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Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20
May 17, 2013 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Clinical psychologist Meg Jay has a bold message for twentysomethings: Contrary to popular belief, your 20s are not a throwaway decade. In this provocative talk, Jay says that just because marriage, work and kids are happening later in life, doesn’t mean you can’t start planning now. She gives 3 pieces of advice for how twentysomethings can re-claim adulthood in the defining decade of their lives. (copied from description on TED website).

The concept of Identity Capital seems to be in the same vein of some life guidance previously offered to soul-searching twentysomethings on AskMe.
posted by myriad gantry (124 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
NOW you tell me.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:34 AM on May 17, 2013 [23 favorites]


I believe I began functioning as an adult around 26 or 27. Everything before that was immature throwaway.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:39 AM on May 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


Contrary to popular belief, your 20s are not a throwaway decade. In this provocative talk, Jay says that just because marriage, work and kids are happening later in life, doesn’t mean you can’t start planning now

I'm in my 20s. Most of my friends are in their 20s, or very early 30s. Many of us are married; most are working. I'm seriously confused about what's so "bold" about this. Hell, if anything, most of us feel like our 20s are supposed to be super successful and the "bold message" for many is the realization that it's ok if you hit 30 without having achieved Everything.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:40 AM on May 17, 2013 [30 favorites]


Here's some advice for 20-somethings and older. Writing is a much more efficient way to convey information than talking, and reading is a much faster way to acquire information than listening. THAT'S WHY WE INVENTED WRITING.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:40 AM on May 17, 2013 [101 favorites]


When you call it a "throwaway decade", you make it sound like chronic unemployment, promiscuity, and irresponsible use of recreational drugs aren't valuable experiences.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:49 AM on May 17, 2013 [47 favorites]


Here's some advice for 20-somethings and older. Writing is a much more efficient way to convey information than talking, and reading is a much faster way to acquire information than listening. THAT'S WHY WE INVENTED WRITING.

Yes but if TED was written instead of spoken, people would realize that TED is basically just a vague kind of general self-help/technology blog (with the occasional famous guest columnist) instead of A Thing.

Also, as somebody who just turned 30 (and just graduated college at long last!) I can vouch that 30 is indeed the new 20, although with more emphasis on getting a good night's sleep.
posted by Avenger at 7:52 AM on May 17, 2013 [38 favorites]


Surprise, surprise, she has something to sell these people.
posted by knile at 7:52 AM on May 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


Tomorrowful: bold is all part of TED's circle-jerk-talk. At least they didn't pile on with genius, inspiring, etc.

FWIW, I find her ideas go against ideas pop culture has fed our generation about what our 20s are supposed to be all about. In any case, TryTheTilapia's AskMe post has been very influential on me as I approach 30. It should've been put in the highlights sideblog.

When you call it a "throwaway decade", you make it sound like chronic unemployment, promiscuity, and irresponsible use of recreational drugs aren't valuable experiences.


murphy slaw: I find those experiences are valuable insofar as they help you get over the adolescent fantasy that being truculent and irresponsible are good ways to live.
posted by myriad gantry at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Oh grow up" she said provocatively.
posted by srboisvert at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


If the answer isn't "Because 40 is the new 20", I'm not interested.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2013 [21 favorites]


Does anyone go into their twenties thinking "Fuck yeah, can't fucking wait to do a throwaway decade"?
posted by Greg Nog at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2013 [44 favorites]


I am trying to listen to this and something about her voice makes her sound lethargic and robotic. I don't know if I'm gonna make it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:09 AM on May 17, 2013


I wish I'd thrown away my 20s, but between uni, unemployment, and trying to establish a career I never found the time.
posted by Mezentian at 8:12 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been listening for 3 minutes and she hasn't said anything, she's just circling around the topic. Seriously, has anyone else in this thread been able to listen to this whole thing? I highly, highly doubt it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:12 AM on May 17, 2013


Kids these days are half-assing it if they're only throwing away one decade.
posted by orme at 8:17 AM on May 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm 24 and I don't know a single person my age who's acting like their 20s is a throwaway period. Almost all of my friends are either getting into or graduating from grad school and looking to settle down. I feel like the weird one out since I'm working to become a paramedic instead of a consultant for a nonprofit or a data analyst or whatever.
posted by arcolz at 8:18 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]




Kids these days are half-assing it if they're only throwing away one decade.

I know right? I have SO MUCH future potential to squander. It's gonna be GREAT.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 AM on May 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


Ok, I think these are her 3 points (unless I zoned out, which is highly possible):

*Explore work and make it count- work toward a career, don't just far around
*Urban tribes are overrated- your friends will pick you up from the airport but they're not going to be your emergency contact when shit goes bad
*The time to start picking your family is now- the best time to work on your marriage is before you have one! Don't date someone lame just to kill time, because then you'll end up settling or marrying the wrong guy or not able to have kids or OMG

I can't believe such a slow, robotic voice could sell such a PANIC PANIC PANIC, YOUNG SCHOLARS agenda.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry... what? "No one's getting to adulthood without getting through their 20s first" is not news.

As I'm nearing the end of my 20s, I can look back and see that my experiences in the past decade have helped me to understand myself better and to grow both professionally and personally. And I really don't think I'm all that special -- I work at a fairly young company and the differences between 22-year-olds and 28-year-olds is very clear.

Our 20s give us opportunities to figure out where we fit into the world and to move forward with creating a life that takes advantage of that knowledge. We get the chance to make a few mistakes and to learn from them immediately, not in retrospect when we're 35.

If that's "killing time", it's the most productive time-killing I've ever done.
posted by cranberry_nut at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Does anyone go into their twenties thinking "Fuck yeah, can't fucking wait to do a throwaway decade"?"

I didn't go into my twenties with that goal in mind, but it happened anyway.

I guess throwing away decades just comes easy to some of us. I'm gifted that way.
posted by oddman at 8:27 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow, what a cynical, ad hominem festival this thread has become.

I thought you were better than that, Blue.
posted by myriad gantry at 8:27 AM on May 17, 2013


Going through life measuring yourself against age-related milestones is a miserable experience. Maybe a little of this is needed, though. If you're facing 30 and (like I was) you don't have any career prospects better than temping for $8/hr, you might want to do something about that, for example, lest you be in the same place at 40.
posted by thelonius at 8:29 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I recycle my decades. My twenties composted very nicely, given how full of shit I was at the time. Eat the young!
posted by The Riker Who Mounts the World at 8:31 AM on May 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


From her book's abstract:

Our twenties are a time when the things we do–and the things we don’t do–will have an enormous effect across years and even generations to come.

MY HEAVENS AND STARS, I HAD NO IDEA.

No but seriously, I feel like most of us 20-somethings are actually quite concerned with our love lives, our friends, and our career paths. Whether or not all or any of those are actually a realistic goal given the state of the economy is up in the air.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:32 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


not in retrospect when we're 35

If you think 35 is the end of mistakes well let me tell you
posted by sweetkid at 8:34 AM on May 17, 2013 [42 favorites]


*Explore work and make it count- work toward a career, don't just far around

Class-based. And wrong. The freedom to faf off is a wonderful thing and often limited to how much of a safety net you have.

*Urban tribes are overrated- your friends will pick you up from the airport but they're not going to be your emergency contact when shit goes bad


What, really? Maybe she had shitty friends in her 20s?

*The time to start picking your family is now- the best time to work on your marriage is before you have one! Don't date someone lame just to kill time, because then you'll end up settling or marrying the wrong guy or not able to have kids or OMG

AHAHAHA LOL WUT
posted by The Whelk at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


myriad gantry: "Wow, what a cynical, ad hominem festival this thread has become.

I thought you were better than that, Blue.
"

Would you like to fill this out a little bit, or should we just guess?
posted by boo_radley at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


That thing you said about truculence.
posted by Hoopo at 8:41 AM on May 17, 2013


Myriad gantry is presumably appalled by everyone here advocating truculence and irresponsibility, the only two known causes for finding Ted talks unbelievably vapid.
posted by jacalata at 8:43 AM on May 17, 2013


I feel like the weird one out

I'll tell you a not-at-all-secret secret: most of your friends feel this way, too. All those askmes from people in grad school and first jobs who don't feel like they know what they're doing? That.
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I threw away most of my 20s, but I wrapped up 24 and put it in the freezer just in case. Someday there may be an emergency when I need to quit my job without a backup plan, spend half my money on clubwear that doesn't fit, and drink Jack Daniels straight from the bottle and later pass out in the middle of a hot fudge sundae at a 24-hour diner, and I will be prepared.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:44 AM on May 17, 2013 [31 favorites]


We're all clear that she's just talking to her own younger self, right?
posted by The Riker Who Mounts the World at 8:45 AM on May 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.” -Hesiod
posted by leotrotsky at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Guys, this is important, this radical message of working hard and starting a family as soon as possible has never, ever been pushed before and never to young people. There is absolutely not an entire industry designed to profit of these ideas at all and I'm not sure how well it'll go down, as all our poverty and unemployment are entirely voluntary and people are never pressured to get married and have kids because we, as a society, have largely abandoned that idea in favor of pansexual yurt-dwelling.
posted by The Whelk at 8:47 AM on May 17, 2013 [67 favorites]


I need to quit my job without a backup plan, spend half my money on clubwear that doesn't fit, and drink Jack Daniels straight from the bottle and later pass out in the middle of a hot fudge sundae at a 24-hour diner

Maybe I wasted my 20s because I didn't do that at 24.
posted by sweetkid at 8:47 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


We know that 80 percent of life's most defining moments take place by age 35. That means that eight out of 10 of the decisions and experiences and "Aha!" moments that make your life what it is will have happened by your mid-30s.
NO

NO, PLEASE, ANYTHING BUT THAT

My 20s were a hilarious and disasterous nightmarish dreamland made of fun adventure candy and histrionic miniature deaths. If I had to sum up that decade in one word it would be awful, but if you gave me two words, they would be awful and invaluable.
Other than successfully holding down a full-time job and paying all my rent/bills and being a 100% independent working adult, I was a massive fuck-up and a total asshole in pretty much every conceivable way. I don't even consider myself to have become a full-fledged human being until I was... 27? 28?

Basically, I spent my life to that point being straight-up full of shit while protesting that I was definitely not full of shit at all. I have since come to realize that even having had the opportunity to be so obliviously full of shit was both a great honor and an undeniable privilege. It was the only thing that allowed me to eventually realize how wrong I had been, and how wrong I could and would be in the future. Now, every day I wake up to realize that some random deeply-held belief of mine is misguided or unsupported by evidence is the very best day.
As such, I am very much looking forward to continuing to fuck up big time and subsequently own up to my mistakes well into my 30s, 40s, and beyond, even though I know all of my really important life decisions were made when I was busy getting wasted and hooking up with strangers.

Last but not least, Emma believed that you can't pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Now this was true for her growing up, but as a twentysomething, soon Emma would pick her family when she partnered with someone and created a family of her own. I told Emma the time to start picking your family is now. Now you may be thinking that 30 is actually a better time to settle down than 20, or even 25, and I agree with you. But grabbing whoever you're living with or sleeping with when everyone on Facebook starts walking down the aisle is not progress.

Well, that's kinda gross and patronizing -- as though us Ancient Ones (= people over 30) are prone to "grabbing whoever [we're] living with or sleeping with when everyone on Facebook starts walking down the aisle" when we finally decide to partner off. Moreover, those of us whose life plans specifically exclude choosing someone with whom we will eventually breed... presumably we are forever doomed to emotional and familial vagrancy?
posted by divined by radio at 8:47 AM on May 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I knew there was something wrong about her delivery and content when it only started making sense at 2x speed

I could've watched it at 2x??? CURSES!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:49 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


We know that 80 percent of life's most defining moments take place by age 35. That means that eight out of 10 of the decisions and experiences and "Aha!" moments that make your life what it is will have happened by your mid-30s.
NO


I just turned 35 and WHAT? I mean, I've never even been to Africa yet.
posted by sweetkid at 8:49 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


(although honestly I think ages 20-24 where just "vomiting into the Grand Canal.")
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know what's the fucking throwaway decade are your 30s, when you've experienced enough hedonistic pleasure and start needing more sleep and are looking to settle down and have kids, and you take a 9-5 that pays OK, and you stay there for 10 years ... that's your throwaway decade.

Bitter? Naw.

Also, I'll tell you what. Anyone who says that 40 is the new 30 is full of shit. Seriously, kids, listen up: turning 40 sucks. It does. It is all fucking downhill from there. Enjoy your youth. Do it today.

Your 20s? Your 20s are for finding out who you are and learning how to live with yourself and others. Don't worry about anything other than that. If you call that wasting your time, then go fuck yourself.

awful and invaluable

very well put.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:51 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Contrary to popular belief" - Seriously?

I'm almost 29. I have never assumed my 20s were throwaway, perhaps I was raised differently. I've learned a LOT in those years (marriage, divorce, two college graduations, successful career and effects of the recession, homeownership, pet guardianship, gaining weight, losing weight, trying new things, and continuing to improve myself...), and I continue to (isn't that what "life" is, anyways?)
posted by photojlisa at 8:54 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know someone who went on and on about how 30 was the new 20 when he hit 30. A few years back he hit 40 and went on about how 40 was the new 30. Basically he just keeps trying to convince himself he's still young and still has lots of time to get going on the things he says he wants to do, and I suppose there's nothing wrong with that.... but the fact is he's still not doing them and he's still just pissing away his present, so I can't see any value in his trying to redefine what the numbers mean.

It's best to just throw away these arbitrary deadlines and benchmarks and any regrets for whatever years you feel you wasted, and concentrate on what you need and want to do in the present. Your life is going to go by at the same rate whether you watch the clock or not.
posted by orange swan at 8:55 AM on May 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have a simpler method, I've been 27 for a few years now and I don't plan on changing that soon.
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on May 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Most people think I am 27 which is less awesome than it sounds.
posted by sweetkid at 8:57 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The freedom to faf off is a wonderful thing and often limited to how much of a safety net you have.

THIS THIS THIS. I did not have the freedom to faff off until my late 20s -- and that period was brief, and wonderful, and not in any way something I was planning for (and I'm kinda paying for it now, but that's another story) -- and I could not have gotten there without being both very fortunate and very hard working in my early 20s, which is what I was told I should be aiming for by pretty much everyone around me since ever. The idea that there is a significant population of young people who have apparently never gotten this message is an extraordinarily strange one to me.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ugh, first that crazy Princeton Mom Susan Patton and now this? I don't know why they think we'd take their advice. The people who say you have to do something seem to be burdened with a lot of regrets due to a narrow view on what a good life means.

The only people who have advice worth taking on life and how to live are sassy elderly ladies who joke around and don't give a fig about ppl telling them how to act. So if Betty White has advice, I'm all ears.
posted by discopolo at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jeez lady, I just got out of two decades of near-mandatory institutionalisation, for god's sake, gimme a break.
posted by forgetful snow at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


What a great psychologist this woman must be, filling her young patients' heads with even more pressure.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:02 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I found once I hit 30 I became seemingly irresistible to all the 24/5 years old who I had no chance with when I was 24/5.
posted by Damienmce at 9:04 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness, though, I really wanted to use my 20s wisely. But I had no fucking clue what I was doing, and I was terrified. I graduated with only the vaguest hint of a career plan, and even less of a network, and I didn't know how to get either. All the advice people threw at me seemed not to apply, and I felt professionally qualified for absolutely nothing. And I didn't really get the sense of "it's okay, this is when you're supposed to figure all this out and no one expects you to be any good yet" because all the other twentysomethings around me seemed to have all their shit completely figured out, and there didn't seem to be any room in the world for flailing stupids like me. It felt like there was an entire Earth full of ambitious brilliant passionate successful young adults, and I was on Pluto. Oh, and I had untreated depression that I was totally unaware of!

I guess this was all my fault because I wasn't busy building "identity capital" or whatever Meg Jay is talking about.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:05 AM on May 17, 2013 [21 favorites]


Three quick thoughts about one's twenties, so called "youth" in general:

1. the youth that isn't at least some degree wasted, is wasted.
2. there's a reason why some call one's twenties, the "bullshit years", because we tend to walk around thinking that we know ourselves. We don't. Not until around 26-27 at least, which gets us to ...
3. the shit you're still dealing with when you're twenty-seven is the shit you'll be dealing with for the rest of your life ...

And now, I'll actually check out the vid.
posted by philip-random at 9:07 AM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


In all seriousness, though, I really wanted to use my 20s wisely. But I had no fucking clue what I was doing, and I was terrified. I graduated with only the vaguest hint of a career plan, and even less of a network, and I didn't know how to get either. All the advice people threw at me seemed not to apply, and I felt professionally qualified for absolutely nothing. And I didn't really get the sense of "it's okay, this is when you're supposed to figure all this out and no one expects you to be any good yet" because all the other twentysomethings around me seemed to have all their shit completely figured out, and there didn't seem to be any room in the world for flailing stupids like me. It felt like there was an entire Earth full of ambitious brilliant passionate successful young adults, and I was on Pluto. Oh, and I had untreated depression that I was totally unaware of

I could have written this. Especially the depression part. They should have had a class on that or something in high school.

Also, I had really terrible office politics skills. I had great "school person" skills, but not office politics.

They should have had a class on THAT in college. Also, everyone should learn the hell out of Excel. Actually, that's my advice: everyone learn the hell out of Excel. No matter what you do for your actual career. You will always impress someone if you can do crap in Excel.
posted by sweetkid at 9:09 AM on May 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


North Americans in their 20's now have spent that entire period in the new-normal hyper-paranoid post-9/11 security state, and at least half the decade under the new-normal post-crash austerity regime. The story may be very different in different continents. Many of the young 'uns I know seem to have heard the message: it's a dangerous world out there, filled with terrorism, outsourcing, unemployment, student debt, and for God's sake don't get sick. It's a winner-take-all game, and dissent will not be tolerated, unless it's in the sandbox of identity politics, so you'd better CUT THAT HAIR, TAKE YOUR MEDS, AND GET WITH THE PROGRAM*. "Talks" like this just seem like more of the same, with happy graphics and the cute TED-talk swooshy sound.
*does not apply to the rich.
posted by jcrcarter at 9:13 AM on May 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


As an aside to what Avenger wrote above, I hate watching a talk for thirty minutes (hour/90 minutes/whatever) when I could read the same information in a small fraction of that time. TED has transcripts for its talks -- but you have to go the TED site itself. The transcripts are also time-linked to the video, so you can click on a phrase in the transcript and it takes you to that place in the video. Very nice.

(I'm listening to the talk in the background without really paying attention to the words right now... such an artificial and condescending tone in her voice. Maybe this is a talk better off read).
posted by Palquito at 9:15 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


the shit you're still dealing with when you're twenty-seven is the shit you'll be dealing with for the rest of your life ...

no way you can't make me carry 30 clip lights on the subway at 3 am anymore I refuse.
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've always said my adolescence lasted from age 12 to age 28. No regrets (except perhaps not having any savings to speak of, retirement or otherwise. But with the interest rate not even keeping up with inflation, is savings even really worth it?)

Honestly, at 38, I don't know that I would have told my twentysomething self to do anything differently. Having a decade to spend all my money on booze and music and books and spend all my time on music festivals and parties and long lazy brunches was pretty pleasant. And now I have the house and the kid and the serious job and that's also great, but in a different way.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:20 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't find any mention searching Google of whether Dr. Meg Jay has a awesome, loving husband or terrific children.
posted by discopolo at 9:24 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Contrary to popular belief, your 20s are not a throwaway decade

what who thinks this
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:25 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's a dangerous world out there, filled with terrorism, outsourcing, unemployment, student debt, and for God's sake don't get sick. It's a winner-take-all game, and dissent will not be tolerated, unless it's in the sandbox of identity politics, so you'd better CUT THAT HAIR, TAKE YOUR MEDS, AND GET WITH THE PROGRAM*.

This, precisely! And if you don't/can't, it is your fault - especially if you were trying to do something else meaningful, don't you understand that meaning comes from making like it's the 1950s? - and of course we have all always-already accepted that There Will Never Be A Social Safety Net Again, so don't expect any help, either.

God, my twenties were awful and miserable and full of anxiety and bad choices, but not because I was doing drugs and having fun. I was depressed, self-hating, flailing around trying to deal with going from an extremely authoritarian upbringing to being responsible for myself when I quite literally had no idea how to make any life choices, scrabbling around for temp work even though I had a quite good college degree because I knew in my heart that I could never amount to anything better....
posted by Frowner at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


How about...

There is no right way to live your life. The life of debaucherous hedonism that would lead one person to their certain doom is the only path to redemption and fulfillment for another. Some people might reach their forties and regret the decade they spent pursuing whatever crazy things they lusted after in their twenties, and for others the memory of that period might be all that keeps them smiling while they augment their retirement fund.

The idea that someone out there can tell you the best way to spend a decade is just downright toxic. If you're unhappy with how your decade is going, change it. If you're happy, learning things, making friends, and doing something interesting, then you're doing it right.
posted by MrVisible at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


yeah, it's a shallow talk based on a sound premise (if that makes any sense).

That is, of course the twenties are a pivotal time. We grow into emotional, intellectual, psychological, spiritual maturity in our twenties. But this maturity isn't achieved by just deciding, "Okay, it's time I stopped hanging out and started taking everything seriously." This maturity is achieved by negotiating one's confusion -- reconciling all the various signals we've been fed our whole lives, and hopefully coming up with something that will work for us for the years to come.

Most of us do accomplish this.

And the world's grown more far more complex over the past decades. There simply wasn't as much complex stuff one needed to have a handle on in 1913 as there is now (ie: everything from fewer career options to no split atoms to no commercial air travel). So maturity necessarily comes later than it used to, which yeah, kind of does mean that thirty is the new twenty ... or whatever.

Finally, a bit of sage Eastern wisdom: "The young man who isn't confused is not on the path." Seriously, if I see a nineteen year old who seems to have it all sorted out, I tend to shake my head and feel sorry for them, because they truly have no idea what's coming.
posted by philip-random at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, everyone should learn the hell out of Excel. Actually, that's my advice: everyone learn the hell out of Excel. No matter what you do for your actual career. You will always impress someone if you can do crap in Excel.

Truer words were never spoken. I once worked with a guy who said that Excel was the only software he ever needed to do anything. He used it for word processing.

But with the interest rate not even keeping up with inflation, is savings even really worth it?

Honestly, absolutely. The best things in life are of course free, but the feeling of being debt-free and able to survive for a year if you lost your job is like having a guardian angel.

Honestly, at 38, I don't know that I would have told my twentysomething self to do anything differently. Having a decade to spend all my money on booze and music and books and spend all my time on music festivals and parties and long lazy brunches was pretty pleasant. And now I have the house and the kid and the serious job and that's also great, but in a different way.

To be honest, all of the advice I would give my younger self would be financial. There is a lot to learn there and even if you don't have much money, there are ways to optimize your budget. The only thing I would do differently would be to save more earlier. It's a sad fact, but having significant resources opens up your options immeasurably.

The idea that someone out there can tell you the best way to spend a decade is just downright toxic.

Winner.

then you're doing it right.

... well, you can't have it both ways. "Right" isn't right for everyone.

OK, now I'll listen to the video. Maybe. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


But with the interest rate not even keeping up with inflation, is savings even really worth it?

If you have savings in Cyprus, you already know the answer. Given the 'too big to jail' nature of finance, don't be shocked if such happens at your bank sometime in the future.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2013


I honestly wish I did a lot more fucking in my 20s when I had the time.
posted by Mister_A at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


And I didn't really get the sense of "it's okay, this is when you're supposed to figure all this out and no one expects you to be any good yet"

Ain't that the truth. My employers expected me to be good at my job if I wanted to still have a job next month, because we're not running a goddam school here. People I dated expected me to be good at dating because omigod are you telling me that's how you want to spend this evening? Neighbors, friends, family, all seemed to have very clear ideas of what I was supposed to have figured out by that point, and seemed more than a little irritated that I hadn't.
posted by Longtime Listener at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't watch the talk cause I'm at work but I did read her book last summer and now I'm feeling self conscious because I actually thought it was interesting. Although maybe I just liked it cause it made me feel good about a lot of what I'd already done. The messages I took away from it were: if you're going to be underemployed, try to pick something that's interesting to talk about and that people will remember; don't assume you'll have time between 30 and 33 to start a career, meeting a life partner and having kids; if you move in with your partner, make sure you actually want to be in a relationship with them and aren't just staying together because it's easier.

I think all of the above is reasonable advice, even if it isn't especially ground breaking. Of course, it doesn't take into account that some people are sick, some people don't care about careers and kids and I know it's not always as easy to find a job as she makes it seem but I finished her book feeling like I had some interesting things to think about.
posted by carolr at 9:35 AM on May 17, 2013


I honestly wish I did a lot more fucking in my 20s when I had the time.

There is lit'r'lly no decade of my life this isn't true.
posted by The Riker Who Mounts the World at 9:36 AM on May 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


In all seriousness, though, I really wanted to use my 20s wisely. But I had no fucking clue what I was doing, and I was terrified.

Hear, hear. I made the wrong choices and went for the wrong subjects in high school (should've doen French or another language rather than chemistry or maths), knew that my destiny was going to uni, then discovered I was actually terrible at studying and besides, I had once again chosen the wrong subject (AI because it sounded cool rather than something like history I was actually interested in). I got depressed and took a low level, part time data entry job while scrambling looking for something to salvage from my life plans.

On the other hand, the friends I made in my twenties I made by fucking around on Usenet and in fandom, the job and career I got by accident due to that data entry job and getting an entry level software testing position from it, not to mention that I met my wife and spent the best years of my life with her due to more farting around, this time on IRC...

Planning is overrated.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:38 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought you were better than that, Blue.

8(
posted by liketitanic at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2013



Planning is overrated.


Though it gives the gods a good laugh.
posted by philip-random at 9:45 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I, too, I made a real shit show of my 20's. Tons and tons of "wasted potential" and all that. Got kicked out of college, etc. But my life now, at 40, is pretty damn good. And I would not have the life I have now had I not screwed up my 20's. So, all's well that ends well. I guess.

I'd trade a single putatively wasted decade for many (well, two and counting) subsequent decades of happiness and success.

Also, it gave me cool stories to tell.
posted by oddman at 9:45 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


you'd better CUT THAT HAIR, TAKE YOUR MEDS, AND GET WITH THE PROGRAM

It's not that bad (yet) in the Netherlands, but it was there, only slightly more mellow even when I was in my twenties, 1-2 decades ago. We still have a functioning health care insurance system, which helps a lot, as well as a somewhat decent social security system, though it has been consistantly downgraded in the fifteen years I've been a paid up and productive member of society.

There's still that fundamental insecurity, that you'd better toe the line, that you cannot afford to make too many mistakes, or you end up in trouble. I can only assume it's much, much worse in the US for anybody not in the upper classes.

As in the original post, all of this is presented as the natural way things are, with no alternative, but it has been manufactured over decades. An anxious, stressed workforce that depends for survival on staying employed is a compliant workforce.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:49 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I honestly wish I did a lot more fucking in my 20s when I had the time.

There is lit'r'lly no decade of my life this isn't true.


Man, preschool must have been rough.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:50 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


yeah, even Freud speaks of a latency period.
posted by sweetkid at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Planning is overrated.

Only if you judge it by whether the original plans come to fruition. You can learn a lot by planning and then seeing life mangle those plans. You learn to make backup plans. You learn that no amount of planning can cover all contingencies. You learn that not having any plan at all can leave you mired in some very bad places. You learn to adjust your plans and decide which elements really matter to you. Planning is a Good Thing.
posted by Longtime Listener at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2013


Also, it gave me cool stories to tell.

Invaluable Identity Capital.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:09 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, preschool must have been rough.

Hey, now - I got through preschool by the time I was 8.
posted by The Riker Who Mounts the World at 10:10 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm 32 and working on a startup, and I wish I'd done this when I was 22 and could live cheaper and didn't have a family to support, but you know what?... I didn't have the idea or experience to think I could pull this off then, so..
posted by jrishel at 10:17 AM on May 17, 2013


The problem I have with these TED talks and others is that it assumes a 20 something has agency over their problems. If there's one thing I've learned is that I have very little control over what happens. Those small things I do have control over I agonize about because "what if it's the wrong choice?"

On paper I seem to have things "figured out". I have a stable, well-paying job. I'm living cheaply and putting over half my paycheck into savings or retirement. I have incredible credit. I'm also fucking miserable.

Does Meg Jay have the same goals as I do? Does she have the same set of circumstances? Did she enter the job market during a severe economic downturn? I don't think so. I am certainly not going to read 50,000 or so words about what she thinks I should do.
posted by hellojed at 10:18 AM on May 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


Am I the only one here who had their shit together and was firing on all cylinders at 23-24 and have been on a slow, steady decline mentally, morally and physically since then? I'm 40 and feel like I've wasted my last decade on pointless day jobs.
posted by Shepherd at 10:36 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only really, really, really important advice that I'd give me in my early/mid 20s would be DON'T TAKE SO MUCH FUCKING STUDENT DEBT THERE'S A GLOBAL RECESSION COMING AND NO JOBS — THE CURRENT BUSH RECESSION WILL ASTOUNDINGLY GET SO MUCH WORSE.

Also, I probably would have taken all the same journalism classes under the rubric of a degree in PR or marketing or some shit, because it's pretty much the same stuff but those shits get paid better.

But I did meet my emergency contact at 23 and have been happily with her ever since. Oh, and when I did have an emergency? She helped an incredible amount, as did my post-urban tribe of MeFites, who came and helped me do things like relearn to walk (thanks, Carson!).
posted by klangklangston at 10:44 AM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I prefer an urbane tribe.
posted by The Riker Who Mounts the World at 10:46 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay older-adult arbiters of what 20-something life should look like: do I take the first job that comes my way even if it's not 'career track' and have cheap adventures in my city because I'm 'still young' and 'have time' to do better? (This risks the ire of the hipster-hating crowd, because everyone knows you can't simultaneously bust your ass at a low-paying job just staying afloat and have any joy.)

Or should I bust my ass to get a white-collar job somehow, because your twenties are the time when you learn to be a good capitalist provider, and if you don't start now the fresh new grads will gladly snatch the jobs away from you, because employers will take a younger hire every time?

You can't really have this one both ways.
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:48 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Does anyone go into their twenties thinking "Fuck yeah, can't fucking wait to do a throwaway decade"?

Yo!

I was telling people at 19 that I was already dreading the following decade of confusion, deluded self-importance, and fretting about whether or not I truly know what I want or who I am. I am now 22 and am pretty convinced that 19-year-old me was right to dread.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:09 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rory, at least you have some consciousness of the whole thing. I was like Bill Murray from Groundhog Day, continually surprised by the same mistakes over and over.
posted by Mister_A at 11:17 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also Whiskey O'Clock is not a legitimate excuse for anything.
posted by The Whelk at 11:19 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


When you call it a "throwaway decade", you make it sound like chronic unemployment, promiscuity, and irresponsible use of recreational drugs aren't valuable experiences.

I find those experiences are valuable insofar as they help you get over the adolescent fantasy that being truculent and irresponsible are good ways to live.


Oh, great, someone to tell us a "good way" to live.
posted by spaltavian at 11:27 AM on May 17, 2013


I had always thought that the 20s were throwaway not deliberately, but because I DO SO KNOW WHAT THE HELL I'M DOING. (Also: stamina and much less need for sleep than either adolescence or 30s.)

Then again, now I'm 41 and I'm starting to have some real stern thoughts about my early 30s too.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:28 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, because I had a mistaken thread moment, I found this comment from the Red Letter Christians fairly germane. Emancipation can be learned and earned in the 20s and 30s.
posted by klangklangston at 11:39 AM on May 17, 2013


Defining decade of my life? Fuck that noise. I turned 30 last year and life has never been better.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:51 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


So this is a pitch nominally aimed at 20 somethings, but really at their parents, who presumably have the money to buy books and whatnot and force them on their children?

It's easier to throw a life away if there's either nothing to live for or the ground is paved with cash.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:52 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyone getting a Kay Hymowitz kind of vibe from this woman's advice?

For those that don't recall, Hymowitz has been featured on the Blue three separate times, but each piece is very related to the other. Part of her message is that 20-something men wallow in a state of constant adolescence with video games, beer, and Apatow movies. There is cultural uncertainty about the role of men, and because the traditional milestones for men are gone (getting married and becoming a father), they don't mature. It doesn't happen to women as much, because girls become women based on physical maturity alone. But, since nobody is getting married sooner and there's more disposable income, people put off growing up.
posted by FJT at 11:53 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I honestly wish I did a lot more fucking in my 20s when I had the time.

There is lit'r'lly no decade of my life this isn't true.


There was so much I had wanted to do by the time I was 10.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


This talk is fucking all over the place. What's her point? That you can do stuff in your 20s? .. then the idea is that society is promoting the notion that the 20s "don't count" and we need to fight that. And promoting the creation of Identity Capital™.

Ah, she's against "exploration that doesn't count." OK, I'm out.

It seems like she's reacting to a New York Times trend piece, not the reality of most people's 20s. Most people I knew in my 20s were working a lot of hours for not much money, and finding ways in their free time to have cheap fun.

It's like she's talking to a very privileged subset of 20-year-olds.

She also completely ignores the fact that most of adult life is quite absurd and illogical. That's what most 20-somethings are dealing with, i.e. "this is adult life?! these people are immature idiots!" - that was a big hurdle for me.

Am I the only one here who had their shit together and was firing on all cylinders at 23-24 and have been on a slow, steady decline mentally, morally and physically since then? I'm 40 and feel like I've wasted my last decade on pointless day jobs.

That's about how I feel. Instead of learning how to find meaning in minutiae, I've learned how not to want to blow my brains out. Which is nice.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:55 AM on May 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


The only really, really, really important advice that I'd give me in my early/mid 20s would be DON'T TAKE SO MUCH FUCKING STUDENT DEBT THERE'S A GLOBAL RECESSION COMING AND NO JOBS — THE CURRENT BUSH RECESSION WILL ASTOUNDINGLY GET SO MUCH WORSE.

Yeah, I have to laugh bitterly at all of the "your twenties are for $X" statements in this thread, whether they trend towards the "your twenties are for learning who you are and exploring the world!" side or the "your twenties are for finding a partner that you can love forever!" side, because so far none of them have been "your twenties are for having your supposed youthful freedom smashed in your face like a shaving cream custard pie while you work to pay off the debt that you were too stupid to refuse at eighteen and that everyone told you would be okay, and in the cracks you try to fill in some semblance of a meaningful life but it all feels a little futile and the idea of achieving your dreams has never felt stupider or more remote." Because...unless you're fucking lucky, it seems to me like that's what your twenties are for these days.
posted by invitapriore at 11:56 AM on May 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


your twenties are for having your supposed youthful freedom smashed in your face like a shaving cream custard pie while you work to pay off the debt that you were too stupid to refuse at eighteen and that everyone told you would be okay, and in the cracks you try to fill in some semblance of a meaningful life but it all feels a little futile and the idea of achieving your dreams has never felt stupider or more remote." Because...unless you're fucking lucky, it seems to me like that's what your twenties are for these days.

See also your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s...
posted by The Riker Who Mounts the World at 11:59 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, my 20s have been rough (I'm 28 now), and I don't ever remember thinking of it as a "throwaway decade." The opposite in fact - I've spent most of it fretting and being envious and loathing myself for not having more of my shit together in this ostensibly make-or-break-your-life decade.

What I thought I would do in my 20s was publish a novel and have a platinum album and also found a successful non-profit while traveling the world and somehow doing all of this without selling my soul to a dayjob but magically still make my student loan payments.

What I actually have done in my 20s is none of that. I've made some art, sure, had jobs, whatever. But instead most of what I've done has been to learn all of the things I didn't while being an insufferable student - learning how to be humble, to have empathy, to be kind, to be wrong gracefully, to floss, to try and keep the drinking in check, to save a little money, to manage expectations, to find happiness in smaller things, to try and find a balance between passions and practicality, to know and fill my own needs because ain't no one going to do it for you, to always opt for quality over quantity in friends, booze, clothes and most other things.

With a year and a half of my twenties left to go, everything still feels pretty uncertain, and the anxiety and self-loathing sure as hell aren't going away anytime soon. Though I have felt, just in the last year or so, a sense of coming out of a dark forest, of starting something new, of being able to see a potentially better future and realizing that you chip away at that in small, day-sized chunks, and that it will be that way until death.

What you learn in your 20s is that life is fucking messy, the toothpaste doesn't go back in the tube, and you have to work with that and that can be okay.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:00 PM on May 17, 2013 [20 favorites]


That's a much more optimistic spin on what I said, Lutoslawski, thanks for that. I try to keep things in perspective that way, but some days you get a little crabby about the whole thing.
posted by invitapriore at 12:03 PM on May 17, 2013


This is very late, but "Pansexual Yurt Dwellers" will be the name of my next improv troupe.

I feel like I did everything backwards: I married at 22, worked as a freelancer for a while, then started my own business. I worked all the time but didn't make very much money. I did not have a whole lot of fun--not that life was terrible, but it certainly wasn't anything close to carefree or "throwaway." I did learn a lot, about some things at least, but I didn't make a lot of memories or try as many new things as I wanted to. I was too busy working on what felt increasingly like a pointless hamster wheel of effort.

It wasn't until my late 30s when I ditched it all, husband and business, and started over from scratch in a different country, with grad school and then a new career (at this point in my 40s), that I really felt that kind of untethered anxiety/exhilaration of learning how to be an individual in the world that people typically associate with their 20s. I'm still working on it, frankly. It would have been a hell of a lot easier to learn this stuff twenty years ago.
posted by Superplin at 12:05 PM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


It seems like she's reacting to a New York Times trend piece, not the reality of most people's 20s.

That's exactly what she's doing. She's not totally wrong - at least for those of us who want things like careers and families - but she's arguing with a straw man.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:06 PM on May 17, 2013


... that kind of untethered anxiety/exhilaration of learning how to be an individual in the world that people typically associate with their 20s....

The untethered anxiety came very naturally, very early in my 20s. What is this exhilaration aspect that you speak of?
posted by Longtime Listener at 12:10 PM on May 17, 2013


What I thought I would do in my 20s was publish a novel and have a platinum album and also found a successful non-profit while traveling the world and somehow doing all of this without selling my soul to a dayjob but magically still make my student loan payments.

Bursting your bubble can be a beautiful thing

What you learn in your 20s is that life is fucking messy, the toothpaste doesn't go back in the tube, and you have to work with that and that can be okay.

Dude, I learned that when I was 2.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:11 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


My twenties were like my teens; I was surrounded by people who didn't get me amidst a miasma of high-school level bullshit in and out of school. The only upside was I could legally drink.
posted by Renoroc at 12:18 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


My twenties were like my teens; I was surrounded by people who didn't get me amidst a miasma of high-school level bullshit in and out of school.

sounds familiar, though I would add that I learned in my twenties to start calling people on their high-school level bullshit. And among those who responded favorably are now some of my oldest, best friends.

How old are you if you go straight from high school to University, get your undergrad in four years? Twenty-two?

Okay, twenty-two through to twenty-five or twenty-six. These are the serious bullshit years. This is when the biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we have a clue what's going on. Sometime between twenty-five and twenty-seven, those of us who are mostly sane tend to finally surrender to our confusion. We'll never be on top of all the chaos and bullshit, at which point we just figure out how to ride it all, and not panic.

Surfing as always is the answer.
posted by philip-random at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


It seems like she's reacting to a New York Times trend piece, not the reality of most people's 20s.

Bingo.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:59 PM on May 17, 2013


I'm right with you, Lutoslawski and invitapriore. To me, the talk felt compatible with these points of view. It felt to me like a pep talk to keep pressing on even while having [your supposed youthful freedom smashed in your face like a shaving cream custard pie]. At times I've felt like I missed out on a lot of the wild urban adventures, and these ideas helped me absolve myself for not having a certain hedonistic lifestyle that we're often told we should have.

Anyway, I seem to have found MeFi's berserk button: TED. I too find TED to be largely trendy, shallow, and pompous. But every so often there's a gem (such as Alain de Botton), and I liked these ideas on their own terms. I was reflecting on how TryTheTilapia's post from two years ago helped set me on a new track, and how glad I am that I changed my focus.

And by the way: has anyone bothered to read TryTheTilapia's amazing post?
posted by myriad gantry at 1:11 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think there are two parts to her talk that didn't come through all that well but that are valid and interesting, if not particularly useful to people without a bunch of hands-on individual discussion (which... is what she does for a living, presumably.)

1. Framing is everything. All of you who read MetaTalk know this, eh? That's what I got out of her handwavey "identity capital" thing. My twenties were just as stupid and broke and disastrous as anyone's with a middle-class background and the certainty of a parental safety net, but I discovered, mostly via clever resume rewrites and stupid job interview questions, that I could spin them into exciting adventures that made me an interesting and well-rounded person. I got a job at Dell based on my extensive experience installing stupid memory managers to get DOS games to run, and I got my job in community management on the dual strengths of an embarrassing and absurd obsession with a musician and a high-school experience spent playing MMOs really late at night.

The thing is, those things were only partly spin. Partly, they really were valuable experiences and contacts, but I had to frame them that way for anyone to believe them, including myself. And learning that my life and experiences were of value was probably the most useful thing that came out of my twenties - it's given me the ability to talk to people, to sell myself, to ask for jobs that aren't posted, etc. Jay doesn't do a great job of explaining identity capital, but it is a real thing and learning how to recognize it - not generate it, everyone does that by just living, but see it and use it - is a major life lesson at any age.

2. The romantic relationship thing is something else that I think she didn't explain super well, but we see in AskMe all the time. She's talking about the "you don't need to build a ironclad legal case to dump someone you don't want to date" thing that comes up all. the. time, often if not mostly among people in their twenties with not a ton of dating experience. It's about boundary-setting, really, and it applies to friendships as well as romantic relationships, and I agree that it's an important life skill that's probably best learned before your social circle solidifies as you settle down.

Her glancing reference to the in-group problem was intriguing, but she doesn't address it at all. I'm not going to leap to the defense of cliquishness, but I'm not totally sure what she was getting at there, really.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:34 PM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm in my twenties and, while I'm doing fairly well for myself, I feel as if everyone is shouting into my ear to ACCOMPLISH EVERYTHING! MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SEX WHILE YOU'RE YOUNG WITH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE! INTERNSHIPS, MONEY, CAREER! STATUS! PROVE YOUR WORTH! YOUR LATER YEARS WILL SUCK SO MAKE THIS COUNT!

It's honestly making me want to stop trying completely; it's a soul-killing thick fog that constantly asserts its presence by means of recurring depression. If I'm supposed to experience everything positive in my life in one decade purely for the sake of being able to endure an oh-so-dreary life at a later time, I'd rather not even live.

Not a ground-breaking talk with respect to what I've been exposed to so far.
posted by Evernix at 2:04 PM on May 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


Maybe my generation wouldn't have had to throw away our twenties if the economy had not been shit at literally any point during our adulthood. A good job? Home ownership? A family? Yeah, all things I've been rejecting because I don't want them, not because they have been made nearly impossible to achieve.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:12 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Home ownership is one of the bigger LOLs on the list of things that our generation was told are obligatory components of the good life. As with the offer to stick your hand in a hot jar of angry hornets, the only reasonable response is "uh, no?"
posted by invitapriore at 2:22 PM on May 17, 2013


it's a soul-killing thick fog that constantly asserts its presence by means of recurring depression. If I'm supposed to experience everything positive in my life in one decade purely for the sake of being able to endure an oh-so-dreary life at a later time, I'd rather not even live.

Although I said something like "Everything after 40 is downhill" somewhere upstairs, I was mostly referring to the physical body. There are lots of upsides to getting older. For me, I lost my social anxiety and my allergies somewhere 25->40.

As a fellow (I think mild but sometimes not) sufferer, depression is timeless. In that way, I feel as if I were 8, 18, or 28. I can't recommend much for that other than investing in personal relationships and therapy if you can talk and afford it. In my own personal experience, and from watching others, it doesn't usually get better.

/eponycholic
posted by mrgrimm at 2:22 PM on May 17, 2013


Read TryTheTilapia's post for an idea of their 20s look like to a lot of people.

Some things that Meg Jay addressed I did instinctively in my 20s and today - age 32 since 2 days - I'm incredibly relieved I never had to conscientiously "fix" these things.
I was never a part of an "urban tribe" or clique or tight gang of friends, and I never gave a hoot about what any of my loose network of friends thought when it came down to my next move.
Also, thank God, I never had any scruples about asking someone for a reference or for a job outright. I never had any problems asking my friends to present me to their moms and dads because they have interesting jobs and I want to talk about their work and see whether there's any work in their company for me. Never had any problems striking up a conversation at a bar, a restaurant, in the ladies room, waiting in line, at the gym, everywhere and with anyone that looked well put together: hi there, what do you do, do you know anyone who can employ me at this or that job, would your friend know someone, could you give him a call and check, pretty please. I'm a born hustler, thank you Lord.
However, after my formal schooling (that ended around age 25), I had way too much fun playing the "jungle gym" game of office politics, career moves, starting up my own business, beating my ex-boss/the competition, rising to the top of the game, etc. that I totally and absolutely neglected 2 huge facets of life that I'm scrambling to catch up.
And Meg Jay's talk hits where it hurts.
Those two facets of life are: (a) settling down and founding your family, and (b) which Meg Jay never speaks about but this is the ONE thing that makes or breaks you as you age: getting extremely health/fitness/food conscious.

As I ready myself to meet a young 22 year old next Monday who I agreed to mentor, to the three aspects that Meg Jay speaks about (Get Identity Capital/Disregard Urban Tribes Acquire Weak Ties/Pick Your family) I would add: In your 20s, make good fitness and healthy food as natural to you as breathing. You've just upped your lifespan 20 years.
posted by ruelle at 2:38 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


everything still feels pretty uncertain, and the anxiety and self-loathing sure as hell aren't going away anytime soon.

At some point during a particularly bad patch of depression, a friend of mine sent me a link to Long Dark Twenties, and it was a remarkably helpful thing, to know other people were getting that version of the decade.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:55 PM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know, I thought she was saying that you shouldn't be afraid to go out and try and do new things. I married at 20 and had lots of kids. I worked full time and when to school full time. I moved states at the drop of a hat without hardly any money- sometimes chasing a job, and sometimes not. I spent almost the entire decade broke and constantly looking for work all while trying to feed my family. I did spend time on food stamps. I always was looking for a way to 'make it'.

I took the TED talk (with the boring pacing) as you have to take chances, but be sure you know who you are, too. I would never recommend marrying at 20 and having lots of kids right away, but I can recommend trying to start over and figuring our who you are and what you are. Try dating a few different personalities. Try figuring out your own. That's not procrastinating. That is time well spent.

Sorry. I just think there is something to this and it isn't geared just to upper class people. Taking a chance means risking failure. This includes jobs, relationships, where you live, who you befriend. If it doesn't work, move on as best you can.
posted by Nadie_AZ at 4:29 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I turned thirty a few months ago and was feeling a little depressed being single and now am feeling very depressed about being thirty. Better go find a musical chair-person to sit in(?) (on(?) (what(?))
posted by mermily at 5:42 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know, I thought she was saying that you shouldn't be afraid to go out and try and do new things.

That's good advice, but is Meg Jay's anodyne message really provocative or even bold?

And, I tend to think most people seem to think the grass is greener on the other side. I'm ending my 20s this year, and I was the type that didn't do a frat, didn't party and hardly drank, and studied a major that could help me in the business world (economics and business adminstration). I stayed with one big corporation for almost six years in a job that had moderate growth opportunities but big stability. I got a job close to my family, too. I kept telling myself this is what it takes to be a responsible, reliable person that would be rewarded if they kept their coloring in the lines. Instead, I resigned the position this year(if you want the details, read my AskMe) and had everything change.

I don't regret what happened, and I'm starting to realize that I have built up identity capital (I hate that term). But, and this remains to be seen, is the "capital" I built up "fungible"? Probably some, but definitely not all of it. And that's kind of the rub. You're a different person at 20, 25, and 30. The capital you start saving and developing at 20 might not be the stuff you can use at 30. It's not bad, and it's not a waste of time like Meg Jay would say. It's just you're a different person.
posted by FJT at 6:45 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


now am feeling very depressed about being thirty

I am older than you, so I will butt in with advice! We all feel this way sometimes, but things will go better for you if you avoid dwelling on being sad about your advancing age. It leads only to a tunnel of self-pity and despair.

It's actually not so bad. You get comfortable with who you are, ideally. You don't have to take so much random crap off of society in general.

It is strange how your point of view shifts over the decades. When I was a teenager, people over, say, 28, were like a different species as far as I was concerned. They were parents, other authority figures, or random comical idiots, with a few exceptions made for sports and rock stars. The idea of turning into that was unbearable! A lot of pressure from the culture reinforces the idea that the only life worth living is the life of youth, too. I knew I was going to get old and die one day too, but, in my heart, I think I really believed I was somehow exempt. I'm probably still clinging to that with the death part, in fact.
posted by thelonius at 7:31 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I turned thirty a few months ago and was feeling a little depressed being single and now am feeling very depressed about being thirty. Better go find a musical chair-person to sit in(?) (on(?) (what(?))

I don't really understand why everyone is so depressed about being single or 30+. It's like forcing yourself to feel bad. Really great, strong marriages and relationships are the exception. Just look through AskMe's human relations questions. Also, your 30s can be amazing, trust me. I have just felt happier overall since I turned 30 a few years ago. It's been waaaaay better than my 20s, and I feel like I seriously struggled until I hit 30 and then it just changed every single day for the better. And since I left my relationship, I've been so much happier and more relaxed.
posted by discopolo at 10:21 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd be fine with my 30's if I wasn't hearing about how awful I am as a woman now that I've hit them without a husband and 2 children EVERY GODDAMNED DAY, thanks.

This woman keeps rubbing in that at my age, I have fucking EXPIRED in life. I didn't meet my future husband before 30, I'm not going to get any smarter, and 80% of my life developments have already happened?! Shit. And that's not even touching OMGBIOLOGICAL CLOCK since I don't want children, but even then the public OMGBIOLOGICAL CLOCK going on makes me feel somehow guilty for not running to get impregnated by the next 60-year-old who hits on me in a bar because that's all I can get.

Really great, strong marriages and relationships are the exception. Just look through AskMe's human relations questions.

Depends on where you live. I have one friend in a not-happy marriage, but I don't have that many single female friends, and the married ones are generally doing quite well, thanks. I know everyone says, "Don't compare yourself!," but how can you not do that? When everyone else is pointing it out to you all the time?

What did I do with my 20's? I had a dream job, got laid off from it, started a long-term compromise career that I was okay with. I had one broken engagement to someone who after 2 years was clearly never gonna get his shit together and we both burned out on that. I had a dying dad to deal with for almost all of my 20's, so frankly I never had the energy to chase after a dream career or another man to catch (and they're all taken anyway). Alas, he finally died and years later, I still haven't figured out a dream career that allows me to have a regular paycheck and health insurance. Since, you know, I can't depend on a husband to get those things for me and all. Yes, I definitely wasted my 20's on the "fun" and "landing a man that's a keeper" and "career" stuff.

It could be worse, don't get me wrong. But it's hard to ignore everything around you in your culture when you don't live up to the expectations of it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:52 AM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Lord, I was so depressed in my 20s that I think I spent not even a year's worth of days, out of the whole damn decade, free of suicidal thoughts. I MAY have had a whole year, in bits and pieces, of not wanting to kill myself.

It didn't straight up vanish at 30...but it got better.

I hear about "kids today" getting antidepressants pushed on them. And I think of the shrinks I saw at the student health center in college. I'd tell them I spent every hour of the day wanting to die, except that I couldn't do that to my mother. They'd ask me if I'd ever thought about antidepressants. I'd say, no, I don't want pills. Will cure myself with self-awareness. Okay, they said. And the years went by. Woke up, got out of bed (most of the time), dragged a comb across my head (less often than advisable)...

I don't miss the years as they actually were...but I now hope I live a little longer than average, because that particular time I'm not getting back.
posted by skbw at 5:10 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


mrgrimm: "Also, I'll tell you what. Anyone who says that 40 is the new 30 is full of shit. Seriously, kids, listen up: turning 40 sucks. It does. It is all fucking downhill from there."

This is one of those "YMMV bigtime" things. As I say whenever it comes up, my twenties were better than my teens, my thirties were better than my twenties, and so far my forties have been better than my thirties. At this rate, by the time I'm 60 I'll be unstoppable. And my husband regularly remarks about how at age 44, he's now stronger, fitter, and better-looking than at any point previously (a position with which I can't argue too vehemently — lucky me).

discopolo : " The only people who have advice worth taking on life and how to live are sassy elderly ladies who joke around and don't give a fig about ppl telling them how to act. So if Betty White has advice, I'm all ears."

Have you encountered Quilting Muriel on Twitter? She's 94 and doesn't anticipate any of her children ever getting on Twitter — they're too old and stuck in their ways, unfortunately. She's great. Seriously, I remember looking up and exclaiming to my husband, "Muriel followed me back! Squee!"

sweetkid : " Also, I had really terrible office politics skills. I had great "school person" skills, but not office politics. "

Oh, yes. I learned the hard way that when my husband says (second-hand, in response to my what-happened-at-the-office-today stories) "I think Excessively Political Coworker has it in for you" I should listen to him, or I'm liable to wind up later peering over my shoulder at the dagger sticking out of my back and saying "Huh, it's monogrammed 'EPC', how about that."

mrgrimm: " Truer words were never spoken. I once worked with a guy who said that Excel was the only software he ever needed to do anything. He used it for word processing."

However, EXCEL IS NOT A PAGE LAYOUT PROGRAM AND OMG DO NOT TRY TO USE IT AS ONE. *takes deep breath* *straightens jacket* *brushes hair back into place* I mean, "And at the same time, it's important to have a realistic sense of a software product's limitations."

myriad gantry: " And by the way: has anyone bothered to read TryTheTilapia's amazing post?"

Indeed, and favorited it at the time it was posted. The thing has 600+ favorites. It's reasonable to assume that at least some of the people in this discussion have read it before.
posted by Lexica at 9:16 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Depends on where you live. I have one friend in a not-happy marriage, but I don't have that many single female friends, and the married ones are generally doing quite well, thanks. I know everyone says, "Don't compare yourself!," but how can you not do that? When everyone else is pointing it out to you all the time?

Of course their marriages seem like they're going well until they suddenly aren't.

How do you not compare yourself? Well, you meet cool women who are single at 30 and 40. You look at the profiles of so many dudes on OKC and laugh at their immaturity and thank God you don't have to spend your lifetime smelling his farts or cleaning up after him. Then you embrace the day, eat good food, stay healthy, nurture yourself, tell your friends and family you love them and flirt with good-looking guys.
posted by discopolo at 9:43 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I turned 24 three days ago and so far don't know what I am doing with my life, but I have a pretty sweet job, some solid friends, a good woman by my side and I think it's going to be okay.
posted by gucci mane at 11:24 AM on May 19, 2013


Sound advice, those who chimed in! I am newly thirty so I think it's the fall out from first realizing (with a bang!) that yes, I will age, get old, and die, and it will happen sooner than I feel it should (because the passing of my twenties happened sooner than I felt it should). All this "acceptance" advice is very, very good and I know intellectually that you are right but maybe am not quite there on the level of really grokking it. I'll work on it, though.
posted by mermily at 5:52 PM on May 20, 2013


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