As you grow up you get a lot of advice. Often, it comes from people who are decades older and have established a certain level of success. While well-intentioned, there are often areas in life where the advice from an older generation isn’t applicable. These are areas where I have needed to learn from personal experience or closer to my age.
In these areas, your best sources of information might not come from people in positions of power. Parents, bosses, or teachers may not have experienced the world in the same way as you. Generational differences mean the best information doesn’t always come from years of wisdom. Instead, you should seek knowledge from the people who have already adapted to the challenges you’re facing.
Young adults have found themselves in positions where they’re not adequately prepared to face reality. Every generation has its struggles, but as I move through my young adult years I begin to see the areas where I’ve needed to find resources outside of my family. These can be the most difficult paths to navigate, but the ones that build the most character.
Growing up, it always seemed scary to be the “new kid” in school. As I became an adult, I began to realize people who moved around may have an advantage. They’re exposed to the housing market and they know how to pack up and rebuild their lives. Of course, they probably didn’t deal with the buckets of paperwork or the logistics of scheduling movers, but the exposure certainly had some impact on their vision of the real estate market.
For many young adults, the term “childhood home” brings one household to mind. They likely didn’t have exposure to the real estate market nor are they familiar with different types of housing. Now we’re in a housing shortage and it’s more competitive than ever to purchase a home. Unless your parents watch HGTV for the business aspect, their expectations probably won’t align with the current market. We’re no longer living in the days when a household of four can be supported by one working parent. Instead, purchasing a home means debt, commitment, and obligation.
The housing market is always changing. It’s possible that we’re currently in a tough market and we’ll get some relief in the next couple of years. This struggle isn’t something all parents know about, and it takes a lot of focus to navigate the market without guidance.
Finding a Job
If there’s one area where millennials and Gen Z can relate, it’s the job market. Millennials graduated into a market impacted by “The Great Recession” while Gen Z graduates are feeling the impact of COVID-19. When you look at older generations, their career prospects look very different.
After college, I never applied for a job without an online application. I can’t imagine how different it was to apply for jobs in person, but I also imagine the candidate pools would have been much smaller. Now, people can blast off applications with single clicks and find job postings from coast to coast with one search. It’s very hard to stand out when you’re applying for a job, and companies seem to be upping the qualifications for entry-level jobs.
You often hear jokes about older generations telling young adults to go in and ask for the job you want. This strategy would never work in today’s era, but the effective strategies to land a job are foreign to established workers. They didn’t graduate in a time where recent grads were expected to have three years of internship experience and a pre-established network. It’s a hard standard to meet, but it seems necessary if you want to get a decent job.
Over the years, terms like “vacation” and “relaxation” have come to mean different things. If you’re trying to get some peace of mind, it might be a smart idea to ask someone more familiar with your current work-life blend. Parents will tell you to turn off your phone, unplug everything, and remove yourself from your work. In reality, this can be mentally exhausting.
People want access to their friends and family. Often, they’d also like to be available in the case of a workplace emergency because it can be triply frustrating to deal with it in the future. This means some “vacations” get interrupted, and having access to your loved ones also means you have access to communication from work. This is where boundaries need to be established, yet these are often treated as suggestions rather than rules.
There’s also the possibility that you want to be somewhat connected. I admit that I like to look at Instagram and Twitter, and this can be a relaxing activity. If I get to decide how I spend my time, I want this level of connection. It’s then a matter of finding balance, not viewing the world in extremes.
Sometimes, I can get great advice from the older generations when it comes to reaching my later years. Usually, this is more administrative and less personal. If I want to know how to pick health insurance, I can depend on older people to help. When it comes to actual issues pertaining to my age, it seems they can’t relate. While their responses are sincere, they’re also not helpful.
For example, I will complain that I am starting to see gray hairs. Then, I receive responses like: “I can’t notice any” or “at least you have a full head of hair.” This might be true, but it also dismisses my concerns. In the eyes of a 50-year-old, a 30-year-old is still young. So, it’s hard for them to relate to your current issues. Even if they experienced them years ago those issues have likely been replaced by other age-related concerns.
My dad was 30-years old when I was born. While he has experienced every stage of life I’ve experienced, he will always be 30 years older than me. This makes me disconnected from his advice, and I’m always young in his eyes.
When it comes to my future plans, I know my friends and family in the older generation want the best for me. I also know their vision of “the best” might not be the same as mine. It’s likely defined by financial security, homeownership, and family stability. Objectively, these are great goals to have, but they don’t guarantee happiness.
Sometimes, you need to recognize other people want you to be successful without knowing your definition of success. You are the only one who can define your personal goals, and there’s a good chance they differ from your parents’ goals for you. In these cases, it’s important to avoid pressures to satisfy others and set your own priorities. There’s a good chance you will still have the support of others; they just didn’t know you had different goals.
It’s great when you have someone to lean on while pursuing your passions, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have unique interests that require you to develop new goals. Pressures from others can make this a challenge, and you may need to ignore contradictory advice.
If I were to write at length about this topic, there would be many asterisks and caveats. If you have a parent or older adult who will discuss mental health with you, it’s absolutely worth opening up. Open communication and dialogue are important parts of managing mental health conditions, and having a confidant from a different generation can be beneficial. Most older people a kind, well-intending people.
However, there’s a strong possibility these people will fall into one of two camps. They might give you advice that is outdated or impersonal. Likely, this is not their fault. They were raised in a different time that placed far less value on mental wellbeing. The other possibility: they try to identify your mental health concerns. Your parents are probably not doctors, and if they are doctors they’re probably a biased source. Do not accept a real diagnosis from a parent without talking to a mental health professional.
Fortunately, they can still be a great help and an ally in your progress. If they have knowledge of navigating health insurance and doctors, this will remove some stress of getting proper treatment. This is the support you need, not their diagnosis.
Getting the Right Advice
In a perfect world, you’d have the resources to get all the help you need. Your situation is never as unique as you may think it is, but there are some situations where you can’t go crawling to your parents. As you get older, you will see generations and personal differences appear in the advice you’re receiving. In such instances, it’s best not to rely on your parents for advice.
Ideally, you would have a mentor who can assist in your personal and professional goals. These relationships can be hard to find, but having insight from someone with recent experiences can be invaluable. If you are seeking advice, it never hurts to ask new people. Tap into your extended network, open up, and show gratitude. This can be a wonderful way to begin new relationships.
Part of getting older is knowing your parents don’t hold all the answers. This is not to discredit their support or willingness to help. Anyone who can rely on a parent or guardian is very fortunate. Their advice might not be exactly what you need for every situation, but that doesn’t mean they have no wisdom to show. You will have many opportunities to rely on them, and their experiences will help you navigate many areas. For the areas where they cannot give you advice, this leaves you to figure things out on your own. In the end, the table may turn. Your newfound knowledge could allow you to provide your parents with information in the future.