Being young is not about comparing your age to an arbitrary range of numbers.
Nor is it about the lack of wrinkles on your forehead, nor the amount of hair attached onto your scalp.
To be young is to be excited about the ever-changing fashions, to stay up all night talking, and to think that time is air. We like to switch majors ten times, move in and out of relationships, and sleep in whenever possible. It is not conformity that drives us, but nonconformity.
It used to be that graduation was one with marriage and family. The gap of adolescence was small, and the traditional sense of adulthood was the natural progressive stage in life. But in the post-industrial society we live in, this model breaks down. Education and training are more crucial than ever before to secure a job in an economy where entry-level positions are subsiding. Young people know this precisely, and that’s why we want to get ahead.
One of the greatest things about higher education is that we change–we develop. We are guided by new ways of thinking and inspired by new people we meet along the way. As a result, transitory decisions sustain a quest for identity, exploring the possible life paths and relationships. Changing social norms also fuel the extension of adolescence. In the United Kingdom, 22% of households were headed by a single parent in 2011 compared to 8% in 1971. Naturally, our generation is less concerned about fitting into society’s standards compared to previous generations.
Today’s technological advances help to nurture our curiosity even further, enabling us to travel to all four corners of the world and break down communication barriers. These new opportunities take time to explore. We want to find the right job that speaks to our hearts, building a career before settling down. Whereas couples once built a life together, today’s couples build their own lives separately before marriage. This delay in independence and adulthood has introduced a new category of adults—young adults. Unfortunately, lifestyles that were considered deviant decades ago are often associated with this group. Indecisive and ignorant, we have big goals and dreamy dreams.
However, we’re not confused. We’re not impractical about it either. Being young is saying, “Can I change the world?” and getting the answer “yes.” After all, we’re young because we take ambitious risks.