*This post was originally published through the Life List Club Blog on April 27, 2012. Thought it was time for another discussion.
I was driving home one 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 start digging my grave, drop down in it, along with my unfinished book, my birth control pills, and any other unfulfilled dreams while we’re funeralizing!”
Fear not! Dr. Jay says Never Give Up.
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 twentysomethings 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.
In regards to family planning, she wants 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 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.
That being said, I may have ran in from the car, found Joe, and screamed something like, “We have to start having babies now, my fertility is peaking!!! What are we doing with our lives??!”
So then he said, “You’re not allowed to listen to the radio anymore…”
Our generation is at its peak for adaptation. If there is something you are unhappy about in life, or you’re wanting to make changes, then do it! We have the capability to transform and rise to the occasion.
When I graduated from college, I started having 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 was too exhausted to pursue my writing or hang out with 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, I quickly learned that what makes me happy is writing and travel, and if I was going to get that back in my life that meant change!
So, three years ago I started blogging! And I met amazing writers and readers online! Through them, I got involved with some writing contests and critique groups. I also saved up my money and used my vacation time to attend writing conferences and travel around the world.
There is hope! And it’s never too late! All of us can define the decade we’re living in!
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 anything differently if you could go back? What advice do you have for a new adult in their 20’s, or for parents raising a 20-somthing?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — The Declaration of Independence.
You know, our Forefathers really had this whole foreshadowing of the future thing going on. They knew, even back in 1776, that people weren’t going to be born happy, all they could do was pursue it. Kind of makes you wish you could go back in time and clock John Hancock on the head, doesn’t it? Old mousey wigged, know-it-all!
The constant quest for finding happiness gives me this image in my mind.
I’s going to get you!
Achieving happiness isn’t the same as a math equation, although I’d be equally in trouble if that WERE the case. You can’t say that just because someone Earned a Degree + Married + Had 2.5 kids = Happiness. The standards and desires of each person are different. But still, we try to make it formulated! We read articles, we join clubs, we go on juice diets, we hang out in a certain crowd, we buy skinny jeans and then don’t wear them.
Here’s a list of things I’ve done in hopes it would bring me happiness:
1. Bought and wore on the same day matching clothes as my best friends.
- Admit it, some of you have done this too! It was the absolute hype of middle school trends in my day. And I have photos where we’re all sporting the same corduroy overalls, “bibs” to the hip crowd. And I believe there was another incident with matching chartreuse turtlenecks. Yah, those photos aren’t going online.
2. Dated some boy I didn’t like.
- I’m sorry but he was an absolute turd of a human being who chewed way too much gum, and then had our mutual friend in band call me to tell me he was maybe-sorta-thinking about breaking up with me.
3. Played Truth or Dare at any age.
- First off, why did someone invent a game where the ultimate goal is to dig up dirt on your friends? And second, who in their right mind ever selects ‘dare’? This stupid game has made me give my pocket money to strangers, steal plates from Pizza Hut, drink water from the toilet, and quote lines from Young Frankenstein while dancing in a leaf pile on campus at some ungodly hour of the night??? And now, I sit back and eagerly await the search engine terms that will link to my blog.
4. Spontaneous sex.
- Oh sure, it starts out all romantic, you’re sneaking onto the rooftop of an abandoned factory, looking out over the city lights and traffic below. You start kissing, the kissing leads to clothes coming off, and what’s that…the rooftop is made of fiberglass?!
5. Join an intramural sports team.
- It’s supposed to be fun, that’s what the people told me who got me to sign up for intramural badminton. Back to back games with international Asian students kicking our a$$es! And then, my partner sprained her ankle and I got tendonitis. For reals.
But then are things that really do bring me happiness!
Despite the pitfalls of fashion trends and a dieting faux pas, there are tried and true things that bring us joy. I started up this blog to test them. Some of my particular favorites are:
1. Movie marathons
- Having been a video store clerk for 5 years, there were times where I wouldn’t go a day without watching at least one movie! Reuniting with favorite characters and quoting lines from your favorite flicks is a comfort thing for me. I love vegging out and having theme movie marathons.
2. Giving and receiving surprises from your friends.
- You can’t beat girlfriends. There’s just nothing like them. It makes my day when a friend surprises me with homemade spring rolls on my porch after a long day at work. And I felt good surprising a friend who was injured after a bike fall with an accessory box – all the fixings to get dolled up and still wear pants, plus a ticket to the new Sex and the City movie!
3. Visiting the library.
- I am a library groupie. I love the library. I rent all my movies and books from here and visit at least once a week. It’s a place to relax, browse new titles, stock up on as much as you want, and chill in a variety of sitting areas and furniture!
4. Simple dinners at home.
- You know what my favorite kind of date night it? Cheese, crackers, and wine at home. I love laid back, romantics evenings. Cooking at home or grilling out, making a meal together is fun. Put on Pandora and enjoy each others’ company. A favorite recommendation: making southwest food and listening to zydeco music, then eating alfresco on the patio.
5. Going for a walk.
- It’s not rocket science, it’s fresh air. Taking a walk is good for you. I’m lucky to live in an area where there’s a marsh and bluffs to walk or hike in. I think nature reminds us to slow down. To literally STOP and smell the roses.
Your turn! What are the things you’ve tried in the pursuit of happiness? And what things have you found that truly bring it? Got a happiness tip for me to try? Share it!