Today is the 69th anniversary of D-Day. In case you are an American student and have never heard the term before, D-Day was the beginning of an operation involving over 150,00 Allied troops landing on the beaches of the Normandy region of France. The invasion has been called the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.
Those men you see in the photo wading through the surf toward the smoky beach ahead are now referred to as the Greatest Generation. But get this…they were Twenty-somethings. Some were as young as 18, but many were in their mid-20s. General Eisenhower inspired the troops before the invasion by saying: “You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.” Just a little pressure, that.
Of course, that was then, and this is now. How times have changed. Nowadays, we refer to 18-25 year-olds as “emerging adults,” a whole new demographic group. Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, the brains behind this new developmental stage, argues that people in this age group don’t believe themselves to be adults yet and struggle with identity and focus.
Gee, I don’t know. Maybe they just need a Gen. Eisenhower to help them focus. Since I can’t think of anyone to fit that bill, I would refer Twenty-somethings to this Ted Talk (entitled “Why 30 is not the new 20”) by clinical psychologist Meg Jay.
She argues that the 20’s are actually the “defining decade of adulthood,” rather than a continuation of adolescence. In one’s 20’s, the brain undergoes its last growth spurt, so she argues, “Whatever it is you want to change about yourself, now is the time to change it.” And I love this insight:
Leonard Bernstein said that to achieve great things, you need a plan and not quite enough time. Isn’t that true? So what do you think happens when you pat a twentysomething on the head and you say,”You have 10 extra years to start your life”? Nothing happens. You have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens.
Rather than spending a decade in finding one’s identity, Jay recommends doing something that develops “identity capital.” In other words, do something that adds value. Like liberating a continent from a genocidal tyrant.
To the ever-dwindling number of veterans of D-Day and World War II who are still with us, thank you.