of Possibilities. Each of these features plays a part in emerging adults’ lives and exhibits similarities that we all face as emerging adults. Down below are my findings regarding the five features of Emerging Adulthood as well as my personal relations to each.
Age of Identity Exploration: In this feature young adults are deciding who they are and what they desire out of school, work, and love. They try out many different possibilities in life and the combination of all of these attempted possibilities begins to shape their overall identity.
My Age of Identity Exploration: There are less than three weeks left until I walk across the stage to receive my degree in front of my friends and family at my graduation. After every class session I feel closer to the end of college and the “real world” seems ever so near. Soon I will have to get a job and start saving up to support myself. That being said, I have finally begun to seriously explore the possibilities for my life. I know that each decision that I make for after graduation will have long-lasting impacts and that I will have to live with those decisions. I have been interviewing for a variety of jobs in locations around the United States and the world, exploring romantic interests, and mapping out what each of these paths would look like if put into play. Aside from planning out my future, I’ve also been analyzing my past. I’ve been looking into how I have changed from the beginning of my college experience to the end of it. I started my journey at a Christian university, then transferred to Coastal Georgia for tennis, almost transferred again for soccer, stayed put for a year by getting involved on campus, and eventually studied abroad in the Czech Republic. I want to discover how I have changed overall through college by answering questions like: What are my passions now? What values do I hold? What do I desire out of life? I’m exploring my identity to discover who I am now and who I want to be in the future.
How have you changed over the years?
Age of Instability: Young adults also face a lot of instability in romance and living situations. They develop romantic relationships and end them often. They also move around a lot after graduation, in between jobs, and so on. Life is a roller coaster of events in this stage and it is filled with heaps of instability.
My Age of Instability: I have also been experiencing a lot of instability in the last couple of years. I began my freshman year of college in a committed relationship and focused solely on the “apple of my eye”. However, by the end of my freshman year we ended things. After that relationship I occasionally went on dates with girls, but I found it more worthwhile to focus on myself. I wanted to pursue my own passions and desired to get to know myself better for a change. After choosing to focus on myself I have since transferred colleges, worked summer jobs around the country, studied abroad in the Czech Republic, and am currently looking for a full-time job upon graduation. It’s like I can’t stay still in life! I honestly love it though because it keeps things exciting. However, this constant instability has caused problems in developing long-term relationships. I can be so focused on my own aspirations that I tend to neglect to spend time with my friends. To make things worse, I always find myself in new locations. This is great in terms of getting out into the world and exploring different ways of life, but it is damaging in terms of remaining close with the friends that I do make. I’ve found that spending quality time in person always beats a phone call. I would however like to say thank you to the friends who have stuck by my side through all of my journeys!
I appreciate all of you more than you know.
Age of Self-Focus: In this stage of emerging adulthood young adults find themselves in between their reliance on parental support and long-term commitments like marriage and work. They take this time to fully develop themselves and their lives in terms of what direction they want to take, where they want to work, who they want to be with romantically, and where they want to be in the future.
My Age of Self-Focus: At this very moment I feel like I am starting to establish an independent lifestyle but have not completely attained one as of yet. This can be illustrated by my decrease in reliance on parental financial support. For example, my dad told me earlier this week that I will no longer be on the family health insurance plan and need to support myself in that. Little things like this that I have taken for granted my whole life are going drop off one by one as I learn to look after myself. My parents however have been incredible by providing for my needs while simultaneously pushing me towards self-reliance. I also am not fully developed when it comes to the areas of romance and careers either. I am not married yet nor do I have a long-term career. I am in pursuit of these goals but am also working on developing myself both personally and professionally at the same time.
Never stop growing.
Age of Feeling In-Between: Most emerging adults feel like they are starting to take responsibility for themselves and become functioning adults but are also feel like adolescents in a way. They know that they are in a transitional stage of life and are working towards full adulthood while letting go of adolescent feelings along the way.
My Age of Feeling In-Between: I currently feel in between adolescence and full adulthood. I feel childlike in some aspects of life and adult like in others. It’s hard to let go of the feelings of adolescence and the lack of responsibility. At the same time, I know that it is necessary to evolve, adapt, and develop to become the man that I am meant to be. On my way to becoming a well-rounded adult I will need to experience many more learning lessons, seek guidance from my elders, and mature exponentially. I know that I am not there yet; I don’t know everything and I am conscious of the flaws that I possess. However, I am optimistic in my ability to grow and my future as a whole.
Growing up one day at a time…
Age of Possibilities: Emerging adults are full of optimism and excitement for the future. They believe at their core that they can achieve their dreams and live a quality life. They have not tested their dreams in the real world yet but are hopeful in accomplishing them. The world is at their fingertips and the possibilities are endless.
My Age of Possibilities: This is probably the most relevant feature for me. Anytime that someone asks me if I’m nervous about graduating and finding a job I respond in an optimistic manner. I’ll say something like “I’m not worried about finding a job because there are so many options out there!”. And it is true. In this day in age the possibilities for work are endless. It’s not a question of if you will find work but what work you will find. I possess a mindset of excitement because there are so many awesome routes to pursue in terms of work and location. I am so incredibly optimistic for my future and am a major dreamer who believes that anything is possible. The possibilities truly feel endless right now and I am determined to create the best life for myself that I can.
What path will you pursue?
So, I would like to know: What are your thoughts on Arnett’s Concept of Emerging Adulthood and how do you relate to its components? I look forward to reading your responses! Also, please subscribe via email to be notified when I post something new. I would really appreciate it if you did!