There’s no denying that our twenties are a magical age. They’re the age of contradiction and inconsequence. You’re an adult but not yet responsible. You’re living on your own but still relying on your parents. You’re buying china and furniture but still blacking out and breaking things.

They’re the “best years of your life” because you’re an adult without all the stress. You have all the time in the world in front of you. As a woman, you have ten magical years before you have to start to even begin to worry about fertility and job security. You have time to make mistakes and blame it all on the naivety of your twenties.

But Meg Jay says that’s a mistake. A clinical psychologist and narrative non-fiction writer, Jay weaves the latest research on human development with what she hears everyday: the behind-closed-doors stories of real people.

In her writings, Jay reveals the complex realities that lie behind stereotypes and misconceptions about modern life, changing the conversation about topics such as whether young adulthood matters and how resilience really works and feels.

In “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now”, Jay elevated what it means to be a twentysomething as she argued that, rather than a developmental downtime, the twenties are a developmental sweetspot.

“How do you get the happy ending? John Irving ought to know. One of my favorite authors, Irving writes these multigenerational epics of fiction that somehow work out in the end. How does he do it? He says, ‘I always begin with the last sentence ; then I work my way backwards, through the plot, to where the story should begin.’ That sounds like a lot of work, especially compared to the fantasy that great writers sit down and just go where the story takes them. Irving lets us know that good stories and happy endings are more intentional than that.

Most 20 something’s can’t write the last sentence of their lives. But when pressed, they usually can identify things they want in their 30s or 40s or 60s -or things they don’t want- and work backward from there. This is how you have your own multigenerational epic with a happy ending. This is how you live your life in real time.”

‘The Defining Decade’ has sold more than 200,000 copies, and inspired one of the most-watched TED talks to date–“Why 30 Is Not the New 20”—with nearly six million views in the first year alone.”

Claiming your 20s is one of the simplest, yet most transformative things you can do for your work, love and happiness. According to Jay, these are the facts:

  • 80% of life’s most defining moments take place at 35.
  • The first 10 years of a career has an exponential impact on how much money you’re going to earn. 
  • The brain caps off it’s second and last growth spurt in your twenties. Which means, whatever it is you want to change about yourself now is the time to change it.
  • Personality changes more during your twenties than any other time in life
  • Female fertility peaks at age 28.

Our twenties are our critical development of our adult development. Knowing all of this, you should be taking advantage of these years. You know how you regret not learning a language when you were young? Well you’re going to regret not picking up new skills, focusing on your career and making yourself the best possible adult you can be before you’re 30.

As a culture we have trivialized the defining decade of adulthood.

What happens when you pat a twenty-something on the head and say, “You have ten extra years”?  You have robbed that person of their urgency and ambition and nothing happens.

3 Things Every 20something Deserves To Hear

1. Forget about having an identity crisis, get identity capital. Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next. Explore don’t procrastinate. Take risks that count.

2. Stop hanging out with same people from college. Meet people of different ages, different identities and create new ties. Half of new jobs are never posted, un-posted jobs are found by new friendships and connections.

3. Make meaningful relationships. Don’t date someone you don’t see yourself with long-term. Stop wasting your time. You don’t need to get married at 25 but you shouldn’t be wasting your time with losers only to turn 30 and marry the last one you were with.


Founder of Words of Women

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