The Hidden Transition

The Hidden Transition

You’ve finished college or trade school. Maybe you have started that first “real” job. You are dating the person you think you will marry. Your dad is patting you on the back with pride and your mom just can’t wait to have some grandbabies to hold. You’re 27 years old and finally have it all figured out. Maybe so but maybe not.

I’ve often talked about “scripts” for how life is supposed to go. Usually, these scripts are sort of floating out there as cultural norms but are also often the markers by which we measure our progress and success. Further, these are sometimes the markers by which we believe others are measuring our progress and success. It’s like Ellie Mae Clampett on that old TV comedy from the 60s, The Beverly Hillbillies, who was the object of a “passel of worry” because she was 18 and did not yet have a husband. I’m glad that old narrative is gone away but there are still a lot of them out there for the young adults of our time. They are there because having them and living up to them gives us and others a sense of security about who we are. But they can also be very damaging to the young person who is taking a little or a lot longer to figure it out.

Allow me to offer a couple of thoughts to those of you who are in this difficult transition. I have said this probably a hundred times in therapy. There is no statute of limitations on figuring it out! Sure, it would be great if you were one of the lucky ones who knew from forever what you wanted to do in life and you never veered from the course. But believe me that those are the exceptions. Many, many people hit that time to begin “adulting” and are terrified. They are terrified because they don’t know if they know how to do it all or they are terrified because who they thought they wanted to be does not seem so appealing all the sudden. They are afraid to articulate these fears because of their own shame but sometimes even more so because of the fear of letting all those others down. This, my dear friends, can be the first step on the path to depression.

Consider this. Those nebulous “others” who are watching and measuring are most likely people who just want you to be happy whatever your course. Yes, they have constructed their own ideas about you but that doesn’t always mean they will be disappointed if you have to veer or make a course correction at some point. Furthermore, not talking about it will only make it worse because swallowing all that shame will certainly become toxic and make you very sick. Conversely, having a safe place to talk about these fears can not only normalize them but sometimes will help you take that next step forward, whether on the old or new course.

Finally, to those who are the loved ones around these transitional young adults, make sure they know you love them no matter what and that you are always a ready and willing ear if they need to talk some things out. They are sometimes asking for advice and it’s fine to give it if they are but sometimes, they just need to unload the fear in front of you and make sure you will still be there when they finish. You can handle that, can’t you? I knew you could!