Views: The 20-Something Dilemma

For most of the 20-somethings I know, which is an admittedly small
group of graduates from some of the country’s best four-year colleges
and universities, life’s third decade offers a disquieting mix of
uncertainty and promise. Faced with friends scattering across the globe
after graduation, the high stakes and complexity of modern life, a tough
job market, admonitions to enjoy youth to the fullest, and a dearth of
self-knowledge, many 20-somethings find themselves asking, “Now what?”
For the first time the life script that so many have followed does not
have a next page.

These feelings of uncertainty, hope, and
confusion are, in part, rooted in adolescence and the over-structuring
of American childhood. Amid the standardized tests, sports practices,
extracurricular activities, and A.P. classes, there is little room for
the self-exploration that used to characterize adolescence. Middle and
high school seem to be less about discovering or deciding who one is and
more about reaching the next benchmark. Today’s students know more
factoids than previous generations, but they also know less about
themselves. It is therefore no surprise that more American high school
graduates than ever are taking a gap year to explore the world outside the academic structure. –Tim Henderson, Inside Higher Ed