Stuck in the Middle: The Trials of Emerging-Adulthood

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During the early 2000s, psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, PhD, proposed a new period of life that individuals experience called “emerging-adulthood”. In an APA article, Arnett saw a theme over his five years of research, young people ages 18-25 years old, despite major differences in backgrounds,  “shared the perception of feeling in-between” - no longer an adolescent, but not fully an adult. According to Arnett a few “features” of this group were instability, identity exploration and optimism.


Even though it’s been nearly two decades since his findings, our generation is still dealing with triumphs and setbacks that come with emerging-adulthood. Many of these experiences can/will happen during college because it’s a major time of development.


Personally, I became accustomed the ups and downs during my college years because I created my identity around being a college student. Much to my surprise, a few of my friends had done the same. After becoming used to the inconsistencies of being a college students, my friends and I couldn’t help but to normalize and revolve our lives around them.


Thankfully, we had graduation to look forward to. We viewed it as a remedy to our struggles. It would finally bring balance and ease to our lives; we’d be employed full-time or in graduate school, maybe even have a cool internship in the city of our choice.


Before we knew it, we were walking across the stage at graduation. And then (real) life happened.


While I did have friends going straight to graduate school, that also meant them uprooting to a different place. Things were getting real and we were scrambling to keep up with the new momentum of life.


It was weird because we’d all been eagerly waiting for graduation and now we were being forced into the real world without time to adapt to reality. I was shocked at how unprepared I was and I soon began to feel off.


The feelings that I had were very foreign to me. The mundaneness of my consistent schedule became uninspiring. I was irritable, lacking motivation and overall unfulfilled with my life.


That was until I was scrolling through Twitter and saw a tweet about “post-graduation depression”.


I became curious and asked my good sis Google about this concept. A Washington Post article summed up my exacts thoughts about post-graduate depression and featured Juli Fraga, a psychologist based in San Francisco.


She explained how college provides a “cocoon” for most students and the abrupt transition from college life to adulthood can be a huge distress. Apparently, post-graduation depression was a common occurrence for millennials in the midst of emerging-adulthood.


Discovering this information allowed me to open up to my friends about my struggles which started many conversations about mental health and becoming adults.


This led me to do something I’d thought I’d never do: seeking help from a therapist! Therapy has been a huge blessing in my life and has made such a difference in my temperament.


We’ve talked about building resiliency and developing healthy coping skills when the changes in life become overwhelming. If you are able to see a therapist, please do!


If not, that it perfectly fine, just know that you are not alone in this. Emerging-adulthood can be a difficult time, but I truly believe that life will get better.

Suicide Prevention Hotline

Therapy for Black Girls



Taylor Cones is a recent graduate of Calvin College where she currently serves as an admissions counselor. Throughout her undergraduate years and as a working professional, Taylor gained a multitude of information about what it means to efficiently research and prepare for graduate school. As a JTG contributor, she hopes to inspire those who are seeking insight on how to successfully further their education.

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