Fifty years ago people knew what was expected of them. Men were supposed to work jobs in which they earned enough money to support their wives and children and even had enough left over for an annual vacation. Mothers cared for their children and husbands, kept a clean house, and threw martini parties. Children attended school, did their homework, and listened to authority figures, not because they wanted to mock them, but because they'd been taught the value of respecting their elders. Today, however, things are drastically different. The nuclear family is the exception rather than the rule, fathers work two, sometimes three jobs, because one just doesn't cut it, and mothers are out there as well because a single-income family can't survive.
These social changes have caused people to age more quickly. Kids can't backpack through Europe to find themselves when they're eighteen anymore. Instead, they either have to enter the workforce or college if they plan to survive. Because social aging has crept up on us, we see people in crisis in their twenties, rather than forties today.
We live in a world of instant gratification. We have drive-thru restaurants, online bill payments, TiVo, and many, many more conveniences. But what does it all mean? It means we have to make more money. Gone are the days of casual living. We're in a fast-paced, materialistic society revolving around the all-mighty dollar. More is better, a lot is great. People have forgotten how to be content with having "enough." Enough is never, well, enough.
As a consequence of this change in lifestyle, people are in crisis at a much younger age. Burnout among professional workers is at an all-time high and job satisfaction seems to be falling by the wayside. How many people today wake up in the morning looking forward to their jobs? I would venture to say the number is quite low. Instead, people wake to alarm clocks dreading another day's work.
The need for bigger and better things pushes us to follow paths lined not with the green of contentment but of the dollar. Because of this, men and women postpone marriage and families. More and more couples are having fewer and fewer children. Our society is devoid of principle and rife with litigation. Instead of a nation bound by unity, we are a nation torn by dissention and dissatisfaction. The younger generations seem more and more hopeless because they are seeing the degeneration of happiness.
How can a man be content with himself if he lives in a society where war, race, sexual orientation, religion, and political standpoints are constantly under fire? With so little left to believe in, it seems only natural men and women find themselves dealing with critical issues at a much younger age. If our jobs, government, and churches can't offer us support and validation, how can we be expected to lead lives we find satisfying?
We're taught from an early age to value material items over contentment. Sports figures, once seen as idols for their athletic prowess have become marketing figures whose value to society is calculated by the monetary figures associated with their endorsement contracts. Education is seen as a chore rather than a privilege, and family can sometimes be nothing more than a grouping of people who sleep beneath the same roof.
Until we see a shift in priorities, the age at which men and women find themselves in crisis will continue to decrease. In the years to come, teenagers will be wondering what the meaning of life is and how to get ahead will be their primary concern.