Failure to Launch: What Happens Next?

failure to launch“A professional bull rider.”

Admittedly, the 20-something male sitting across the desk from me along with his father surprised me with his answer to my question of, “What do you want to do profession-wise?”  His name was Jonathan* but he’d introduced himself as “Rebel,” the moniker he used in online chat rooms talking to women and the name which his father used to refer to him, with something akin to pride, telling me, “Oh, he’s a hit with the ladies on the chat rooms.”

“Oh?  You have experience as a bull rider?”  Hey, I live in the South.  It could happen.

“No.  But, I beat the HELL outta the last level in PBR: Ragin’ Bulls.”  His tone was matter-of-fact, a little proud in fact.

I’m afraid my face reflected more than a clinically trained psychotherapist’s ought to.  This client, one of my caseload of roughly 80 at the mental health center where I worked, represented with what I’d come to think of as “Failure to Launch” (FTL) after the fairly recent movie.

These teenage and 20-something males were coming through my office on a regular basis with major delusions of grandeur brought on by mental images of themselves as the handsome, brave, muscular, impeccably trained, militarily accomplished hero, when they weren’t expert race car drivers, zombie killers or car thieves.

These males were in many cases barely high school graduates, though often not, with no appreciable skills or realistic goals for work, relationships or lifestyle, and just as often drug addicts.  Frequently, as their parents had no idea how to guide them, they showed up in my office thinking these maladaptive behaviors must be a mental illness.

I blame the internet.

The Generation Gap

I suppose it’s normal for one generation to criticize the next, to shake one’s head, wonder what changed in the space of roughly 20 years.  I suppose it’s also normal to tell one’s self that I’m not going to be the stereotypical curmudgeon who begins every other sentence with, “Back in MY day…”  However, I’m forced to wonder if there has ever, in the history of our society, been a larger generation gap than the one we’re seeing now.

When my generation was in school, we lived in the real world.  The internet was only just a gleam in Al Gore’s eye, and Windows was coming online, but computers were still only operable with the use of cumbersome DOS commands.

There were no virtual worlds to inhabit, no epic apocalyptic battles to win, no YouTube to inflate one’s ego with self-aggrandizing videos, no chat rooms in which to represent one’s self in suspect- if- not- downright- false light.

And nowhere near the number of FLT’s crashing in a wave onto our workforce, this client a case in point.

“Unfortunately, you probably know that professional bull riders usually start out young and live in parts of the country where they have access to competitions and sponsor opportunities.  What other jobs have you considered?”

By this time, two things were occurring:  First, I was starting to get a headache.  Second, I was beginning to wonder why this client’s father was sitting idly by and allowing this 25-year-old FLT to live in his home and spend his time in chat rooms (not to mention, how any of this was consistent with the nickname, “Rebel”).

Failure to Launch: What Happens Next?


APA Reference
Long,, S. (2019). Failure to Launch: What Happens Next?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Sep 2019
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Sep 2019
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