By David Murray
Every 20-something deserves to know what psychologists, sociologists, neurologists and fertility specialists already know: Claiming your twenties is one of the simplest yet most transformative things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world.
Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist who works mainly with twenty-somethings. In this TED talk, she explains why our culture’s trivialization of the twenties is so damaging and then gives three pieces of advice to help twenty-somethings salvage their lives.
The Importance of the 20′s
- There are 50 million 20-somethings in the USA (15% of the population)
- 80% of life’s most defining moments take place before age 35.
- 8 out of 10 of the experiences that make up your life will have happened by age 35.
- First 10 years of a career has an exponential impact on how much money you are going to earn.
- More than 50% of Americans are married, or are living with, or are dating their future partner by the age of 30.
- The brain cuts of it’s second and last growth spurt in the 20’s as it re-wires itself for adulthood.
- Personality changes more in 20’s than any other time in life
- Female fertility peaks at age 28.
- 20’s are the critical period of adult development – not developmental downtime but a developmental sweet spot.
The Problem of the 20′s
Our culture has trivialized the defining decade of adulthood by speaking of “extended adolescence,” “the changing timetable of childhood,” “kidults,” etc.
Whereas Leonard Bernstein said “to accomplish great things you need a plan and not quite enough time” the 20′s have become about killing time and experimenting in relationships and careers. Many reach the end of their 20’s and have nothing to show for it.
Pushing stuff to 30’s puts a lot of pressure to get career started, marry whoever is available, and have kids, all in a much quicker period of time, with much more stress as well.
The Solution for the 20′s
Meg Kay says there are three things every 20-something deserves to hear:
1. Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. Do something that adds value to who who you are. Invest in who you might want to be next. Invest in a job or in a relationship. Identity capital begets identity capital.
2. The urban tribe is over-rated. Best friends are great for giving rides to airport but 20-somethings who huddle together with like minded peers limit what they know, who they know, how they think, how they speak , and where they work. The new opportunity or person to date usually comes from outside the inner circle, from weak ties, from friends of friends of friends.
3. You can pick your family. The time to start picking your family is now. Best time to work on marriage is before you have one. Be as intentional about family as about work.
The Gospel for the 20′s
Great advice from Meg, but let me add to the top of the list: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl. 12:1). The 20′s are the time not just to find your identity, find your job, and find your future family. They are also the time to find the Lord. In fact, the teens are an even better age for that.
And if you’ve blown your 20′s, and even your 30′s, yes even every decade up to your 90′s, you can still get a clean slate, full and free forgiveness through Jesus Christ, as you prepare for eternity (1 John 1:9).
David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, blogs at Head Heart Hand, and is author of the books Christians Get Depressed Too and How Sermons Work.