The Changing Times

 

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by Jason C. Steinle

 

“What’s wrong with today’s youth? They don’t seem to care about the community,” says 62-year-old Tom. “Just look at the Lions Club, Kiwanis, and Rotary Club membership. It’s nothing but a sea of gray hair.”

            Is Tom right? Have today’s quarterlifers—people in their teens, twenties and early thirties—abandoned their communities? Not exactly. In spite of the prevalence of receding hairlines and bathroom breaks at community meetings, statistics show that volunteerism among today’s youth has steadily increased. What has changed is the form this involvement takes. 

 

            Twenty years ago it was common to meet on a Tuesday night in a church basement, lodge or home. The meetings were a time to work, but also a time to socialize and catch up with your neighbors. Today it’s different. Instead of driving to the Elk’s Lodge, quarterlifers are gathering online in chat rooms, blogs and through emails, text messaging, pagers, cell phones, and Blackberries.  They are planning highway clean-ups and playground restorations, but not in the traditional way. 

 

It’s not just community involvement that has changed.  The world that today’s youth are growing up in is much different from that of their parents.  The “rules” that use to exist no longer apply.  Because of progress made in Civil Rights and Women Rights; the globalization of our world and out-sourcing of jobs; the urbanization of the United States and conglomeration of industry, the  opportunities that exist today are different than those available twenty years ago.

 

Quarterlifers have grown up witnessing their parents commit to a job for forty years only to get laid off a month before retiring.  Gone are the days of job security and the proverbial gold watch.  As one quarterlifer told me, “We’ve witnessed corporate scandals like Enron, World Com and even Qwest.  We’ve watched as companies downsize and ship entry-level jobs overseas.  We’ve seen our parents go directly into the work force and then experience a mid-life crisis twenty years later when they discover they hate their job.  We’ve been there through all of this and we don’t want it.“

Instead of jumping into a career, today’s quarterlifers are doing things differently. They’re exploring. They’re free agents. They realize job stability doesn’t exist.  No longer is the goal to get hired on early and work to the top. To their parents and grandparents it may look like indifference, but quarterlifers are switching jobs, traveling, volunteering and going back to school in an attempt to get a better idea of what they truly want to do.

The same applies to family.  Having watched 50% of their parents’ marriages end in divorce, quarterlifers have pushed back the average age of marriage to 27 from the age of 23 in the 1970s. Many are waiting until their late twenties and early thirties to begin having children.

So where does this leave us? At an interesting crossroad.  While parents and grandparents lament about the way things used to be, today’s youth are going through a quarterlife crisis as they let go of the past and try to create a new future.  The reason for the change is the same motivating factor that has been responsible for every generational shift: a defiance of the way things are and the belief that “our generation” can do better. 

 

The next time you get frustrated with your son or daughter, stop and ask yourself what is different about life today than when you were growing up. You may realize that quarterlifers live in the aftermath of soaring divorce rates, stock market scandals, and corporate layoffs.  It’s not that quarterlifers are apathetic, it’s just that like previous generations quarterlifers are looking for something else.

 

            Join us in the next issue where we’ll look more closely at the quarterlife crisis and the major concerns of quarterlifers across the nation.

 

All Rights Reserved    Nasoj Publications, LLC 

 

Jason C. Steinle is a chiropractor at Health and Harmony, PC in Evergreen, CO,  the host of The Steinle Show talk radio and television programs, and author of Upload Experience: Quarterlife Solutions which is available at  www.amazon.com, To learn more visit www.uploadexperience.com

 

 

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