Our twenties: the defining decade when we come into our own, discover who we are, and what we want out of life. It’s a time in our lives when we’re most free; free to discover who we are, embrace unique opportunities, explore different options, and experiment with different facets of our life. So why does the decade of our twenties also seem the most terrifying? When you put it into the previous context, it should sound thrilling, right? Well, our twenties, despite the liberties many of us maintain, is also a period of great transition, development, and change. And despite the excitement that may bring, it can also be incredibly scary. It’s a time when too much freedom can cause identity crises if your focus isn’t “focused enough,” and we teeter on the scales of adulthood versus “young and fun.”
So what exactly about this decade defines so much of who we become post-twenties? Meg Jay, clinical psychologist and Ph.D., wrote the book, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of them NOW. I read this book shortly after graduating college, on the job hunt, and in one of the darkest phases of my life. Now, almost two years later, I look at my twenties and the experiences of this decade thus far, differently. Today, I’d like to write directly to those in their twenties, still bonded to that unspoken timeline we’ve attached. The timeline brought on by generations before that tell us we need to be hitting certain milestones at certain points, or we’re “behind.”
The “Pre-applied” Timeline
Where in your twenties have you allowed yourself to bear the burden of the “pre-applied” timeline? When have you allowed this burden to influence your choices or keep you from taking risks? We live in a time where a 9-to-5 is not the only way to maintain a stable income. In fact, there are several other job titles or ways to incentivize passive income to work outside “the norm.” More and more millennials and GenZ-ers are straying away from the typical timeline to create a life that they’re happy with. But, this more individualized timeline requires a bit more indifference to the ideal. The thesis I propose about our twenties is as such: To reach the BIG DREAMS, we first must surrender to the pre-application; only then can we create our own timeline and uniquely define this decade.
Nothing will ruin your twenties more than thinking you should have your life together already.Unknown
Contemporary culture once eluded to this notion: out of the house at 18, go to college, graduate, start a 9-to-5, begin a career, start a family, wrap life up in a bow with a white picket fence. The idealized American Dream taught us that this was the only way. Now, this pre-applied timeline has been thrown out the window due to growing minds, changing voices, and a rise in the cost of living. But, for the sake of maintaining our (well discussed) abundance mindset, let’s cast aside the financial factor for this post and focus solely on the timeline and the dream. To begin defining our own timelines, with intention and purpose in mind, of course, we regain autonomy of our lives, dreams, and mindset. Perhaps control we hadn’t realized we’d surrendered.
To drive our thesis into action, I’m giving you full permission to begin creating your own timeline for your twenties. I’ll conclude that we’ve all done the surrendering; now it’s our time to define what our twenties mean to us. This permission comes barring one caveat: we are to create our timeline with absolutely no guilt or judgment on our part. Guilt and judgment–two emotions that, if allowed, can over-run our twenties. Remember that post I published on my birthday, 24 Life Lessons from 24 Years? Lesson number six: Comparison is the thief of joy. One of the best reminders we can offer ourselves in our twenties, or any decade really, is all timelines will and do look different. No two people will live the same life. All experiences, all thought turned into action, and all timelines will be different, which makes us all beautifully unique.
We have this (horrible) tendency to compare our lives to people who are not ourselves. And if their life looks any different from ours and— in our opinion, better—then all of a sudden, we’re somehow behind in life. This is where we welcome trust. Trust in ourselves, in our dreams, and in divine timing. Building our own timeline can often require an agreement with the universe that complete security isn’t going to be had at all times. And this is where we begin to differ intensely from past generations. Because of the Great Depression, our parents and their parents were taught, for all intents and purposes, you work for security. For lack of better verbiage, we’ve gotten a bit ballsier.
The Defining Decade
I think people in their twenties have realized that the purpose behind a career and behind building a lifestyle for yourself doesn’t have to be the picket fence of security. We’ve gotten to a place where we’re okay with a momentary lapse in security if it means taking risks, building our career, and getting our name out there, even if that means a bit more time before we’re on our own. Our twenties are no longer defined by the milestones of career, marriage, house, family. This defining decade is represented by crisis turned resilience, taking risks, and becoming your own without feeling the need to shelter your light.
Our twenties are the years we will make some of the most important choices. It’s a time we’ll use to take opportunities that potentially come once in a lifetime. And it’s the decade when the decisions we make will likely shape the rest of our lives. So, why let the timeline of someone else or the judgment of another inform your defining decade? We have the liberty to design our lives freely and with great choice. Why not take advantage of that to its fullest extent. I’m imploring you to define your decade. Reflect on how you may be allowing things outside of yourself to inform this time in your life. Once reflected, take time to create change in your life that inspires you to live more intentionally. Live out the defining decade with great love and respect for yourself and your dreams.