Young Adulting and Eldering


I heard a short podcast episode this week that I’d like to pass onto you.

It’s just 11 minutes along. While listening, I think I was beaming most of the time. Without reducing either into a simple box or definition, this episode really uplifts the great gifts of young adulthood and the relational practice of eldering.

It’s a short interview with Krista Tippett from On Being. On Being has started a segment called “Living the Questions” where listeners ask questions of Krista, and she gives her own thoughts and perspectives. This episode starts with this question:

“Where do we allow space for young people to access and articulate their sense of power and purpose, their vulnerability and their courage?”

Good question.

Krista Tippett begins by talking about her own childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood. She then mentions some of the particular forms of wisdom that come with various stages of life. She believes we can share these very intentionally in cross-generational relationships.

I want to lift just a couple of quotes:

“. . . if I think back to myself at those ages, of being a teenager and of being a young adult, is at the same time that, in some ways you know you still have everything to learn and everything to experience, and you can feel so frustrated by what you don’t yet know and haven’t yet done and don’t yet know if you can — you have this sense of urgency. I really think of this as the wisdom of young adulthood and of the teenage years, you have this sense of urgency about what is possible. You have this real curiosity about the big, soaring questions, and what it’s all about, and what your life might all be about. You can see the world whole, and you want to make that real. And I think that that urgency of a person at this stage of life is a real gift to the world.”


“That’s one of the things that flows into my passion, these days, about eldering and about cross-generational relationship, because that urgency is fierce, but it’s also fragile. And I really think it needs to be accompanied to stay alive, to stay confident in itself. But also, when you are bringing that particular gift to the world, it hurts. That urgency hurts. It’s painful, in kind of an exquisite way, to be able to see the world whole, to long for so much, for so much to be possible. So, to have people in your life who can honor that and accompany it, and not give you a reality check — that’s not what we want from our elders, although we may sometimes want counsel — but actually just embody — I do feel like this is also true of parenting. When your kids are in these aching places of just being human, one of the things that feels natural is to want to be in it with them, to feel their pain. Your child, your teenager is awake all night, you’re awake all night. And it’s not that I am really good at disconnecting, but at some point I understood that what a parent or an elder can offer a younger person is to embody, just physically embody the fact that there is life beyond this moment, that there is calm and groundedness to be found, that one aspires one day to bring together and integrate, also, with the fierceness and passion you have and longings you have and to embody that reality — to temper that really valuable impatience of youth with a lived experience that patience also has its place. Not that the two cancel each other out, but that they can walk together.”

I love all of this. I have also found it to be true.

As I think about the upcoming academic year in Ann Arbor, I am all-in for this kind of vision. That’s not entirely new, of course; for a long while, this is what has most called me most over time. But there are moments when we feel as though we are readying to practice it more deeply, more intentionally.

I’m all about that. And beaming.

Have a listen.

Renee Roederer

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