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An Honest Look at the Transitional Young Adult Years

This blog is specifically for young adults– those of you that are feeling into what this very transitional time of life means and how you want to navigate it. Many young adults I’ve worked with have described this time as a sort of in-between or limbo experience. I can relate to that when I think back to my late teens and early 20s.

Disclaimer: (This disclaimer is inspired by and borrowed from Patrick Turbiville.) This article is intended to speak to a wide range of young adults; however, some may find that they don’t identify with it. One reason this blog might not reflect the experience of some young adults is that it explores somewhat typical challenges faced by young people and their parents or caregivers. It’s an unfortunate truth that young people of all backgrounds may experience abuse or neglect by their parents.

If this describes you, please talk about it with an adult you trust. This can be a teacher, coach, counselor, or relative (but it doesn’t have to be–trust your instincts). Doing so may be difficult but could also help to get you on a path toward feeling safer, more confident, and more hopeful about your future.

Young Adulthood is a Complex Time

In the young adult years, in particular, it can feel a lot like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back. There are a lot of seemingly contradictory experiences and feelings during this time of life, especially in relationship to the concept of “adulthood.” 

You are navigating life at the highest level of independence you’ve ever experienced, AND you still may rely on parents or caregivers in significant ways. Perhaps you are living on your own, cooking, cleaning, and doing all the daily tasks solo, AND your parents are still helping pay your bills. Maybe you are making choices about your social life totally on your own, AND you still think to call your parent(s) first when you’re having a tough day. You may be making big decisions about your future (like school or jobs or moving or relationships) based on your own needs, preferences, and desires, AND you’re missing the ease of earlier years when you didn’t have to make such high-stakes decisions.

The ands are important here because it’s not just one or the other. It can all be true at once. I invite you to honor and see all the complexities that this stage of life can hold.

Questions for reflection:

  • What are the ways you are becoming more and more yourself? 
  • How can you acknowledge the ways that you need and want support/care/help from others? 
  • What else is coming up for you?

Big Feelings During a Big Transition

Grief may arise during the young adult stage of life. Whether childhood felt sweet and supportive or tough and absent to everything in between, you may experience a sense of loss as you become an adult. 

Childhood is “over” (I’m using quotations because nothing is so linear), and for many, this time of life can be both exciting and terrifying. You may put a lot of pressure on yourself to do all the things, and do them right, and do them on your own. And, yeah, that’s scary! It’s an impossible ask, really. 

You may be processing logistical elements of this transition, such as how you’ll make ends meet, as well as emotional elements like “I’m not ready to be an adult yet!” and so on. So, of course, big feelings like grief and fear may show up! 

Questions for reflection:

  • What parts of earlier life are you missing?
  • Who are you becoming? And what versions of yourself are you letting go of? How does that feel?
  • What parts of this time feel good, freeing, or exciting?
  • What parts of this time feel scary, difficult, or overwhelming? 
  • Where are you putting pressure on yourself during this time of life? And who or what do you think has influenced these expectations?
  • What parts of this transition are you feeling tender about? (Change out tender for any other emotion you might like to explore– joyful, frustrated, etc..)

Autonomy and Togetherness

In the dominant western culture, there is a lot of messaging around independence. There’s a lot of pressure to go it alone.  This is a “value” that has been forced on us from a young age. This expectation is often ableist and rooted in capitalistic practices. (If undoing these systems interests you, I invite you to read this powerful post by my friend Jane and How to Use Non-Capitalist Thinking for Social Change and Hope, an inspiring guest blog by my friend Eva.)

While I do agree that it’s massively important to have a sense of self and to enjoy time alone and to try difficult things on your own, I also know that we need one another. We just do! And a blanket expectation that you should be able to do all things solo really misses the mark.

When you think you have to do it all on your own, you miss out on so many opportunities to be witnessed, held, supported, and loved by others. This can be so isolating! Additionally, you may experience negative self-talk, feelings of failure, and imposter syndrome when you need or want the assistance of others.

Questions for reflection:

  • How can you value your autonomy AND create space for togetherness?
  • Where and how do you show up for others?
  • Where and how do you feel ready to let others show up for you?
  • What parts of your autonomy do you love/value/cherish?
  • What parts of togetherness do you love/value/cherish?

Here with You

I’m just a human, humaning alongside you, sharing some reflections from my own journey and my work with young adults. YOU are the expert in your life, so, as always, I invite you to take what works, leave the rest.

If you’re a teen or young adult who wants support along your journey, reach out.  I’m here to be a witness. If you’re a parent of a young person who is looking to make some shifts, I’m here to support. Reach out anytime! 

*Photo Credit: rawpixel

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