I’m only twenty. I can do whatever I want. I have my whole life ahead of me. I have all the time in the world. Or so I think…
As a recently inducted member of the twenty-something club, watching “Why thirty is not the new twenty” was absolutely terrifying. In her talk, clinical psychologist and author Meg Jay emphasizes that your twenties, although new and exciting, represent a critical decision-making period in which future life outcomes are defined. Jay specializes in adult development, helping young professionals start the course for work, relationships, and personal growth. By integrating personal stories into her talk, she was able to effectively relate to the young adult audience about real struggles and triumphs of her own clients. She says, “As a culture, we have trivialized what is actually the defining decade of adulthood.” While it is true that young adults are settling down increasingly closer to their early thirties, Jay attests that your twenties are still some of the most influential years of your life. We may not want to believe it, but the time to begin planning for the future is now. The only problem is: where do we start?
Jay advocates that “your twenties are not a throwaway decade,” and provides three key steps to making those years count. First, she says, build identity capital. Add value to yourself in any way you can and shape who you strive to be. Second, branch out of your inner-circle. You are not maximizing your potential by surrounding yourself with only like-minded people. Take advantage of your weak ties – friends of friends or casual acquaintances – and make new connections. Lastly, start choosing your family (What?! I know, this one sent me into panic mode, too). Jay believes that the best time to work on your marriage is before it happens. She pushes her twenty-something clients to be as intentional about their personal and love lives as they are about their work lives. So, are we all supposed to pick a career path and have a family as soon as possible? No, definitely not (sigh of relief). However, we should be mindful that the decisions we make in the coming years could have a weighty impact on our futures. It will be a scary and exhilarating decade, but with some guidance from people like Meg Jay, I hope it will be one we are ready to conquer. Because as Jay says,
“Thirty is not the new twenty, so claim your adulthood… you are deciding your life right now.”