What does it mean to come of age amid the global upheaval of a pandemic? Today’s Daily is devoted entirely to that question, as we unpack “21 in ’21,” a special global report exploring what being 21 looks like for a dozen young adults around the world.
It is an ambitious project involving 11 photographers, 12 subjects, and 13 reporters. I encourage you to take some time delving into the various components in this issue and in the Monitor Weekly.
When the team began reporting this project nearly five months ago, they sought to explore how the pandemic was affecting a generation perched on the precipice of adulthood. Would this year of loss disrupt the maturation process? Would it change who these young adults become?
Indeed, the team found stories of dreams deferred. But beneath the boredom and frustration, fear and loss, they found shoots of growth.
Jaafar Al Ogaili, a new American citizen who came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee, learned that it is OK to cry after witnessing the gratitude of a friend he had delivered groceries to during quarantine. Jimena Pérez Sánchez of Mexico City learned to cope with grown-up proportions of guilt and fear when both she and her mother were diagnosed with COVID-19.
This likely isn’t the kind of blossoming that Jaafar and Jimena had hoped their 21st year would bring. But such points of emotional growth are the real mile markers, more than any rite of passage.
Societies hang a lot on this period of life. The numerical age varies across cultures, but there is often a sense that a specific age signifies the completed metamorphosis. In reality, none of us ever really stop growing up. I find that comforting because it means there is always something to strive and hope for.