Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Brooks on the Odyssey

The Gray Lady dropped its "Times Select" experiment just in time.

David Brooks, restored to free access after being the only Times columnist who would have been worth paying for, today offers a timely column reviewing recent research on that most curious social phenomenon: the social drifting that has become characteristic of America's twenty-somethings.

For those who don't register what Brooks is talking about, think of Friends or, worse, Knocked Up. Young adults in 2007 tend to be underconnected professionally and relationally. Whereas we oldsters of the baby boom, despite our reputation for Woodstock and such, tended to start real careers, get married and have kids, our kids are going back and forth from school to job, living at home and then getting their own places and then moving back home, and drifting through casual relationships.

That's not news. What Brooks offers, however, is that the behavior may be a rational response to the way that our world exists at present, with a changing postindustrial economy based on constantly morphing technology.

We add that the strong economy doesn't hurt at all. The fact that a 25-year-old with no particular skill set can get a job (e.g. Starbucks barista or Verizon sales associate) more or less instantly that pays enough for a shared apartment and a lease on a Chevy Cobalt and keep it for as long or short as she or he wants surely plays a role in this.

At any rate, those of us who want to understand the world of the odyssey, the years between adolescence and adulthood, will get a clue from Brooks.

1 comment:

becka said...

I, for one, am truly loving this odyssey stage of life, and I’m glad it’s been getting more acknowledgement over the last couple of years… that way those of us thoroughly entrenched in it aren’t categorically dismissed as irresponsible or immature. All things considered, I would call myself a well-traveled, intelligent and informed 25 year-old, and I’ve spent my entire adult (i.e. post-collegiate) life living in L.A. or NYC, fully engaging the enriching culture and opportunity that come with the territory. That said, however, I’ve never had a job for more than about 10 months. I can’t seem to escape the idea that in choosing to do something as a “career” I’m effectively un-choosing everything else, and the collective potential of the “everything else” holds more appeal/excitement than does any one individual choice. Also, I really enjoy the fact that I am not responsible to or for anyone else. I love that I can do anything I want, even spontaneously book a trip to Europe, without thinking of how it will affect anyone besides myself. Maybe that’s selfish, but I think many of us in this stage of life recognize the freedom and fulfillment in accepting responsibility to engage and help society or humanity, broadly speaking, while at the same time accepting virtually no responsibility to/for others in day to day life.