Tag Archives: Human Behavior

The changing timetable for adulthood.

Why aren’t the millennials (defined as the group those who are born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter) settling down? The word “settling down” unsettles this lot. This topic gets quite uncomfortable around the dinner table with parents and quite weird with relatives at a  family function. Most of the time the settling down question is a polite way of asking – “When are you getting married ?”

The earlier generation is not to be blamed because sociologists traditionally defined the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: 1) Completing school 2) Leaving home 3) Becoming financially independent 4) Marrying and  5) Having a child. Well in the Indian context and especially for women milestone 2 might be listed after 4 :).

But what they fail to realize is how the definition of adulthood today has remarkably changed. The 2014 Clark University Established Adult Poll found that the top three markers for adulthood were – 1)Accepting responsibility for self, 2) Financial independence and 3) Making independent decisions.

That’s exactly what the millennials are trying to achieve. We’re in an era of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Jeffery Jensen Arnet a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is leading the movement to view the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “Emerging Adulthood”. Emerging adulthood is identified as a stage of – identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities”. Emerging adults are on an intense search for personal authenticity, awareness, and personal definition. Robbins and Wilner in their book Quarter Life Crisis state that twenties are ripe with self-doubt and intense with introspection.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated. The path to adulthood is taken now at an uneven, highly individual pace. Some never achieve all five milestones –  adults could stay single or couples could stay childless by choice.

The “emerging adults” who are in an identity exploration phase, the idea of “settling down” is naturally quite unsettling. But the question is – why do we consider committing to a long-term relationship as “settling down”? Why does it feel like there is a lot to be ticked off from the bucket list before that “settling down” happens?

Wouldn’t it make better sense if the idea of committing to a relationship rather “stir” up our lives with possibilities – bigger dreams and a bigger appetite for taking risks, because now you got a partner in crime.

  • Have a start-up idea – now you have a partner to support.
  • Caught up with wanderlust- now you get a partner to travel with.
  • Always dreamt of publishing your book – now there is someone who pushes you to get it done or even better you co-author with them. Like this couple.

Sharing that wanderlust with your spouse and even your children or allowing your dreams to grow even larger to include your spouse and family – makes your aspirations even more worthwhile. According to a US research, nearly 70 percent of the founders of high-growth successful businesses were married when they became entrepreneurs (Jeff Bezos quit his high paying job and started Amazon.com with his wife MacKenzi, immediately after their marriage). Talking about the initial days of Infosys, Sudha Murthy mentioned – “I wrote programs for Infosys. There was no car, no phone, and just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling our lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape.”  

Think about it – the companionship in marriage should rather unsettle us with new perspectives, new journeys and new experiences. It should not be a full stop to our aspirations but an exclamation mark in our life stories. This would only happen when we free ourselves from the burden of societal expectations on what a picture perfect settled life should look like – considering the fact that the “emerging adulthood” is a new concept and traditional milestones of adulthood are still relevant in the minds of many around us.

Let the path of adulthood be uneven and individually paced – to  each, their own. Let it not be a rush towards ticking off societal check boxes and let committed relationship be an exclamation mark in your life story because as the quote goes:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

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The “Feels Too Much” Tribe in a “Just Chill” World.

Have you felt like a sponge soaking up all emotions around you – from people around you, characters in a movie you just watched, the books you read or a tragic news you heard? You carry these feeling as your own and it takes you hours or sometimes days to get over it. When you have tried explaining your state of mind to someone you would have quite often been advised to – “Just chill”.  In a generation that considers the “chill” factor as a mark of being uber cool and is considered as an attribute most desirable, you sometimes tend to feel like a total misfit and you wonder – “Is something wrong with me?”. You might even have tried forcing yourself to play along being the “uber cool” but deep inside it doesn’t feel quite “you”.  And that is simply because you are a special breed called the “empath” – and there is nothing wrong being one.

Just like some people have better hearing or vision, empaths have a more acute sensitivity to emotional signals – which indeed is a strength. But every strength comes with its own complexities.

According to research conducted by Elaine Aron, PhD, a psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York, 20% of the population are genetically predisposed to be more aware and empathic. She and her research team have found physical evidence in the brain that empaths respond especially strongly to certain situations that trigger emotions than the rest of the population.

Empaths tend to feel a lot more, compared to other people –  the highs as well as the lows. Many great artists, writers and authors have all been empaths. Their art becomes their medium to pour these emotions. You will find empaths working with people, animals or nature with a true passion and dedication to help. They are often seen as great teachers, healers, volunteers for causes and are ready giving up personal time to help others without any pay or recognition. Empaths may be excellent storytellers with their endless imaginations and can be hardcore old romantics at heart. They are the greatest listeners you would ever find in life. Even complete strangers find it easy to talk to empaths about their most personal matters.

Now, those of us who are familiar with the movie – this might sound like the character sketch of Dulquer Salmaan straight out of the Malayalam movie “Charlie”. Yes, the empaths look really good in movies – the storytellers, the arty free thinkers, the volunteers. We see Charlie helping the suicidal doctor, celebrating birthday with the HIV positive sex worker, rescuing the little girl about to be sold into prostitution, and more – absorbing the traumas of each one them as if the pain were his own.

This sponge like absorption of emotions makes being an empath quite emotionally draining. Empaths see the world differently from the majority of the population leading their heart to get broken constantly for cruelty, injustice and inequalities that they see around them. To recoup, and keep their emotional balance they need their  “alone” time  – and probably that’s why we see Charlie drifting out of people’s lives after an emotional event, leaving no trace of his where about.

The crazy wise maverick  – that was Charlie’s highlighted characteristics in the movie and that’s probably because we as viewers only come to know about Charlie through Tessa’s (the actress) search for Charlie leading her to people who tell their experiences with him which are absolutely magical. But that’s a one dimensional magical persona created. The rest of him for everyone is a mystery and not quite elaborated in the movie. There were only very subtle hints of him too having his needs for help.  Charlie as a child never had a real father-son relationship. This to a large extent resembles real life, the childhood of an empath could be very challenging because quite often their parents or teachers don’t understand the nuances of the child’s emotional framework and are unavailable to guide them. Often times as a child their abilities go overlooked, left to cope with overwhelming emotions and asked to fit in.

It’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned.

So to all the Tessas or the ones in love with an empath – it’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned. But what one needs to understand is that along with the magical connection is also a human being who could be just drained out absorbing feelings from all around. Here is a person who would hardly prioritize their self-care. Someone who is always on the giving end and the last one to ask. Someone who has chances of turning to addiction like alcohol or drugs to tone down their life. So loving such a person would mean – reminding them of prioritizing their self care, showing them your love because they might never ask for it, giving them their extra space in a relationship for them to balance out their emotions, giving them the extra time to heal. The one thing they would need from you is to be  authentic and honest  to the core because they can easily see beyond the superficial.

sensitive-people

And to all the  empaths out there, it’s okay if you feel too much. That’s just how you are and a self awareness of your highly sensitive emotional construct will help you handle it. Make peace with it – “Just Chill” , I mean “Just Feel”  🙂

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