grown up kids

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story / ANNE WALLS

illustration / SAMANTHA MERLEY

My friend Lindsey has the best video game collection. Seriously. Sometimes she lets me play her Gameboy.

She’s 30.
My friend Greg is SO GOOD at dodgeball. He always gets picked first and whatever team he’s on wins the huge trophy.
He’s 33.
I lent Meredith my Wonder Woman t-shirt, the super soft one with the tiny hole in the left sleeve. She better give it back. I’ll probably see her at the roller-skating party tonight, so I can get it then.
Oh, I’m 32…a grown-up, in the world’s eyes. So then why do I (and the majority of my friends) still live like we’re kids?
Photo booths. Kickball leagues. Comic books. Polaroid cameras. Record players. An affinity for Lionel Richie. The business of nostalgia has found a willing consumer base in the twenty and thirty something crowd. More and more “grown ups” are retreating to the toys, music, sports, and culture of their youth (aka the 1980s and 1990s) as they approach (gulp)…middle age. Why?
Is it because our parents worked hard to provide us with everything we could want, including an extended childhood? Is it because the current state of the economy and the ever-worsening global financial situation has left most of us unable to buy houses, invest in 401Ks, or even think about our children’s college funds? Is it because Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc have afforded each of us the luxury of being the star of our very own school play, but on an even bigger stage?
Or is it because, simply, it’s more fun to not grow up?
My grandparents were Depression survivors (the era, not the mood…well actually, probably both). They were married with kids by the time they were in their early twenties. They worked their butts off to make ends meet, infusing my parents with the drive and wherewithal to make something of themselves. My parents, in turn, were married, home-owning child-havers by their mid-to-late twenties. I’m already done with my twenties, nowhere close to owning a home and childless – unless you count my semi-autistic, special needs dog Ollie.
Does this make me a failure? Or am I just one part of the ever-changing sociological landscape?
Is my generation’s penchant for marrying later and procreating even later a backlash to our parents’ high divorce rate and the subsequent vagabond existence that my fellow divorced kids and I were subject to? Or did our parents’ generation’s financial success, while creating a safety net for them, afford us almost TOO many opportunities?
Many would say the latter. Most of my peers have changed career paths at least once or twice already. They’ve left the financial industry to go to art school, or left the restaurant industry for law school, or left school altogether to try their hand at running a surf camp. An online literary magazine. A fashion line.
And that’s precisely the luxury that defines our generation: all of our parents’ and grandparents’ hard work has afforded us the freedom to dream. To invent. To experiment. We are, quite truly, a generation of entrepreneurs. And we’re reveling in it. Never before has it been so easy or so tangible to start a business, whether that business is a non-profit, a website, an artistic endeavor, or even a personal empire. Just look at those Kardashians. I jest…sorta.
With everything at our fingertips, there are resources, support, and connectivity beyond our wildest imaginations. Or not, because our imaginations are pretty wild. Just look at what we’ve made so far: Google. Facebook. The Jersey Shore…oh wait, that was created by forty-year-olds. Phew.
It’s this imagination and spirit of childlike wonder that sustains us. And being tuned into our younger, Super Mario-loving selves helps fuel the creative fires. So maybe babies and houses have taken a bit of a backseat to pulling all-nighters launching that website, playing that gig, or writing just a few more pages of that novel. And that’s good. Because without the dreamers, society grows stagnant.
This doesn’t mean we’re never going to get married, have children, maybe plant a lemon tree in our very own backyard. We will…we’re just taking the scenic route.
Now if you’ll excuse me…I have front row seats for The Muppets Movie.

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