Monday, May 20, 2013

30 is not the new 20

As a follow up to our post on Millennials, narcissism, and socialization, I thought I would share this Ted talk as I think the speaker addresses some of the unique challenges facing young adults today. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, has spent her career working with people in their twenties. She's seen firsthand the issues discussed in our blog entry. As young people face an uncertain job market, are burdened with previously unseen student loan debt, and are faced with a social landscape defined by moral relativism, it can be very difficult for parents and teacher to know how to advise the young adults in their lives. Sometimes its simply easier to echo that common refrain, "You are young, you have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do." But that's simply not true and Dr. Jay provides some good practical advice for all of us who have a young adult in our lives who needs a little guidance.

"Claiming your 20s is one of the simplest yet most transformative things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world." This is so true. It is in ones 20s that you establish the groundwork for the rest of your life. Most people explore career options in their 20s. Most people meet the person they're going to marry in their 20s. As Dr. Jay stated, "the best time to work on one's marriage is before you are married." That is great, and seldom heard, advice.

When Dr. Jay makes the observation that as a "culture we have trivialized the defining decade of adulthood," I find this to be tragic, especially as a Christian and a homeschool grad. Although I am right at the edge of being a Millennial myself, I can look back on my 20s as a time in which I was variously treading water and moving forward and as a time of rich experience and personal growth. But both in times of waiting and in times of action, I never lost my curiosity and desire for knowledge. This is the gift of my education. Being homeschooled instilled in me a life-long passion for learning. That was further encouraged in the unique academic atmosphere I found at a small liberal arts college. For those students who have graduated from schools that failed to encourage this innate desire, I can understand why the decade between 20 and 30 could be viewed as a sort of wasteland. If one is jaded by 20 and has lost all intellectual curiosity by 25, it would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this decade of ones life simply doesn't matter. Life will start at 30 when I have a spouse, a good job, and a house. But, as Dr. Jay observes, this is the perfect time to cultivate those things that add value to one's life: community, curiosity, intelligence, experience.

In addition to Dr. Jay's advice, I would add the following based on my experiences as a Millennial:
1. Continue reading. But don't get sucked into the "self-help" craze. Most of those books do nothing to develop your soul. Read books that challenge you and expand your mind. Read the great books. You may be surprised how much you enjoy them when you're don't have to worry about writing a book report! Read the great thinkers. Fill your mind with the thoughts of people who have greater experience and wisdom than you do.
2. Invest in your community. Join a church and get involved. Volunteer at a local charity. These community ties will enrich your life and make you a more compassionate and empathetic person. Serving those less fortunate has a way of growing gratitude in one's heart, a key element to living a life marked by grace.
3. Travel. Get out and see this amazing world that God has created. When I was 21 I was able to study abroad for a semester and it changed my life. Not only did I meet the man I would marry, it gave me a greater appreciation for the wonderful diversity of humanity. It made me hungry for more and led to my husband and I spending five years abroad. I've been able to see how people are the same in some ways and different in many ways. I've been able to experience how faith ties people together regardless of race or nationality. I've met incredibly interesting people who have challenged me.

I would love to hear from you now! What advice would you give to a young adult who is seeking guidance? How are you trying to instill these values in your children before they reach their 20s?
Leave a comment below!

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  1. I think that part of the problem, too, stems from 15 year olds' beliefs that 15 is the new 21. By 18, so many children have children that seeing the world is an impossible dream. So, for that matter, is 'preparing for marriage' and 'saving up for a house'.

    I had my children in my early 20's, and consistently find myself friends with people who are 6 to 10 years older than me; parents of my children's friends. They're further ahead financially because they were adults for awhile before they were parents. I can not imagine the position I would be in had I not finished my education first.

  2. We loved this talk!
    My wife wrote a response to it entitled "Claiming Your 20s as a Christian"

    Just thought I'd post it here to add to the discussion