By JAMILA RIZVI
Two years ago, I got on a plane and flew to the other side of the world in search of the crazy 20s I was convinced I’d been missing out on.
After years of focusing (read: obsessing) over some fairly lofty career goals, working my butt off balancing full time work with full time study and never straying from a fairly comfortable relationship path – I was finally going to be young and dumb for a while.
Because that’s what your 20s are for, right? It’s when you’re supposed to make mistakes: sleep with the bad boy, experiment with substances you shouldn’t, fail the exams, live at home and save on rent, ignore dates and deadlines, blow all your money on that once-in-a-lifetime holiday, mess around and never worry about the consequences.
And for my generation there seems to be an expectation that you should make these carefree years last for as long as possible. In fact, right up until there is no longer a lovely number ‘2’ at the front of your age and it is instead replaced by a big fat-tummied ‘3’.
Because apparently 30 is the new 20.
For the generations that came immediately before Y, 20 (or more specifically 21) was seen as the gateway to adulthood. It was when you made plans, set goals, became fully independent from your parents and got serious about work. But now? Notsomuch.
Apparently, you can be as irresponsible as you like when you’re a 20-something because it’s basically an extension of your teen years. We have all heard the spiel: It doesn’t matter if your boyfriend isn’t perfect because he’s not who you’ll marry, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you to worry about money and career, and this is a time when you should just be having fun.
Now, to a certain extent I agree with that. Because we do learn from our mistakes. And experiences – however bad – are part of what makes us who we are. I’m a little over two thirds of the way through my twenties and I still spend most days discovering just how much I don’t know. I have made rather a habit of making errors of judgement so large that I leave a giant Jamila-sized hole in the proverbial wall.
But. (And this is a really big But).
This emerging view that your 20s are simply a ‘write-off’ decade – where you can mess around by living without reason, fear, logic, ambition, empathy or regret – is just plain dangerous.
Dismissing your entire 20s as ‘just good fun’ doesn’t make you a successful, happy or fulfilled 30-year-old. It makes you a lazy, lonely and confused 30-year-old who is wondering where the hell last decade went. And here’s a hint: It’s not behind the couch cushions or where the missing socks are.
Clinical psychologist Meg Jay gave a TED talk recently on this very topic.