I was a bit put off when I first heard the term “adulting”, the traditional noun turned into a verb. It sounded like an excuse young people were using to buy themselves more time to step up to the demands of being a “grownup.” I grew tired of hearing how hard adulting is. I briefly had the same mindset as the other old guy who complained about the “Peter Pan Syndrome” of today’s youth in a TikTok video which set off the viral “OK Boomer” retort on Instagram and other social media. Since I was still somewhat indoctrinated in traditional views of human development, “adulthood” was a landing place after certain basic criteria were met. One’s chronological age plus official legal status as an adult was usually enough to claim it, maybe with a modicum of independence thrown in.
“I can’t be that old!” I muttered when I saw the latest cover of my Harvard alumni magazine. It commemorated the year 1969, fifty years ago, with the phrase “Time of Turmoil”. The article explains how “The images of that time remain vivid for those who lived through it…” They’re more than vivid for me. The campus turned into Protest Alley and tear gas rose up from the streets. There were Civil Rights marches and demonstrations and students demanding African-American studies. There was a blossoming Women’s Liberation Movement as the women’s college Radcliffe merged with Harvard. Today’s activists use similar strategies of marches, signs, and slogans, but with an internet megaphone.