“So, how are things going with that guy?”
“I’m ending it. The bastard is going to be on The Bachelorette. God, I should have known. Seriously, who tries out for that? It’s depressing that I even…”
“Don’t think about it. Ugh. If it makes you feel better, look at who OkCupid thinks I’m compatible with. All of these guys either have dreads or full-sleeve tattoos. What does this say about me? It’s insulting.”
Ah, your twenties. A decade marinaded in bad decisions, first “real” jobs, and identity crises. A time seasoned by all-day hangovers, pregnancy scares, and horror stories from the online dating trenches. Years in which we ask ourselves important questions like: “What am I going to do with my life?,” “Who am I?” and “Am I going to Coachella this year?” Us 20-somethings, not yet shackled by the chains of adulthood, are free to Tinder, Insta, and Pin as we please. “YOLO” is our motto. “Girls” and “Workaholics” are our heroes.
And we are many. There are 50 million 20-somethings in the United States. That’s 50 million quarter-life meltdowns… 50 million sets of concerned parents.
The situation we face, for better or for worse, is very unique. Confronted with the current economy, Millenials take more circuitous routes than our parents did. We are a generation of late-bloomers. All of the things our parents did in their 20’s – buying a house, establishing a career, having babies – we will do those things in our 30’s.
Whether by choice or because we can’t even find a job at In & Out, taking our time can be a good thing. It allows us to figure out what we want to do. To experiment, explore, to travel. That said, we should be careful. We are conditioned to believe that we have all the time in the world. But taking all the adult steps later in life can reap negative consequences.
80% of life’s most defining moments take place by age 35. 8 out of 10 of the most important decisions, experiences, your aha! moments, that make your life what it is will have happened by mid-thirties.
Female fertility peaks at age 28, and gets tricky at age 35.
And while no one ever talks about it, there is such a thing as adult development. Our 20’s are a time when we are changing and growing in ways that will determine who we are for the rest of our lives. Your personality changes in your 20’s more than at any other time in your life. The brain caps off its second and last growth spurt in your 20’s, which means that whatever you want to change about yourself, now is the time to change it.
So while we Millenials are sometimes guilty of acting like the 20’s are a practice run, we want to start acting like it’s the day of the race. While we might feel like we can figure everything out in our 30’s, it’s also important to not waste time.
In her Ted talk “Why 30 is not the new 20,” clinical psychologist Meg Jay argues that the 20’s are not a throwaway decade. Instead, she argues that the 20’s is the most defining decade of life. She gives 20-somethings three pieces of advice for living your 20’s right:
1. Forget about having an identity crisis, and get some identity capital. Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next. Jay adds that identity capital begets identity capital. She says now is the time for that cross-country job, that internship, whatever you what to do. She states: “I am not discounting exploration, here. I’m discounting exploration that is not supposed to count.” Explore work and make it count.
2. The urban tribe is overrated. “20-somethings who huddle together with like-minded people limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak, and where they work.” She argues that the new and best things come from outside that circle. New things come from our “weak ties,” our friends of friends of friends.
3. The time to start picking your family is now. Jay says while it might be true that it’s better to get married later in life, a lot of people end up marrying whomever they’re partnered with at that age by default. She says to be as intentional with love as you are with work. She argues against killing time with whoever wants to be with you.
It’s eye-opening to know that my 20’s might be the most-defining decade of my life. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to do them right.