Why Thirty Isn’t The New Twenty

The trajectory of your average Millennial’s life is vastly different from that of the generations before them. But are we just making it worse for ourselves?

By Keelia Clarkson2 min read
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Life for Millennials before the pandemic was already a struggle, unlike that of any other generation before. Getting a college education is a financial burden many can’t bear, well-paying jobs are few and far in between, young adults continue to rent apartments rather than buy houses they can’t afford, and many are putting off settling down and having kids.

And these days, Millennials find themselves even more hopeless, our future murkier than ever before thanks to a global pandemic. Joblessness is at an all-time high. Rent is only getting more expensive. Depression is on the rise. Every single Millennial can agree: Life was much easier when we were kids, and sometimes, we wish we could go back in time.

Millennials Are Postponing Adulthood

When I was 11, I thought 24 sounded so old, but in a good way. I thought I’d have everything figured out by then — I’d have a solid career, more friends, enough money for a down payment on a house, maybe even a kid on the way. And now, here I am, a few months away from 24, and my life is so up in the air. And it feels like just yesterday I was in middle school, itching to get older, to be a real adult, whatever that means.

It’s tempting to regard our twenties as a mere extension of our teenage years, a throwaway decade of exploration. 

With the unforeseen burdens of young adults today, it’s understandable to want to postpone adulthood. The overwhelming chaos, uncertainty, and difficulty of our world drive us to put off responsibilities, to reach college without a clue as to our major, and to spend our early and mid-twenties dabbling in a few different career paths that we chalk up to “life experience” when they don’t pan out. We play the dating field without any intention of committing or marrying and befriend those who, instead of challenging us to grow, encourage us to stay stagnant. 

Our Twenties Are the Time To Lay the Foundation of Our Adult Life

Yes, life in our twenties is different (read: more difficult) in a multitude of ways than it was for our parents. And because of the ambiguity of the average Millennial’s future, it’s tempting to declare, “Thirty is the new twenty!” and regard our twenties as a mere extension of our teenage years, a throwaway decade of exploration. But the unfortunate truth is that this is only holding us back, encouraging us to waste our precious time. Our twenties, now faced with more unpredictability, haven’t lost their importance. In fact, they’re now more important to our growth than ever before. 

If we take our twenties seriously, by the time we’re thirty, we’ll be that much closer to the life we want.

Our twenties are our time to set the trajectory of the rest of our lives, according to this TED talk from clinical psychologist Meg Jay. It’s our time to find out not only who we are, but also the person we want to grow into, the person we’d like to be 10 years from now, the parent we might one day become. 

It’s the time to forge a clear career path, to make the scary move to a new city that boasts opportunity, to be truly intentional with the people we call our friends, and to be thoughtful of the person we give our heart and affection to because we'll be standing at the precipice of our thirties before we even know it, wondering where the time went, scrambling to get our life started. Our twenties are probably the most defining decade of our life — so we can’t waste it.

Closing Thoughts

This isn’t to say we need to have everything figured out by 25 — our twenties are absolutely the time to find ourselves, figure out what we’re passionate about, and settle on what we’d like the trajectory of our life to be. But this means being intentional because if we take our twenties seriously, by the time we’re thirty, we’ll be that much closer to the life we want. Don’t wait for life to get started, Millennials — start it now!