The popular mindset these days is that the 30s are the new 20s. This can work as an excuse for many people, telling them they don’t have to grow up yet because there will be time for that later. People are getting married later, finding steady jobs later, not opening retirement accounts or making property investments until they’re older, and more. As a result, people might think of their 20s as a time to do whatever they choose, and wait until their 30s to start getting serious about life. This can be detrimental to one’s maturity and personal development.

Getting married after high school, or even in your 20s, is a trend that is starting to fade away in popularity. This means there’s less pressure to settle down and have everything figured out at a younger age, which is a great relief because it gives people time to figure out what they really want out of life. It seems more possible now to find happiness in life because you have time to find the right career, home, and relationship for you, instead of having to settle down when you’re younger and know less about the world.

I used to think that I’d have everything figured out by the time I was in college. Instead, I took a year off after high school because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I went to a university for a year, then switched to a community college to quickly get a practical degree because I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was frustrating to me that adults expected me to know what I wanted from my life, and to be well on the path on accomplishing that dream. Even though I didn’t know what I wanted, I made sure to not stay stagnant. I didn’t want to be a bum, wasting time until my purpose came to me in a flash of brilliance. I got a two year degree that would help me get employed more than any other degrees I would later pursue—and it was a career I had never considered before!

I think it’s important to give students time to pick what they want to study, especially as competition for jobs grows and degrees mean less. These days, experience means more than a piece of paper, so it can be more beneficial to work in the field, or even have an apprenticeship, than to just get a degree. I think it’s more important for people to explore their options and try different jobs for shorter periods of time than to immediately commit to something that might not be the right job. While you don’t need to commit to one particular career in your 20s, it’s important to be laying the groundwork for your future. Study different things in school, and test the waters of different jobs so that once you’re older and ready to settle down, you’re going to get exactly what you want.

As far as relationships go, taking it slow and knowing what you want is always important. Love is an intoxicating emotion, and it’s easy to be swept away in it. If you’re not concerned with getting married while you’re young, then you can explore relationships to their full extent, but still be free to live your own life. Being committed too young can be detrimental to both individuals in a relationship because they’re compromising their own hopes and dreams, as well as their personal lives. That doesn’t mean you should date around in your 20s just to do it, but you should feel free to explore the possibilities of different relationships. If you find the right person and you’re sure of it, that’s great! But there’s nothing wrong with being in a few relationships and learning what you want when you’re older and ready to settle down and start a family.

You might not know what you want right now, regardless of your age. The world is so open to possibilities that it’s a little easier to start a new career, or take courses online to continue your education. There has been an influx of older people re-entering the job force, and while it creates more job competition, it’s also refreshing to know you’ll always have the possibility for freedom and change later in life. Even so, it’s important to not throw away your 20s as a time to party and be immature, and to lay the groundwork to settle down and be successful in your 30s.

There’s a great TED Talk by clinical psychologist Meg Jay that further explores the idea that your 20s should not be a throwaway decade of your life. Check it out here!

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sullivan via flickr.com

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