Possibly even more fascinating is watching how quickly an individual's attitude changes. Every stage in life seems to have a few things in common: 1. Eagerness for the next stage (although this settles down a bit as people get past about 25), 2. The idea that now we've figured it all out, and 3. Absolute contempt for the immediately previous stage.
Personally, I think these traits are particularly evident in new parents. As someone who has spent a lot of time over the last eight years as a childless woman in a conservative town with child-bearing friends, I feel pretty qualified in making that statement. (And I hope that I can learn something from them and try to tone down my own change-of-life-ness toward other people when my time comes.) It's remarkable how major life changes bring about some personality shifting.
The second group I've noticed act this way are college students. The current Verizon advert with the "Rule the Air" slogan includes some teenage girls expressing their desire to be taken seriously, even though they are only 16. Too bad that in two or three years' time, they won't be taking 16-year-olds seriously, either. Teens that want to be heard tend to turn into young adults who don't want to listen to high school students.
And it gets worse: Upperclassmen sneer at lowerclassmen. Non-trads laugh at the antics of 22-year-olds who think themselves to have the whole world under control. And the older non-trads (that's me!) think that all younger students have more naiveté than necessary.
Recently there was a conversation between two guys in my Astronomy class, talking about a TA who was "like, 23 years old!". Both said they didn't want to listen to him because he was so young, quite clearly forgetting that it wasn't so long ago that they, too, were 23-year-olds with valuable things to say.
Because the issue isn't that younger people don't have value. It's not that they don't have good ideas or that they are dumb. It's the lack of experience to mix with the good ideas that leads to them being ignored. A bummer, to be sure, but it happens to everyone.
And despite their best intentions that "I'm not going to act like that!", frustrated teens grow into dismissive college students who grow into we-know-better late 20somethings who grow into new parents who suddenly know what life is all about, until those babies grow into teens... and so on. The great circle of life, as it were.
It's fun to watch, anyway.