Archive for August, 2014

Home from College and Time to Incubate

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A friend of mine is “going nuts” because her son graduated from college and is “sitting around watching movies on his laptop.”  He is a product of Montgomery County in that he graduated with numerous honors from College, so he certainly proved himself capable within the structure of his undergraduate institution.  Now he reports to be “burnt out” and wants a break before heading to grad school.

How long do parents indulge such a break, and when he gets back up and running, does it have to be a job that meets his parents’ high expectations for another resume item? Should he really jump right back into more school?

No.  When young adults graduate from college, it is the beginning of growing up for many who have been coddled within structure, striving to achieve what is set forth for them while they remain financially, and often mentally dependent upon their parents.  It is just an undergrad degree and it takes time to incubate all that was imbibed while in school.  There are times for taking in and putting out, then time for restoration before taking in more and putting out again.

A generation ago, we did not think to “return home.” Not only would it be unthinkable to do so, we knew our parents “cut the cord” when we walked out the door post high school.  In a culture that promotes self-actualization as a prime value,  such parents were wise with respect to not having to remain “helicopter parents.”

Post college involves a few years of incubating and metamorphic struggle. This developmental period is the true test when “the rubber hits the road,” unless a young adult goes straight to grad school or otherwise is handed a position via a relative or friend. Such privilege to avoid developmental angst undermines an essential passage that actually cultivates a muscle called efficacy.

Self efficacy and competence is born out of genuine struggle and practice.  It is all about learning lessons by practicing and it takes a few years to grow up and authentically find your way without being defined by others. That growth involves periods of stillness whereby you reflect within the space called quiet.

Many young folks today are so flooded by anxiety that is the symptom that shouts, “I am already supposed to know who I am and have direction or I might fall into a black hole of the unknown,” that they’ll do anything, including resort to substances that aid in their escape  simply to avoid the angst that comes with the not knowing of practicing and risk taking, seeking and finding opportunities to grow on.

So, what was my advice to my friend?  Try giving her son the summer to ‘chill’ but he should get a job, any job, just to have some structure. And no, the job does not need to be the ideal job on his supposed career path. Just get a job because working is good for him.  Parents can set boundaries. For example, “we expect you to get a job and invested in a few activities while you adjust to post college and figure out your game plan.” Parents can, of course, require that a young adult pitch in at home while staying there rent free. Charging rent is also not an outrageous idea for the teaching of accountability once a young adult has a job.

The value behind the expectation to pitch in and pay rent is that it is time to “earn” a living and the beginning of building that sense of efficacy that comes when one earns his/her keep.  For privileged kids who have a safety net and all the creature comforts, there is enormous value in working, researching positions to try out and moving out of the home where mom and dad watch over you, fret and slip into the enmeshment of doing and thinking for you.

The incubation is a time of rest from four years of college. It is a time to reflect, practice, dream and envision a path that is your own while carving out the stepping stones to walk forward. My friend’s son has, I told her,  a good ten years to become whomever he is going to become professionally.  It is his journey to embrace.