Revealing 3 Classes of 20-Somethings in a 21st Century American Culture

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

So I woke up this morning with a rush of excitement. This has become a somewhat normal occurrence recently…as the first rays of sunshine hit my face, I cannot wait to reflect that warmth to the world around me.

But we will save the gratitude that is borderline pathological for another conversation…

I had a fantastic plan for the day, which of course remained as a figment of my imagination. Don’t get me wrong, the day was wonderful nonetheless! I am reminded daily that the best I can do is be prepared, for I am helpless to what the future holds.

Even as I write this post…I had originally planned to author a intricate piece defining love in the 21st century, through a 20-something’s eyes, a heterosexual male who has loved, lost, and grown as a result…

Nope, not in the mood this afternoon. Just want to make an observation.

So I realize that I have a narrow perspective of humanity, having lived my entire life in the Southeastern United States, the land lovingly known as “Dixie”. I also realize this also gives me a rather charmed perspective of youth in America…

Let’s backtrack….

I am the only son amongst my parents’ 4 children. We have a classic late-20th century blended family – each of my older sisters were from a previous marriage, with my younger sister and I being from the same gene pool.

Not only was I the only male, but I played your classic “Hero” role in the dysfunctional family. [Not sure what a dysfunctional family is? Well, it defines pretty much every family in North America…but check Wikipedia’s site here if you are curious.] I excelled scholastically, socially, and athletically.

Then came High School. Oh Lord…

First off…I was raised in a classic Southern Baptist family. That meant Billy Graham was a Saint around our house. I was sent to a small, private, Christian, Biblical-based High School, where I suddenly was considered ‘rebellious‘.

I craved the attention, so I sought it through immature ways as a teenager, but all things considered, I could’ve still been called a “good kid”.

Now why in the world did I just explain all of that to you?

I just wanted you, the reader, to gain an appreciation for the perspective I am about to give you. I am also White, balding early, have a terrible habit of chewing tobacco, and have a “current intellectual functioning in the upper part of the Very Superior range of ability” according to a WAIS-III test I took in July 2010.

You see, I have identified an amazing spiritual awakening occurring in myself at the age of 26. Suddenly the sky appears bluer, the sun appears brighter, days, seasons, and even time itself has taken on an entirely new meaning. Don’t mean to be pseudo-new-age or anything, its just literally been my experience.

I am also at the cusp of completing a developmental task (according to Erik Erikson’s ‘Stages of Development), experienced a major life-crisis at the age of 24, and haven’t taken a drink or a drug since May of 2010. So things have been happening for me, at least on an emotional/spiritual/internal level.

Now, the question I came to….is my situation unique, or are other people of a similar age experiencing their own “A-HA!” moments (as Oprah would say)?

So I have been conducting a completely unofficial observation of my very limited network of friends on ‘Facebook’, and other social media sites (this is by far the most efficient way to touch base with large amounts of people from past lives).

Interestingly, I’ve seen people fit nicely into 3 different groups. The following is my extremely biased, but I hope poignantly honest appraisal of the average WASP, of about 20-30 years of age, in 21st century America. [I do want to point out that this may be offensive to some. This is by no way official, and every individual’s situation is different. One person could resemble all three groups, or could look like a Yuppie yet still have the heart of Buddha. You must use discernment.]

(Note…I start with the worst and work my way up!)

“21st Century Yuppie”

Ahh….the yuppie. If consumerism appeals to you, knowing the color of the season (some kind of dark orange this Spring, in case you didn’t know), replacing your cell phone every 4 months for the latest model, standing in line for 12 hours to be the first with the newest “Apple” product, fashion, food, “chic” loft apartments, Starbucks (20 times a week)…..do you really want me to keep going?

These are the friends you have, that you find yourself annoyed with every post they make on “Facebook”. They may have money, they may be attractive, but they lack any sort of substance. Their primary purpose in life is in maintaining or improving upon their outward appearance.

They’ve never struggled. Their parents are so rich, they don’t know what its like to eat peanut butter & jelly every day for a week. They have never experienced true heartbreak….and are always seeking to improve on whoever exists as their dominant hand accessory (and as a result, they have no idea what true love is, either).

Educated, 2 cars in the driveway, white picket fence and an American flag flying on the porch. You can probably see them every Sunday in their freshly cleaned SUV. I have no idea where these people will be in 20 years. According to society, they are extremely successful.

According to me, they are a waste of potential.

Egomaniacs, with little concern for their inner lives, or the growth of their fellow man.

“The Career Student”

Still in school – graduate or undergrad, doesn’t matter. They have been in college for nearly a decade now, have yet to enter a career. They either have extremely successful parents who are able to fork the bill, or they find themselves owing Uncle Sam six figures, even though they probably won’t earn it for at least another decade.

They are your typical “valedictorian”, “Jock”, or “Socialite” through adolescence. They excelled in High School, but faced a harsh reality once they entered college. They have struggled to find an identity in today’s highly competitive, ADD culture…especially when they realized that the idolatry they received from peers in High School was just a giant farce.

Some floundered in college for 3 years before deciding on a major. Some succeeded right away, but changed majors 5 times. And some must enjoy learning just that much!

Summary: Classic scenario of identity crisis, mixed with healthy dose of ego re-adjustment, and an extremely unhealthy dose of insecurity (fostered by years of trophies and awards for meaningless accomplishments). By the time they reach their mid-20’s, they finally have an idea of what direction life is taking them, and thank God their parents (or their Government) is filthy rich.

This is probably the majority of students today. (What does this say about our education system?) Saddest of all is the seemingly endless focus on achievement.

Oh…and since they remain “students”, society has a moral obligation that prevents it from referring to these individuals as failures. They “still have a chance”.

“The Hopeless Romantic”

Not as nice as it sounds.

We all know the statistics. People tend to marry later in life, and have children even later. This doesn’t always hold true, especially in a society that paints the “consumer” as the ideal. You know…the white picket fence, BMW, and Starbucks credit line.

So we still have plenty of young women getting married in their early 20’s, having children, only to find that the man they married wasn’t quite what they dreamed he would be. So its up to the woman to support herself and the child, and you know Grandma and Grandpa will be there to save the day again.

This scenario doesn’t apply only to single mothers, but also to those who have graduated college yet remain unemployed, those who have worked hard at manual labor to provide for themselves, only to be laid off in a weak economy. Even the young family that somehow finds a way to stay together, yet struggles to find enough hours at work to put food on the table.

Outwardly, they may seem like a mess. Who would want to date a single mother who needs help from her parents to get by? Who would want to be in a relationship with an uneducated, minimum-wage employee who still lives at home with Mom and Dad. Or the college graduate who sleeps in his childhood bedroom until noon every day, and spends his tip money at the bar every night.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

This last group may appear to be the most pathetic, hopeless, unattractive of the bunch. They are struggling. They are sacrificing. They are, for the most part, doing what it takes to get by.

Growth doesn’t occur without effort. Energy is not created without friction.

See….I am an unemployed 26 year old, still living with Mom & Dad. I was fired as a result of my drug abuse. I know what it feels like to wear an orange jump-suit.

Life happens. It has to happen. You have to let it happen.

Yes it hurts in the moment. Tears of pain and heartache…I don’t wish it on my worst enemies. In the same breath I will honestly say I thank God every morning for the pain that he gave me the strength to endure.

By society’s standards, I am a complete and utter failure.

But I feel the Spring sun hit my cheeks every morning, and I smile. My eyes have been opened. For the first time since my childhood, I am wide awake, and witnessing the world as God made it.

And it is good.

So please, please hold on. I don’t know who will read these words. I don’t know if they will reach a soul. I write because my heart tells me to. No matter who you are, no matter what you are going through, no matter who you are up against…you are worth it. We are worth it.

Life is good.

6 comments on “Revealing 3 Classes of 20-Somethings in a 21st Century American Culture

  1. As a proud member of a ‘dysfunctional’ family – I always like to say we put the FUN in dysfunctional …. Nice read!

  2. As a recovering addict who knows what it’s like to wear an orange jumpsuit, congratulations on your post. And hang on. It keeps getting better. You’re worthy of love. (I met my true love during the year I spent under the bridge, and we now live a prosperous and happy life!)

  3. […] last week I wrote a post that was really more of an opinion piece articulating my views of 20-something year-old’s in […]

  4. I have to say, impressive I didn’t have an interest in those kind of people, let alone know their presence in this world. I guess there are more than meets the eye, especialy in
    North America.

  5. so society’s approval = bad and society’s disdain = good

  6. i haven’t been homeless or convicted of a crime yet so better go run over those “egomaniacs” and “failures” lol. you say this is more about evaluating their inner character than outward appearance, but then it’s “u rich and didn’t struggle u bad” or “u poor so obv u work hard u good”

    some people in jail really shouldn’t be there, or might turn their lives around and contribute to society. or they might not. like your “career student” who studied a subject everyone said would be the practical one that makes money, only to find out that everyone else had the same idea too and now the job market is flooded with applicants for that job. you know doctors have to spend longer in college than the rest of us, right? and that some people have to be a part-time student due to all those hardships you listed, so it takes a lot longer? in the same way people in jail aren’t all failures, the “career students” aren’t all failures either.

    your clothes don’t always reflect your socioeconomic status and/or character, which you got, but also your socioeconomic status doesn’t determine how good of a person you are.

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