Why 30 Is Not the New 20


I originally wrote this post in May of last year but I was re-reading it last night & realized how relevant it still is, so I thought I’d share it here where it might garner a larger audience.  Additionally I’ve added in a few new thoughts here & there.

This morning I logged onto Facebook & saw that one of my friends had posted a link to a Ted talk by a psychologist named Meg Jay.  The topic of the talk was “Why 30 Is Not the New 20.”  Intrigued, I clicked the link, saw that it was a 14 minute video, & almost said “Nah, not worth my time.”  Thankfully I decided to give it a listen because it turned out to be one of the most motivational talks I have ever heard.  In fact I loved her message so much that I found myself taking notes so that I could summarize it & share it with my friends, some of whom might be more inclined to read a synopsis rather than watch the video.  Below I have listed Meg’s three main points & described them as best as I can, inserting my own thoughts here & there.  Anything in quotes is directly from Meg’s talk.

meg jay

1. “Forget about having an identity crisis & invest in identity capital.”  Kind of like good deeds beget good deeds, “identity capital begets identity capital.”  Identity capital is something that defines you & helps you accomplish the career, dream, or goal you want to achieve.    Identity capital can be volunteering in your community, taking on a challenging internship, going back to school, or a million other things.  The point is that if you want to achieve your goals in life (which by the way you SHOULD have actual goals), you HAVE to take specific steps to make them happen.  Nobody becomes a doctor or a rock star or an NFL player just by talent or luck.  Every dream takes hard work & intentional steps to make it a reality.  Small steps, no matter how inconsequential they may seem, are better than doing nothing at all & ending up in your 40’s or 50’s & wondering “what if?”

(Since writing this original post, I’ve taken the step of starting this blog so I can chase my dream of becoming a writer someday.)

2. Don’t limit your circle of friends to people just like you.  New jobs & opportunities & even significant others can be met through “weak ties.”  Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your friends’ parents or your neighbors or to hang out with people of a different generation.  Quite often you can learn a lot from these people & you just never know where that crucial connection will be made.  If you only hang around people of your own age & social “class,” for lack of a better term, you will never challenge yourself & may very well end up stuck in the same old rut forever.

I know I met some of my best friends in college through other lesser friends or just by saying hi to someone who sat near me in class.  Additionally some of my best friends in Raleigh are 30 years older than me, but I feel as close to them as I do to many of my friends my own age.

3. Here’s the one that resonates the most with me.  “The time to start picking your family is now.”  It has often been said “You can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends.”  As a child & teenager this is true.  But when you become an adult you DO choose your family.  In modern America anyway, we no longer have arranged marriages so, yes, we actually DO have the privilege & responsibility of choosing our own families.  How awesome is that?  Just remember, “grabbing whoever you’re living with or sleeping with at the time just because everyone on Facebook is walking down the aisle is NOT progress.”  “The best time to start working on your marriage is before you have one.  Be as intentional with love as you are with work.”  Don’t just “make it work or kill time” with whoever happens to be there at the time.  It has been said that “love in your 20’s is often like musical chairs, & when people hit 30 it seems like everyone is sitting down (read: settling down) so people just sit down with (read: marry) whatever ‘chair’ happens to be there at the moment.  WRONG!!”

I know I may have little room to talk since I have no idea what it is like to be 30 & single but common sense dictates that this is a bad idea.  So many girls (& guys) in their 20’s say “Well, no, I wouldn’t marry this person I’m dating right now but this relationship doesn’t count.  I’m only in my 20’s.  I’m nowhere near ready to settle down.”  On the surface this sounds ok but you have to realize that the patterns you are setting ARE patterns.  If you get in a habit of “just settling” for whoever happens to be around, how will you ever know when you really meet “the one?”  Consider that by cheapening your own standards, you may also cheapen yourself.  I hate to sound like an old fart, but it’s true.  This goes for both sexes, so don’t think I’m just talking to the ladies here.  Additionally, the behavior you put up with is the behavior you will get.  As I mentioned in my blog post last week, one of my favorite books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, eloquently puts it like this: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”  If you accept bad behavior from yourself or others for long enough, it will become your norm & you won’t even realize you’re being mistreated.  If you truly want a serious relationship, have enough self-respect not to spend the most valuable thing you have, your time, on someone who doesn’t really care about you (or who you don’t even really care about).  After all none of us is promised tomorrow.  There is no guarantee any of us will make it to 30 or 40 or 80.  Thus, there is truly no such thing as “throwaway” years.

My wedding bouquet & our rings Triskay Photography

My wedding bouquet & our rings
Triskay Photography

To further expound on this point, may I interject a few personal stories & say that walking down the aisle in a fancy dress & saying “I do” does NOT change anything.  If you have serious problems in your relationship before you’re married, surprise, surprise: they do NOT just disappear.  Now I know from experience that in the weeks leading up to our wedding, my husband & I fought a lot more than usual because we were both stressed & worried about the wedding, not so much the marriage itself but just the wedding day.  Neither of us likes being the center of attention & we just had no idea what to expect because neither of us had even been to a wedding for almost four years, much less been closely involved with planning a wedding.  The whole experience was new to us so of course it was stressful, & naturally there were times when we took it out on each other.  However, as soon as the wedding was over, those fights disappeared because that source of stress was gone.  But the little every-day things that we do that annoy each other didn’t suddenly go away.  Of course not.  People don’t change just because there are rings on their fingers.  Duh.  But we were very happy together & very committed to each other long before we were actually married so very little really changed after we got married. And that is how we wanted it.  (In my mind you should have a marriage-like relationship before getting married or else you probably shouldn’t be making that kind of serious commitment anyway.  Just my opinion, I know, but I think there’s some wisdom behind it.)

The only major changes in our relationship after marriage were due to life events that really had nothing to do with being married.  First we had to deal with my brand new nursing career which was certainly stressful; then when I finally felt like I was on top of my game with that, my husband finished his master’s degree & we decided to move to a new state & into an urban environment with a totally different culture than anything we’d ever experienced.  A week after we moved, I started my new job which was pretty challenging at times, & then my husband was unemployed for four months while he searched for a job. He finally got his dream job & very shortly afterward we decided to buy a house.  Now THAT was a stressful experience but one we’re very glad we endured.  Throughout this past year we have also lost quite a few loved ones including my husband’s two remaining grandparents & a special uncle of mine.

Overall, most of the changes in our lives in the past two years since we got married, especially in the past year, have been good things, but change is still stressful, no matter what it is.  I don’t know that being married has necessarily made these changes easier or more difficult but if we’d had serious relationship problems, whether married or not, we likely wouldn’t have made it through all these things.  The point of all this is, just because all your friends are getting married or you start thinking about having a family, don’t just settle when it comes to choosing a partner & potential father/mother of your future kids.  Whether you end up getting married or just deciding to be life partners without the formal marriage designation (which, by the way, I really don’t think is a bad thing), you are going to face a lot of challenges & changes in life, & you definitely need to be with the right person or it’s going to be hell.  I can’t imagine marrying someone who wasn’t my best friend.

Listening to Meg’s talk made me realize how proud I am of myself for making such good use of my 20’s, what she calls quite accurately “the defining decade.”  I know a lot of my success is rooted in having great parents who pushed me to do well in school, have a successful career, & always do my best at everything I attempt in life.  I also know that to a certain extent I got “lucky” in meeting my husband at such a young age & by getting a full scholarship to college.  But I didn’t get that scholarship without working really hard in high school to qualify for it, & I certainly didn’t graduate college with a 4.0 by just being smart.  I worked my butt off for that.  (Sometimes I wish I’d focused less on grades but that’s a post for another day.)  My husband and I also haven’t maintained our relationship over all these years without a lot of effort from both of us.  I love the fact that our relationship has always felt so natural, not at all forced, but at the same time life is hard & relationships are work at times.  You get out of life what you put into it & the same is true for relationships of course.  So, yes, I have a lot of people to thank for contributing to my success in life, but I also know that a lot of it is due to the decisions I have made.  Life IS what you make it & I’m very proud of myself for being a mid 20’s RN, wife, & homeowner.  I do NOT mean to imply that you aren’t successful if you don’t have a great career, aren’t married, or don’t own a house at this point in your life.  OF COURSE NOT.  Everyone’s timeline is different, as well it should be.  But I do encourage everyone who is in their 20’s to make good use of this time in your life.  Don’t wait till you’re 30 to be serious about chasing your dreams & start making good decisions.  

 I am also proud to say that when I think about my close friends, they are all making good use of their 20’s also.  Some of them have accomplished amazing things that I can’t imagine ever doing.  Wow, I really know some awesome people who inspire me daily.  You guys know who you are & you rock!

 If this came off as preachy or condescending, forgive me.  That is not how I meant it at all.  I’ve just talked about my own experiences because that is all I have to go on.  I found this talk so inspiring & I wanted to share it with my friends so that you too may be inspired to make good use of your 20’s (or whatever decade you’re in).  It’s never too late to chase your dreams, but it’s a whole lot easier if you start young.

Here’s the link to Meg’s talk if you want to listen to it: http://www.ted.com/talks/meg_jay_why_30_is_not_the_new_20.html?source=facebook#.UaLw1lonQoU.facebook

Life Isn’t Fair So Your Choices Better Be Good


Today’s blog post might rub some people the wrong way but I hope you’ll understand as you read it that this comes from a place of compassion & concern for my fellow man.  (Yes, I consider myself a feminist but I truly don’t see anything wrong with using masculine pronouns when referring to all of humanity because frankly it just sounds better.)  Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year is the impact of choices on our lives.  A lot has changed in my life in the past two years.  For example, I’ve graduated from college, become a nurse, gotten married, and moved to a new state, and in just the past nine months I’ve bought a house, a puppy, and a very nice used car and started serving as a preceptor and a charge nurse at work.  These are, in my mind, all good changes but change is inevitably difficult at times and, at least for me, leads to a lot of introspection and general analysis of life.  In the past year such introspection and analysis have continually landed me on the same theme: the importance of making good choices in life and the consequences that arise when we fail to make good choices.

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Let me first say that I am fully aware that what I consider to be good choices and what someone else considers to be good choices may be completely different.  And with very few exceptions I am totally okay with that.  But if there is one thing I can safely say I know to be true in life, it is that we are each responsible for our own lives and the choices we make, and said choices are the greatest determinant of our own happiness and success.  I know that I have accomplished a lot for someone my age and I am very much aware of the fact that I have a lot of people to thank for helping me along the way to where I am now.  But I also realize that all the help in the world would have been useless if I hadn’t also made my own good choices (getting good grades in high school which allowed me to apply for and obtain a scholarship to college, seeking out internships and jobs in college that helped me obtain a good job after graduation, etc, etc, you get the point).  Please understand that I am not trying to brag or say that I am more successful or better than anyone else.  I am well aware that my own idea of success and happiness does not apply to everyone and vice versa.  I am just saying that when I think about the miserable situations I see so many people in, including many my own age, I can’t help but notice that all (or at least most) of these people have made a series of bad choices throughout their lives.  Let me further explain so I hopefully don’t sound like one of those god-awful judgmental pricks that annoy me so much.

I’m talking about the people who are working dead-end jobs with no hope of advancement who can barely pay their bills (or can’t pay them), who are in miserable relationships with people who treat them like trash, etc, etc; I think you catch my drift.  These people are usually the ones who dropped out of high school (and not because they had to take care of a dying relative or something like that), got pregnant in high school or maybe shortly thereafter and often with someone they did not exactly have a solid relationship with, or perhaps graduated from high school but with such poor grades that college or even technical school was never an option.  These folks probably did not think about the future beyond tomorrow and never exactly planned out a career or any sort of goals for their lives.  The homeless are another good example.  I have always had a special place in my heart for the homeless for some reason but when I look at most of the homeless people I’ve met or known about (I did a clinical rotation with the homeless in nursing school and actually got the privilege of talking to a lot of homeless folks) I’ve noticed again the same pattern: bad choices.  For some it was drugs, for some it was gambling, for some it was having too many children whom they couldn’t afford to support, and the list goes on and on.  Even many of my patients at work whose lives are miserable due to disease are often in the positions they’re in largely because of poor choices they’ve made: failing to control diseases that could be controlled or even eradicated through proper diet & exercise, etc, etc.  It’s hard to watch because you know that these people could have had better outcomes if they’d made better choices.  It’s a very complicated subject, but it’s the truth nonetheless.

Let me be clear here: BY NO MEANS do I think we should not be compassionate or helpful to those who have made poor choices.  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  My point is that the greatest lesson I hope to teach my future children is that they better have their act together from day one because life is not fair.  For example, lots of people have unprotected sex in high school.  But not everyone ends up with some disgusting STI or gets pregnant.  But some do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  Lots of people drive drunk and never hurt anyone.  But others do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  Lots of people smoke cigarettes their whole lives and never get lung cancer or COPD.  But many do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  I think you can see my point.  If there’s anything I know about life it’s that it isn’t fair.  Some people make one or two bad choices and their whole lives crumble around them.  Others make a lot of bad choices and don’t seem to suffer as much.  But in my limited experience those I’ve seen consistently make good choices have ALWAYS been better off because of it.

So if/when I have kids someday, these are the things I’m going to teach them:

Stay in school.  Get good grades.  Work hard at everything you do.  When you get a job, be the best because otherwise you will just be a drone like everyone else.  Make yourself stand out.  Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars.  Go to college or vocational school and plan a career where you can both support yourself and be happy.  Never have unprotected sex with anyone unless you are 100% ready to be a parent RIGHT NOW.  Be kind to everyone because you never know what battles others are fighting that you know nothing about.  Karma is real and whatever choices you make, good or bad, they WILL catch up with you sooner or later, and you better be prepared for the outcomes of your decisions.  I will teach them all these things because I will love them and want the best for them, just as my parents did for me.

Perhaps I will never become a parent (who knows), but nonetheless I will strive to teach these things to my nieces and nephews, my patients, and anyone else who is willing to listen.  Because I care.  As much as the world sometimes makes me feel cynical and cold, I do love people.  Life is crazy.  People are crazy.  But I love this life that I’ve made for myself (with the help of some great friends and family) and I want others to be able to share in the kind of happiness I’ve found.  I don’t mean that everyone needs to have my exact lifestyle, education, or career.  I just wish for everyone to find that passion for life and learning that I’ve found.  I like to think it’s contagious, and I hope that I can spread it around just through this blog post if nothing else.

I hope this post hasn’t come across as arrogant or rude.  That’s not how I meant it at all.  I just wanted to share the idea that choices really are important in our lives, and especially with a new year just around the corner it’s something I think we all need to take to heart.  I know that many people are great testaments to the fact that sometimes a bad decision can actually end up being a good thing (lots of teen moms would agree with this).  And there is a lot of truth in that too.  And not every person who makes all good decisions is necessarily going to be completely happy.  Again, everyone’s idea of happiness and success is different.  And that’s ok.  We each must find our own barometer for happiness and success, and then make good choices that align with that.  Otherwise we are just drifting along in life with no paddle to steer us toward any goals, hopes, or dreams.  And I can’t think of much sadder than that.

The Seasons of Life


Today I went to the pool for what may very well be the last time this summer. I’m still calling it summer because technically it is & since I’m no longer in school I never feel like it’s truly fall until late September when the weather actually begins to cool down & the leaves start to change colors (although as I discovered last year the leaves in Raleigh don’t really start changing till October). There is always a part of me that feels sad whenever I go swimming for the last time each summer. As a kid I thought swimming was the ultimate thing to do in the summer & I just couldn’t stand to be around a lake or pool or any body of water & not be in it as much as possible. I’ll admit that as an adult most of my time spent at the pool is now spent reading BY the pool, not actually in the water, but I always make time to get in the water at least a little while to cool off & just enjoy the feeling of the water around me. It really is a magical feeling that brings back a lot of good childhood memories.

Fall leaves at RU, October 2009

Fall leaves at RU, October 2009

I love all four seasons of the year, each one for different reasons. But if I had to choose I would say fall is my favorite, especially now that I’m out of school & can really enjoy fall for all the fun things it brings instead of just associating it with the beginning of another school year. (Not that I hated school, in fact in many ways I loved it & miss it dearly, but nonetheless I do feel like I enjoy fall more now that I’m out of school.) I’ve often heard people say they would love to live in Florida or Southern California or some place like that where it feels like spring & summer all year. Even as a kid I never thought that sounded too spectacular because I have always loved all four seasons & can’t imagine life without them. To me the seasons have so much to teach us about the seasons of life & the good & bad things that each of those seasons brings.

One of the things that has made life after college somewhat confusing for me is that I no longer really feel like I have something specific that I’m working toward. I’ve always been a very goal-oriented person so being in school was very good for me because I always felt like I had something to work toward. I could focus on small goals like acing my math test at the end of the week or larger goals like graduating from college & starting my nursing career. Either way I always felt like I had an end-goal in mind. In a way the freedom of no longer being in school is fabulous & I obviously really enjoy it because I’m no longer in a rush to go back to school like I always thought I would be. Yet at the same time I often feel like I’m just drifting around, not sure on what to focus my enthusiasm & hopes for the future.

What I am slowly learning though is that drifting isn’t so bad. There is nothing wrong with having goals in life; indeed I’m a big believer in having goals because in aiming to achieve them we so often push ourselves to bigger & better things than we ever imagined. However, I am also learning that it’s ok to just relax & enjoy the seasons of life as they come. As a kid I was always in such a hurry to grow up. I just wanted to be an adult so I could have the freedom & respect that adulthood provides. I am very happy to say that adulthood hasn’t disappointed me yet & I’ve never once looked back on childhood with any real nostalgia. If that sounds depressing, I promise you it isn’t. What I find depressing is the people who look back on high school as “the good old days.” That just screams to me that they are disappointed with their current life. I don’t ever want to look back on any part of my life as the best time. I want every season of my life to be the best season, & I truly believe it can be if I continue to strive to enjoy every moment of my life as it comes without focusing too much on the past or on the future. I’ve read a lot of books (fiction) & seen a lot of movies whose message is to “live in the moment” & I am slowly learning how important that really is. It is of course necessary to remember the past so that we can learn from ours & others’ mistakes. And it’s also necessary to have a plan in place for the future. For example, the only reason I have a good career, a wonderful husband, & a house at a fairly young age is because as a teenager I thought ahead to the kind of future I wanted & made good decisions so I could get there.

However, in a world that feels rushed 24/7, I find it increasingly important to focus on enjoying every season of life as it comes. By season I mean both the literal seasons of winter, spring, summer, & fall as well as the metaphorical seasons of college, young adulthood, parenthood, etc. It’s so easy for me as a young married woman with a good career to feel like I have to think ahead to becoming a mom or going back to school or just achieving “the next big thing” in life. There is of course nothing wrong with any of those things, but I am learning to find peace in just enjoying this stage of my life. I am also learning that the more I truly enjoy each stage of life as it comes I the less I look back on the past with regret. Yes, I miss college quite often, mostly because I miss seeing my friends on a daily basis, but I also realize that I’m a different person now & that stage of life no longer suits me. I enjoyed my college days to the fullest & thus I can look back on them with a smile knowing I have no regrets.

I’ve been seeing lots of posts on Facebook this week from people who can’t wait for fall to really get here. But today I’ve decided to enjoy the last few days or weeks of summer & when fall gets here I’ll greet it with loving arms. But until then I’m going to bask in the glorious sunshine. So often I also see my friends posting on Facebook about going back to school or having babies, & I sometimes feel the need to “catch up” lest I should “fall behind” in life. And as some of you may know I have been thinking a lot about becoming a mom lately, not any time soon but in the next couple of years. This is a huge step for me since just a year or two ago I was quite convinced I would never want to have children. But for right now I’ve decided to just enjoy this stage of life to the fullest while it lasts. When else in my life am I ever going to have the freedoms that I have right now coupled with the enthusiasm & energy of youth? The answer is never. Someday I’ll be a mom & someday I’ll go back to school, but I think I’ll enjoy both all the more because I didn’t rush into them.

So my challenge to you today is to enjoy whatever stage of life in you’re in right now. When you find yourself saying “I just can’t wait for this or that to happen,” take a deep breath & remember that just like the seasons of the year, no season of life lasts forever & they all have their own unique treasures.