With classes right around the corner, we’re wrapping up the summer Adulthood research. It’s been a very productive summer, and it’s been exciting to watch my research assistants develop their own takes on the data we’ve collected and the current conversation around adulthood in the U.S.
What strikes me most about this past summer are the ways in which my students are able to find questions of great depth from the starting point of asking “what is adulthood?” This prompts me to think about how to present our research to the public. It seems to me that most adulthood related work that gets attention from the media focuses on “what’s wrong with the next generation” or “why things are harder than ever.” However, we’re finding that when we give people the space to reflect on their own experience, they find layers to being adult that they rarely consider. Heck, I’ve been thinking about this question for years, and I still get surprised by ideas that interviewees and students offer me!
Now, at the close of another successful field season, I find myself excited to share the results of our work and to invite more people to contemplate what it means to be adult. I also find myself looking forward to the next project of my career. I’m realizing that when people have a chance to stop and think about their own experience and how it has shaped them, they also become more curious about what shapes other people. For many people, that curiosity also includes more empathy than I see people practicing day-to-day. I wonder if there is a way to tap that curiosity and empathy, to give people more common ground than they feel they currently have. I’ll need to chew on this for a while, but it’s exciting to feel the inklings of what comes next, even as I continue working on this project.