Even before I turned 20, I was obsessed with consuming content about the glorified decade that is the 20s. I loved watching YouTube videos titled things like, “20 Things I Learned in My 20s,” or “Read These Books if You Are in Your 20s.” In everything I was consuming, there was one book that kept coming up: “The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay.Her book is about how to spend your 20s based on science. Jay worked as a clinical psychologist interviewing hundreds of people in their 30s and 40s on why they weren’t satisfied with their lives – most of the time, it was because of decisions made in their 20s. Jay created a list of universal advice she wishes all 20-year-olds knew to make the most of the formative decade. Jay spends most of her time catering to two main areas of young people’s lives – career and relationships.
This past December I turned 21, and I definitely feel it. I feel like a young adult. I am meeting new people and going to new places like never before.
Up until high school graduation, everyone the same age as me had been in the exact same stage, but now it’s all different. Some people are already graduating, some are not in college and some have started their own families.
Right now, it feels like every decision I make has the ability to impact my life in a massive way, and I think Jay would agree with me. I also think she would tell me to give myself grace.
There’s still over a year left until I walk at graduation, but I expect it to fly by like these past few have, so I have started to really think about my life after college.
My plan had always been to go straight into teaching, but I’m not so sure anymore – I have been flirting with the idea of applying to graduate school.
I am a teacher to my core – I know that. I guess we’ll have to wait and see in what capacity I end up doing that.
My dilemma lies in the fact that I know grad school will always be there. At the same time, it is incredibly tempting to take advantage of it while I am young. I think I need it. I am not done being around like-minded English-y people at a higher level.
There are many unknowns in my future. But to add to the number of questions in my life, the summer after I turned 20, I made a list of 20 questions. Among them were: Is there anything you regret doing or not doing? How do you think back on your 20s? What advice do you have for people in their 20s?
I realized I didn’t know much about my own parents’ experience in their 20s or the other people who are past their 20s in my life. I learned things in an hour that I went my whole life knowing and it was all a question away.
Among those I asked were my parents, aunts, uncles and family friends. Some firmly declined the offer and others happily accepted.
When I asked them for advice, I felt like it was slightly geared to me, but I found out some things that are universally applicable. The one thing I heard over and over was to travel as much as I can afford to.
Though I am only 21, my 20s have been difficult, beautiful and, above all, uncertain.
In “Letters to a Young Poet,” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart … [and] live in the question … Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”