When a friend of mine was four, her feminist mother told her: "When you grow up, you can be anything you want." So she decided to become a horse.
While most kids I know pick more conventional occupations as their ideal, we are all well versed in the gospel of "you can be anything you want" thanks to Disney movies, motivational desk calendars and high school careers advisers.
Yesterday was the last day for university applicants in New South Wales to change their course preferences for the main round of offers due out later this month. For many it will also seem like the deadline for deciding What I Want to Be When I Grow Up.
But even though we are all instructed incessantly to follow our dreams, not everyone is as sure about their raison d'etre as my friend, the aspirational horse. The fact that about a third of university students defer or change their degree is indicative of how hard it is to decide.
So it should come as a relief to all Gen Y-ers asking the big questions, be they uni-related or not, that there is another option to ponder: "When I grow up, I'm not going to grow up at all."
According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, the word of the year for 2004 was "adultescent". While the term sounds suspiciously like a type of light fitting, it actually refers to adults who "think like teenagers". Or as The New York Times reported, "teenage tastes with an adult credit card".
In Australia, marketers have identified 1.5 million people in their late 20s and 30s for whom life is just about travel, acquiring cool technology and going to the pub. "They don't think in terms of a career," says David Chalke of Quantum Market Research. Adultescents (aka "kidults", and "rejuveniles") change jobs as often as people dressing for a first date change outfits.
And it's not a CV-building exercise. Work is for the sole purpose of earning money to travel, acquire cool technology and go to the pub.
A recent AustraliaSCAN survey conducted by Quantum Market Research found that 52 per cent of the 2000 18- to 30-year-olds surveyed lacked a mortgage, a marriage and offspring. About two-thirds of these adultescents still lived with mum and dad. Obviously their parents are yet to go on strike.
With similar phenomena reported by researchers in the US and Britain, there has been talk of an international "Peter Pandemic".
Although given that the Peter Pan-themed movie Finding Neverland is showing in a cinema near you, the alarmism could just be a tricky marketing ploy.
Yet while the boy who wouldn't grow up was an ambivalent character - charming if not a bit alternative - adultescence has been touted as downright stupid and selfish. Daniel Donahoo, from the OzProspect think tank, has opined that young men who refuse to grow up "will continue to miss out on the extremities of life that independence has to offer".
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