So I was driving home from work the other night listening to my guilty pleasure, Wisconsin Public Radio, and the topic for the evening really stunned me. The radio host, Joy Cardin, was speaking with Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development especially twentysomethings.
Dr. Jay is the author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now. Dr. Jay works as an assistant clinical professor at the University of Virginia and keeps a private practice as well. Interacting with so many college students and recent graduates, she noticed the hits and misses my generation was making time and time again.
When asked why she wrote the book, Dr. Jay said she’s trying to make an impact on the 50 million twentysomethings who are looking for guidance in their lives while still being treated like an adult.
So why are the twenties so defining?
- 80% of life’s most defining moments take place before the age of 35.
- 70% of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career.
- More than half of us are married or living with our longterm partners.
- Our fertility rates peak in our twenties.
- And our brains do their last growth spurt in our twenties.
If you had the same reaction I did, you’re probably thinking, “Sweet God, it’s all over! I may as well dig myself a hole and drop my unwritten manuscript, my birth control pills, my skinny jeans, and my passport in it and then cover it with my aging, unaccomplished, infertile, decrepit self!”
Fear not! Dr. Jay says Never Give Up.
But she does emphasize that my generation is in the midst of some crucial crossroads and the decisions we make now CAN AND DO impact the rest of our lives.
She talks about “identity capital” which she defines as the collateral you build up so when you go in for an interview the person looks at your resume and says “Oh that’s interesting, tell me more about that!” We know we’re in an economic crisis right now. The job market is not ideal. The Veteran Generation is staying employed longer in need of more stability, and yet year after year more college graduates are flooding the market. We’ve got all four generations competing and cohabiting the workforce. Ages 20 – 70+.
Many of us twenty year olds opted for an alternative route. I’m sure all of you know someone who decided to take time off, travel the world, date around, etc. Dr. Jay’s concern with some of these routes is that for those individuals they’re having a harder time trying to get back on track whether it’s the job field or family planning. Employers start to look at your resume and think “hmm, you really haven’t done too much” and the person that stands out is the twentysomething who jumped right in and planned their career path just like an adult, setting goals or achieving higher degrees, whatever it might be.
And in regards to family planning, she does want twentysomethings to be aware of fertility information. Women’s fertility peaks at 28. What she tends to hear from the twentysomethings she counsels, is so many of them spend time in cohabitation with a partner or spouse for 4-5 years before they realize that maybe that relationship should have only lasted a year.
Now, I for one, will totally say that family planning is a personal choice! And Dr. Jay agreed. What she wants is for us to have the facts about fertility so we are thoughtful in planning who our partners are as well as when we want to start having children because the health risks are increased the later into the 30’s you are.
You were saying something about hope?
Yes! Our generation is also at it’s peak for adaptation. If there is something you are unhappy about in your life, or you’re wanting to make some changes, then do it! We have the capability to transform and to rise to the occasion. Our habits can change as well as our personalities.
When I graduated from college, I started to have anxiety attacks. I panicked about “what I wanted to do with the rest of my life!” I fell in suit and took the first full time job that came my way. I worked all the time, and barely got together with my friends. You know what, I got really sad and really bored real fast! It’s been an ongoing process to change. While I’ve done well for myself career wise (Note: I work as a sales manager for commission areas of a large department store.) I also quickly learned that what made me happy was writing and travel, and if I was going to get that back in my life that meant change!
So, a year and a half ago, I started blogging! And I met amazing writers and readers online! And through them, got involved with some writing contests and critique groups. Next, I saved up my money and used my vacation time to attend writing conferences and travel around the world. I just blogged all about my recent trip to South Korea: favorite spots, food, and hiking.
See, there is hope! And it’s never too late! My dear friend Marcia Richards and I started up the Life List Club several months ago, and I think I came into it with this exact idea. That all of us can define the decade we’re living in! If we want to, and we make changes, and we risk things and we TRY!
So what are you waiting for?! What’s on your life list?
What do you think about Dr. Jay’s theory and your 20’s being the Defining Decade? Are you currently in your 20’s? Would you do differently if you could back? What advice do you have for parents raising a 20-somthing?
Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town as the much younger youngest sibling of four, she’s witnessed the paranormal, jumped out of a plane, worked in retail, traveled to exotic locations like Italy, Ireland, and Shipshewana, Indiana, and she’s eaten bologna and lived to tell about it! She deals with it all and writes about it! Come along on her midwest adventures; Witkins promises to keep it honest and entertaining. She blogs regularly at Jess Witkins’ Happiness Project. Go ahead, SUBSCRIBE, you know you want to.
Follow on Twitter: @jesswitkins