Q. I just graduated from college. I got great grades and won more than one academic award. I was a leader on campus and participated in Engineers Without Borders and the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon. I've worked every summer and have saved enough money to take this summer off to travel. My parents think I should get a job as soon as possible and don't understand I want time to de-compress. How can I get them to back off?
A. Congratulations on your success! You did the work and deserve the credit for making the most of your college career. I suspect your parents had a lot to do with shaping your character, and your abilities. Their mentoring, support, and vision for you were the wind beneath your wings. Now you want to fly solo and they are gusting up a storm! What to do?
Declare your independence
You don't have to openly defy or even argue. You have a track record of success that shows you are ready to make your own decisions. Go ahead. If you want to travel, get a passport, a train ticket, or a used car, and pack your bags and shuffle off to Buffalo, but....
Make sure you communicate
You don't owe your parents long explanations, but the smart way to get more trust and freedom is to stay in touch (and a bit more than you would like!) Tell them where you will be going, how they can get in touch with you, what safety precautions you are taking, and text or send postcards frequently. Get stamps before you go and memorize their address, if you don't already know it, so it's easy to drop cards along the way. This will be hard to do -- you want freedom, but they will be less intrusive if you over-communicate.
Consider their point of view
Assuming your success to-date is at least partly based on the guidance and direction your received from your parents, maybe they have a point, if not about how you spend this summer, about how to make the next step. You would benefit from research and networking to prepare you for employment. Think through how you will get started on a career search in September, and run your ideas by Mom and Dad. The more your trust yourself, the easier it is to smile through uninvited suggestions.
Make the most of your 20s
In her book, The Defining Decade: Why Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them, psychologist Dr. Meg Jay cautions against wasting your 20s. Business Insider compiled some of Jay's compelling reasons for why society's myth that you can "hang out" in your 20s, and catch up later, doesn't work. She also lists reasons why young people should capitalize on their 20s, including:
- 80 percent of life's defining moments happen by age 35
- Psychology shows that having too many choices isn't freeing: it's paralyzing.
- The 'urban tribe' is a myth, and hinders young people from reaching their full potential
- Backpacking through exotic locales around the world will not help your resume
- 2/3 of lifetime wage growth happens in the first decade of one's career
- The work you do at the office matters every single day - "typos and sick days matter"
- Real confidence comes from mastery, and most Millennials haven't mastered anything yet
- Living with a significant other is generally a bad idea, and can hinder future relationships
- 50 percent of Americans marry by age 30, and 75 percent get hitched by 35
Give yourself permission to do it your way
I'm pretty sure you will not just backpack through your 20s, because you have already demonstrated your ability to make good decisions. I endorse a guilt-free adventure this summer. Bottom line: phoning home is the best way to buy yourself freedom.