Recently I watched this TED talk, Why 30 Is Not The New 20. If you haven’t watched it, you should, it just might change your life. As I sat in my living room listening to Meg Jay talk about why 30 is in fact, not the new twenty, there were a lot of thoughts running through my head. At first I thought something along the lines of “who the hell actually thinks that 30 is the new 20? what.” It was a strange concept to be sure, but the more I listened to her speak, the more I realized that even though I would never have phrased it that way, she is completely right.
This thing called the twenties, or in our case the twenty-somethings, have earned a weird reputation. We are suspended between fun loving college students, and serious settled adults. Meg Jay’s take on it as an “extended adolescence” isn’t wrong. While we don’t exactly think of our twenties as a throw away, we don’t exactly think of them as the decade that determines most of the important decisions of your life – but that’s exactly what it is.
This is the decade that we define who we are, and who we will be. We graduate from college, we do something with that degree (even if it is just hanging it on a wall), we choose our careers, we choose what city we live in, and in a lot of cases we choose our partners, and possibly even start a family. Holy shit – those are all HUGE choices. So why is it exactly that this decade seems if not unimportant, unintegral?
We all know people, maybe even the person in the mirror, making choices that could affect their later years negatively. First – There are twenty-somethings who have no idea what they want to do, so they wait tables or work other random jobs while trying to figure it out. While everyone needs money, and props to them for making it work, this is a time period where we need to be gaining “career capital” for our future. This is the time to show who we are and why we kick ass at our chosen path, but to do that you have to actually determine a path. So even if we do need to wait tables, we also need to be shadowing professionals in fields we are interested in, or interning with companies that we might like. This is not the time to let days slip by.
Second, the relationships we have MATTER. Meg Jay told a story about a patient that said something to the effect of “I know he isn’t right for me, but it doesn’t matter because I’m just having fun, not settling down.” and then later down the road was something like “we got married when we were thirty because it was time to settle down, and I’m horrifically unhappy.” Pump the breaks. I’m not saying that we can’t have fun in our twenties, and that every relationship has to be make or break, but we need to be aware that the people we surround ourselves with matter. Either they make you happy or they don’t. They make you better or they don’t. And do you really want to be with the people that don’t? This applies to significant others, but it also applies to friends.
So the moral of the story is this – your twenties matter. They really matter. This is your life people, choose wisely.