People tend to react to this trend in one of two ways, either castigating today’s young people for their idleness or acknowledging delayed adulthood as a rational, if regrettable, response to a variety of social changes, like poor job prospects. Either way, postponing the settled, responsible patterns of adulthood is seen as a bad thing.
This is too pessimistic. Prolonged adolescence, in the right circumstances, is actually a good thing, for it fosters novelty-seeking and the acquisition of new skills.
Studies reveal adolescence to be a period of heightened “plasticity” during which the brain is highly influenced by experience. As a result, adolescence is both a time of opportunity and vulnerability, a time when much is learned, especially about the social world, but when exposure to stressful events can be particularly devastating. As we leave adolescence, a series of neurochemical changes make the brain increasingly less plastic and less sensitive to environmental influences. Once we reach adulthood, existing brain circuits can be tweaked, but they can’t be overhauled.
You might assume that this is a strictly biological phenomenon. But whether the timing of the change from adolescence to adulthood is genetically preprogrammed from birth or set by experience (or some combination of the two) is not known. Many studies find a marked decline in novelty-seeking as we move through our 20s, which may be a cause of this neurochemical shift, not just a consequence. If this is true — that a decline in novelty-seeking helps cause the brain to harden — it raises intriguing questions about whether the window of adolescent brain plasticity can be kept open a little longer by deliberate exposure to stimulating experiences that signal the brain that it isn’t quite ready for the fixity of adulthood.
Evolution no doubt placed a biological upper limit on how long the brain can retain the malleability of adolescence. But people who can prolong adolescent brain plasticity for even a short time enjoy intellectual advantages over their more fixed counterparts. Studies have found that those with higher I.Q.s, for example, enjoy a longer stretch of time during which new synapses continue to proliferate and their intellectual development remains especially sensitive to experience. It’s important to be exposed to novelty and challenge when the brain is plastic not only because this is how we acquire and strengthen skills, but also because this is how the brain enhances its ability to profit from future enriching experiences.
With this in mind, the lengthy passage into adulthood that characterizes the early 20s for so many people today starts to look less regrettable. Indeed, those who can prolong adolescence actually have an advantage, as long as their environment gives them continued stimulation and increasing challenges.
What do I mean by stimulation and challenges? The most obvious example is higher education, which has been shown to stimulate brain development in ways that simply getting older does not. College attendance pays neural as well as economic dividends.
Naturally, it is possible for people to go to college without exposing themselves to challenge, or, conversely, to surround themselves with novel and intellectually demanding experiences in the workplace. But generally, this is more difficult to accomplish on the job than in school, especially in entry-level positions, which typically have a learning curve that hits a plateau early on.
Alas, something similar is true of marriage. For many, after its initial novelty has worn off, marriage fosters a lifestyle that is more routine and predictable than being single does. Husbands and wives both report a sharp drop in marital satisfaction during the first few years after their wedding, in part because life becomes repetitive. A longer period of dating, with all the unpredictability and change that come with a cast of new partners, may be better for your brain than marriage.
If brain plasticity is maintained by staying engaged in new, demanding and cognitively stimulating activity, and if entering into the repetitive and less exciting roles of worker and spouse helps close the window of plasticity, delaying adulthood is not only O.K.; it can be a boon.
"Bulosan brought to my attention the great importance for Filipino storytelling as necessity in preserving and expressing our culture and history. Our ability to create agency and resist dominant power structures through our voices has led to our intersectional resilience as survivors and agents of cultural change. It is through speaking and sharing our own truths that stereotypes within our communities are undone, while more accurate representations are set in place. When we continue to seek empowerment through our shared stories, we simultaneously overcome the powers that seek to silence our truth speaking.”
"As a youth, searching for a Filipino identity was difficult. Oftentimes I felt as though I was in a constant tug-of-war between being either “too Filipino” or “not Filipino enough”—whatever that means. However, one thing I am learning is that despite the difficulties of navigating any identity, it is through this navigation that we find and create stories that heal, rejuvenate, and collectivize our spirits. By reclaiming our stories, we continue Bulosan’s legacy of historical preservation and social justice through artistic expression."
The notion of the bucket list privileges a restless consumption, a hungry appetite for the new: “I’ve seen Stonehenge. Next?”
When I was an undergrad in the ’90s, there was little more exciting than the first day of class. What will my professor be like? What books will I be reading? How many papers will I have to write? Answers came readily, in the form of a tidy one-page document…
Such a dope picture
"we$tside Frida" ( Frida inspired shoot )
Model: Marcia ( @marciaarbizu )
Photographed by Andrew Quesada
Not sure I’m feeling the price. I don’t even know if I will like the scent, but I know I’m liking the packaging.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS’S DEBUT SCENT GIRL IS COMING TO SEPHORA
Meet the modern fragrance for girls and boys.
Created by the influential musician and the fragrance division of avant-garde fashion house Comme des Garçons, this bold eau de parfum featuring neroli, iris, and sandalwood captures the one-of-a-kind beat of music and fashion’s finest.
Black boy, black boy swinging from a tree
Shouldn’t have looked sideways at me
Black boy, black boy lying in the grass
Lucky I don’t shoot his skinny black ass
Black boy, black boy buried in the woods
I felt threatened, taught him real good
Black boy, black boy slaughtered in the road
I gave him the bullets that he was owed
Black boys, black boys playing all around
Black boys make me stand my ground
Black bodies are not disposable.
This is hauntingly terrifying, and it hurt to read.
Another young black man has been gunned down. His name was Mike Brown. He was unarmed.
My [redacted] e-mailed me because she knew I would be upset about this story, because she knows all of my heart, and all I could say in response was, “I am numb.”
I don’t care if Mike Brown was going to…