MaryKate:

I just read a post from Glamour that made its way to MSN.com about how many people have a mindset that “30 is the new 20” (http://living.msn.com/life-inspired/30-is-not-the-new-20-but-is-that-bad-or-good-for-us). The post (written by an unnamed 29 year old woman) briefly outlines the message of a TED talk given by clinical psychologist Meg Jay, in which she discusses the tendency of many 20-somethings (Generation Y or Millennials) to tell themselves that age 30 is the milestone by which they should measure their success. The author goes on to describe her own ideas about Jay’s message and how they relate to her, personally. Meg Jay mentions some excuses that many of us use to explain why we’re not achieving our desired goals, whether personally or professionally: “This relationship isn’t great, but I’m just killing time. I’ll just bartend for now and as long as I figure out a career by the time I’m 30, it’s fine.” Jay wants 20-somethings to stop being comfortable with that mindset; in fact, she argues that many milestones occur in our 20s and we should take advantage of those instead of procrastinating. She goes on to list three things that 20-somethings can do with their lives right now, instead of depending on a fuzzy point in the future when everything will “come together”:

1. “Forget about having an identity crisis; get some identity capital.” By this she means, do something that adds value to who you are. Exploring new opportunities is great, but only if they count. Otherwise, you’re just procrastinating.

2. “The urban tribe is overrated.” Friends are great, but your “weak ties”—friends of friends of friends—are where the opportunities are going to come from. Expand your circle.

3 . “The time to start picking your family is now.” Jay says that the best time to start working on your marriage is before you have one. You don’t have to be married by 25, but stop wasting time and look for what you want now.

According to Jay, I, as a 20-something who hasn’t accomplished all that I desire yet, should concentrate on these three goals instead of waiting for the magical age of 30 when all of life’s problems are resolved and everything has worked out for me (right, everyone? That’s what happens when a person turns 30?).

I can’t say I completely agree with Jay on these three tips; much like the author of the article, I think some balance can be achieved in my life. Personally, I feel a bit stressed out when I read this short list because I don’t think I’m actively working towards achieving any of these small goals; however, the more I think about it, the more I’m comfortable with what I am doing day-to-day to become the person I want to be. For example, item #1 on her list suggests to me that some of my current hobbies or activities can be seen as procrastination, instead of a way to de-stress or enjoy myself. I disagree with that; I don’t believe that everything I do should boost my professional image. Sure, I want to look and act my best most of the time, but honestly, sometimes I want to watch three seasons of a TV show on Netflix over the weekend in my sweatpants. Yes, that could be called procrastination, but I don’t think I need to be so hard on myself. I do think some activities I’m doing right now adds value to the person I am; for example, I’ve always loved to write and I get to contribute to this amazing blog twice a month. I may not be making earth-shattering statements on here, but I humbly type away on this computer because I enjoy it. As crazy as my job can be sometimes, I enjoy putting out a well-edited academic journal with my name on it because I know that I worked hard and did my best. These two things are adding to my positive personal image just as much as my love of plunking down in a comfy chair at the end of the day and reading quietly, in my opinion.

I think while trying to look for a career, or a relationship, or a new path in life, it’s too easy to put things on the backburner. Procrastination is very convenient; I can keep chugging along in a particular situation and tell myself I’m just figuring it all out. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and tell myself that things will change…eventually. Here is where I agree with Jay: things won’t happen unless I make them happen, or at least give it a good try. My fellow Millenials and I are facing a tough time in the job market right now: things are getting better, things are getting worse. We hear both extremes every day. Many of us have student loans and we might not be getting the jobs we thought we’d get with our degrees. It’s a scary time to be striking out on your own, but I also think it’s a perfect time for 20-somethings to take control and maybe make a few of our own rules. Who says we have to be married by 25? These days, people are settling down later and later and I am okay with that idea. Do I have to be settled into my lifelong career by 27? I still feel as though I’m learning and growing in the job I have now; I’m still looking for new opportunities.

Much like the author of the article says, we don’t have to know all the answers in our twenties, but I think we should be working toward our own answers. Maybe Meg Jay’s advice works for you or maybe it doesn’t. Isn’t it more important to be satisfied with yourself? If you’re happy with your life, who’s to say you’re doing anything wrong? The important message I’m trying to get across is to not pressure yourself. Take yourself seriously, but allow time for relaxation and a little silliness, too. Right now, I am part of a powerful generation: we are Millennials and we have options. I think those are some pretty powerful things to have.

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