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Letter from The Grind editors: Introducing ‘The myth of coming of age’

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There are many rites of passage to adulthood: prom, graduation ceremonies and first jobs, to name a few. For many, college is seen as the time and the place to “grow up” before entering the “real world.” Common markers of adulthood include achieving financial independence, moving out of one’s family home, working a stable job and starting a family. But, younger generations seem to be taking longer and longer to reach these milestones, if at all. 

Developmental psychologist Nancy Hill and educational ethnographer Alexis Redding wrote in The Atlantic, “When young adults take longer to achieve the markers of adulthood, it is not that something has changed about them; it is that the world has changed.” And the world has indeed changed. For over a year, young people have taken college classes from their childhood bedrooms, watched graduations live-streamed on their laptop screens and started office jobs without ever meeting their coworkers in person. At the onset of the pandemic, the youth unemployment rate in the United States drastically increased and remains higher than the unemployment rate for the general population. Young people struggle to enter the workforce amid recession and a lack of opportunities. And according to the Pew Research Center, even before the pandemic, younger generations, such as millennials, were waiting longer to get married and start a family. What does it mean to come of age when the traditional markers have disappeared or are changing?

In this series, we explore this idea, unpacking what it means to grow up in a context of crisis. For the remainder of spring quarter, read The Grind’s latest for stories about how teen movies and television have shaped our perceptions of college, how friendships change as we grow older, what it means to enter “the real world” before coming to college and more, in addition to our regular content.

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