20 is not the new 30By Kourtney Jason, Life2PointOh.com
Ever feel like you're not quite an "adult" yet? Trust us when we say we have that feeling on the regular. It's partly because we think this one decade doesn't really matter when we've got our whole lives ahead of us. But that's where we're wrong. We think we have much more time to get our lives-and ourselves-figured out than we actually do. However, when we procrastinate on making these inevitable life choices, we aren't realized the lasting effects on our lives down the line. So while we know our 20s are about finding ourselves, we're also aware that we can put this soul-searching off until tomorrow or the day after that and so on. And that's a critical mistake, according to Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development and in 20-somethings in particular. In her new book The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay explains that 80 percent of life's most consequential events (getting married, having kids, becoming financially stable, buying a house, etc.) take place by age 35. Here, she shares with us how to make the most out of your 20s as well as encouraging us to take those steps which will lead us to where we want to be in the future.
Life2PointOh: Let's start with the basis of your book. Why do we think our 20s don't matter or aren't as important as these years really are?
Dr. Meg Jay: Twenty-somethings have all heard that people marry later than they used to, they settle down later, establish careers later, and even die later. This is all true. But it has also led to the 20s being perceived as a sort of developmental Las Vegas-a time when what we do doesn't matter or when our choices don't count. We hear that 30 is the new 20, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our 20s aren't an irrelevant downtime; they are a developmental sweetspot.
Life2PointOh: How do we change this perception?
Dr. Meg Jay: Educate yourself. Our 20s are the critical period of adulthood. Eighty percent of life's most consequential events take place by age 35. About two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens during the first ten years of a career. More than half of us are married, dating, or living with their future partner by 30. Our personalities change more during our 20s than at any time before or after. Fertility peaks in our 20s. Even our brain caps off its last growth spurt in our 20s. So these are the years when the things we do, and the things we don't do, will have an enormous impact across years and even generations to come.
Life2PointOh: How is this mindset affecting the career paths and relationships 20-somethings have?
Dr. Meg Jay: People postpone making choices and commitments at work and in love because they imagine that have nothing but time. They perceive that doing something later is automatically the same thing as doing something better. But 30 is not the new 20. And not making choices is a choice all the same. Too many 30-somethings feel betrayed as they realize that they now don't have the career and relationship choices they imagined they would. They look at me and say about their 20s, "What was I thinking? What was I doing?"
Life2PointOh: Why has it become a challenge for 20-somethings to make these career and relationship-related decisions and really go after what they want?
Dr. Meg Jay: Twenty-somethings are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they've grown up hearing "You can do anything!" which is more confusing than it is confidence-building. On the other hand, with the economy what it is, they now perceive that they're hearing, "There is nothing you can do!" Reality is, of course, somewhere in between. No one can do anything, so our 20s are when we take an inventory of where our talents and interests lie and we start there-even in a bad economy. I'm surrounded by 20-somethings who have jobs, even good jobs.