Recently The New York Times profiled a group of men, nearing 40, living in an apartment in New York, known as the "Fortress Astoria." The cadre had no families, no savings, no real plan. As journalist Rod Dreher wrote in a recent issue of The American Conservative, the Fortress Astoria represents one of the biggest cultural and social menaces facing our society: perpetual adolescence. We are products of the nihilistic, Jackass generation. The once popular MTV show mirrored, albeit in stark terms, what perhaps most tempts generations X and Y.
Our generation is coming of age in turbulent times. Aside from our own personal challenges, we and our peers enter adulthood amidst the uncertainty of creeping economic recovery, at times teetering on a returned recession. Cultural upheavals like unapologetic abortion, same-sex marriage and militant secularism certainly represent the fruits of the '60s, but they also will sow sour seeds of their own. Technology evolves at a pace scarcely slow enough for us to keep up, much less use words like why, how and ought when contemplating its use.
My second son is due in two months. At 25, I am husband to a woman who astounds me anew each day, a father to two little boys and am employed by an organization doing weighty and lasting work. Adulthood has found me. Many days, in my weakness, I wish it hadn't. This weekend I actually hurt my back playing with my 16-month-old son. Really? I'm old enough to strain my back doing daddy stuff?
When I examine the few short years since I graduated college, I see more clearly the options that have been laid before me at certain, crucial pivot points. For reasons I can describe as nothing else than God's grace, the hard decisions I have had to make seemed nothing but easy. Cliché as it may be, I cannot imagine life now without my wife, nor would I like to. Being a dad keeps me up many nights, not for feeding, rocking or changing diapers, but praying, thinking and hoping. Mathematically, feeding three mouths as opposed to two isn't a big jump; realistically, it is exponentially more difficult, I found last year. But not only does God provide, He cultivates. Salty, tear-soaked prayers whispered over a sleeping child bring maturity as nothing else can. And although economic and vocational circumstances prompted us last year to move our sprouting family across the country from Tennessee to Colorado, away from our own established clans, we're fulfilled to have done it.
To be frank, when I think about the cultural and personal challenges I mentioned above, I'm tempted to content myself with a mindless yet profitable 9-5 job, play the part of husband and father only nominally, take up my TV remote, settle on the couch and watch the world spin in high definition. Were I single and childless, my urge would be to move back with my folks and subsist, not from a sense of prudence, thrift or planning, but because of a desire for ease, comfort and sloth.
My friend, colleague and boss John Stonestreet recently said, "An indication of adolescence is expecting no consequence for your behavior." To that I would add the refusal to faithfully make the hard choices for lack of a view of the possible.
To be clear, I don't fault those who, after finishing whatever level of schooling they see fit, live with their parents, don't have a steady job, aren't married or don't have children. Responsibility takes on different hues according to the different prisms of our lives. But in a culture that screams its siren song to put off the responsibility asked of us today in exchange for the easy and cheap - especially in the face of shifting and unsteady grounds - more of us ought to do what is difficult and demanding.
But the struggle to be a responsible adult has its rewards, hard fought though they may be. Trust me. Don't rob yourself - or the unwitting rest of us - of such deep, abiding joy or the societal fruits of a life lived responsibly.