In a recent bulk email from my new favorite blogger, Rebecca Fraser-Thill, I was pleased to read her article entitled “Hiding From Our Life’s Work Behind Our Careers“. Though there is much that I could say about this particular article, I’m instead going to focus on the investigation and deep thinking that it generated for me. I was at first captivated by the following statement in the article:
“I firmly believe that the twenties are when we can most easily make a change and set a healthy course for our lives, a claim Meg Jay has popularized recently” (Fraser-Thill, February 2014).
In the course of writing my own blog, I’ve discovered that many of my generation are of the opinion that their 20s are a throwaway decade – it doesn’t matter that they haven’t started a family, found a desirable career, started saving, etc. because they’ll do that in their 30s. Dr. Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist who wrote The Defining Decade and has subsequently gone on to give TedTalks and other public lectures encouraging young 20-somethings to “reclaim adulthood in the defining decade” (TedTalks, 2014).
In this BigThink article, Meg provides some statistics which backup her claim that the 20s are a time of critical decisions and life-determining events for young people:
“80% of life’s most defining moments take place by about age 35. 2/3 of lifetime wage growth happens during the first ten years of a career. More than half of Americans are married or are dating or living with their future partner by age 30. Personality can change more during our 20s than at any other decade in life. Female fertility peaks at 28. The brain caps off its last major growth spurt. When it comes to adult development, 30 is not the new 20. Even if you do nothing, not making choices is a choice all the same. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do” (Jay, August 2012).
Consequently, Meg encourages young people to be intentional at work and love by experimenting with new options while constantly reviewing what works best for them as an individual (Jay, August 2012). At first this article made me think that perhaps I should be panicking – have I achieved enough during my 20s? Am I just wasting these years? I’m already 24 years old, what should I do!? However, Meg brought me back to reality by reminding me that it’s not about deadlines, but rather about giving yourself permission to set timelines and make changes if you’re not happy with life in your 20s. Quoting one of her interview participants, she asks: “If you keep living your life exactly as it is, where will you be in 3 years?” (Jay, August 2012). It’s much harder, she reminds us, to change in our 30s and 40s.
There was another quote in Meg’s interview with BigThink that I really liked – liked so much, in fact, that I changed the tagline of my blog to include it (previously a quote from Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living”). Meg comments:
“One of my favorite quotes is by American Psychologist Sheldon Kopp: ‘The unlived life isn’t worth examining.’ Too many 20somethings have been led to believe that their 20s are for thinking about what they want to do and their 30s are for getting going on real life” (Jay, August 2012).
As my dedicated readers know, I spend a lot of time thinking, wondering, and worrying in a state of immobility. This is an impractical and wasteful use of my time and energies. Instead, I should be investigating those options which intrigue and excite me. Living a life is just as important as examining one!
I hope that all 20-somethings become acquainted with Dr. Meg Jay’s work, and find empowerment in her message of action. I know that I have!