What does it mean to be an Adult in a Youth Culture?

Please read the following and respond with a comment, a note, or a hint of your own perspective on this topic:

I think we can all agree that the U.S. is predominated by a Culture, a Society that values Youth above all other things. In order to comply with Youth Culture, we go out of our way to “look and feel younger”. Age is an illness to avoid at all costs, well, at least until the inevitable tipping point occurs where there’s no hiding our true nature.

Along with our materialistic focus on appearance and wellness, we have adopted similar, but often contradictory attitudes about society, government, and what exactly is our own, individual place within the infrastructure.

We can blame social media and the internet. We can blame pop culture and its’ bubble gum industrially generated music. We can bemoan the imminent decline of morality and ethics in Western Civilization… but really, I think that going back to our focus on Youth is a better start.

We the people are confused about what constitutes Adulthood. Our materialistic focus is on a litany of questions like these:

  • Do I have a career?
  • Do I have a spouse?
  • Do I have children?
  • Do I own a home?
  • Do I own a car?

Individually, we check off the list 2 or 3 of them and we think “I’m an adult”. But included in the focus on the material world… we focus on what we do, or do not do:

  • I pay my bills.
  • I got a degree or diploma.
  • I volunteer at my kids’ school.
  • I donate to charities.
  • I don’t roller skate or ride bikes.

More often than not, that focus leads to a void – a mid-life crisis of attempting to discover “Who” we are… and a search to find a purpose beyond the material world[1], or to just embrace the aspect of materialism that you denied yourself for 20 years (i.e. that mean little sports car). This is all dependent upon being lucky enough to afford such frivolous pursuits, of course… but up until that time, and often continuing beyond, we make decisions based solely in emotion.

We are creatures of habit.

We react like a ping pong ball getting batted across a proverbial table.

We choose presidential candidates on superficial, erroneous, and often belligerently motivated thoughts, biases, and prejudice. We treat those that we feel are lesser than us (the wait staff at the restaurant perhaps) like crap. We argue with our kids. We snub our neighbors because they put up the wrong political sign. The list of undignified actions and reactions is long.

But even the focus on “Who” we are at mid-life misses the goal by a few miles. In our focus on materialism, we lose the chance to learn:

  • How to make decisions.
  • How to ask questions.
  • How to analyze an argument.
  • How to THINK objectively.
  • How to make, clear, concise, statements.
  • How to admit when we are wrong.
  • How to be a human being.[2]

In my humble opinion… learning How to think is the most important step in becoming a true adult. In our quest for Youth, we have forgotten that with age comes wisdom, but that wisdom only comes to us if we actively search for it.

Your thoughts are welcome and appreciated.


[1] Conor posted a great video on The Conversation Room from Prince EA, a modern thinker. He touches on this subject in regards to Black Culture.

[2] This concept is from an American Indian belief, I don’t recall which tribe. Perhaps it is Sioux? It’s been years since I first read about it, and I am probably sorely misquoting it, but it is one of those ideas that stuck with me. The basic premise is that the highest achievement of your lifetime is to call yourself a Human Being. I ascribe to this belief, wholeheartedly.