Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Say Wha? Young People Can't Choose?

An often savvy reporter, Sharon Jayson, had an interesting piece in USA Today last week (March 25), which comes to my attention today courtesy of CCF. In “Boomers’ Hope: That the ‘kids’ are all right", Jayson documents that a growing number of baby boomer parents are worried that their young adult children are lacking direction and motivation – and they may just stay that way. From the CCF summary:
These young adults aren’t slackers; they often have jobs to pay the rent and are seemingly on their own. But these parents worry that the close relationships they’ve cultivated with their children may have stifled their self-sufficiency. Others think young people may be caught in a vicious cycle, created by economics and fueled by parents. Having options is something young people expect, according to Richard Sweeney of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who conducts young adult focus groups for colleges and corporations. “The bigger the choice, the more likely they are to postpone,” he said. “They don’t want to make a bad choice.” Having too many options – and the “anything is possible” mantra boomers inculcated in their children – may have backfired for some young adults, agreed Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College and author of “The Paradox of Choice.” “I think this is a major problem – this inability of people to pull the trigger because they’re worried there might be something better around the corner.”
I totally hear this from the late-twenties and thirty-something folks I'm interviewing for my next book. But I have to question these assumptions a bit. I'm the kid of Boomers and was massively indecisive in college, but grew out of it in my early twenties, only to hit a bout of indecision mid-grad school (to the tune of "should I stay or should I go") in my late twenties. My thirties have been filled with growing certainty. I think decisiveness comes with age.

But regardless, what's the alternative? I think about this as I begin to shift from thinking of myself as the daughter to myself as the parent. How do next-generation parents instill the dream of anything-is-possible with the reality that one must choose?

It all reminds me of this image I once read in a Sylvia Plath novel--that of a young girl sitting under a tree full of ripe fruit, starving. Which all, of course, comes back to a certain book we all know now called Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. (Just had to throw that in...)

Image cred

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