About a month ago, my buddy Mace recommended Urban Tribes: Are Friends the New Family? It was incredibly interesting and I’d recommend it to anyone, particularly recent (or soon-to-be) college grads, because it’s really about people our age. The whole idea is that our generation keeps putting off the classic signs of adulthood - marriage and baby-makin’. More people are waiting longer to get hitched and have kids, if they do it at all, and many are finding that friends provide the support structure that a family normally might. I especially liked the author’s own story - his tribe is made up of about 25 people, and by the sound of it (though I don’t think he was explicit on this point), they ages range from the mid-20’s to late-30’s. This sort of social construct was incredibly uncommon (if not entirely unheard of) during the early adulthood of our parents, but today it’s happening all over, albeit in smaller numbers.
Just today, I finished Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up. This one just caught my eye when I was browsing at the book store just a few days after I finished Urban Tribes. It’s a very different look at a similar trend: adults putting off adulthood and opting to indulge their inner child. It wasn’t as well-written as Tribes, but it offered an interesting perspective on things.
I mention these together because they came along at a pretty good time for me. It’s only been in the past month or two that I’ve come to grips with the fact that graduating college is not the end of life as I know it. For some reason, I’ve always had this subconscious fear that life pretty much stops after that - you get married, have some kids, and fall into a comfortable routine. That’s more or less what my parents did, and seemed to be the trend among the parents of my peers when I was a kid. I really didn’t think I’d want to live past 40, because it all seemed so boring after that.
Obviously, this isn’t necessarily the case, but I’ve never really been able to convince myself of that. I kept trying to figure out what my big project was going to be, how I was going to leave my impact on the world. With graduation looming and no great ideas jumping out at me, I sort of resigned myself to a string of crappy jobs and small apartments. It doesn’t help to look around at the people I went to school with: a couple are engineers for Google, one’s writing his first book, and another is speaking at conferences (still others from RIT, whom I didn’t know, started College Humor and a variety of other successful sites). They’re all off doing exciting and interesting stuff, and I’m trying to figure out whether I even want to be doing what I spent four years training for.
I went into college feeling like I had more time than I’d know what to do with. At the time, I was figuring on spending five years there, which seems like forever to someone who’s only 17. That time quickly dried up, and while I enjoyed it while I had it, some part of me worries that my early adulthood will pass me by just as quickly. I feel like I need to do my big, great thing - whatever that may be - as soon as possible, so that I don’t let time get away from me again.
And now that I actually put it into words, I realize that it sounds just a little insane. I’m enjoying life right now: I don’t have any masterpiece in the works, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life coding, but I have good friends, I’ve got a decent apartment, I’m not totally broke, and I’ve only been out of college for eight months. I’ve got plenty of time to waste, and if I spend all my time worrying about what’s to come, I’ll just keep on missing what’s in the here and now.