Catching up: Part I

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By Danette Vernon

So you’re having a good time in your twenties — hook-ups, low responsibility jobs, or no job at all.

Maybe you finished college, but you’re back at home, borrowing money from your mom for beer on Friday night. And why not, you have plenty of time to grow up, after all, “30 is the new 20,” right?

Here’s what one man had to say as he lay in the coffin-like magnetism of an MRI: “I am 38 years old and there were, like, two things I had in mind —the way my little son’s hand feels when I hold it and I don’t want to leave my wife behind to do it all on her own … what I can’t figure out, and what I am grieving a little, is why I spent so many years on nothing. So many years doing things and hanging out with people that don’t even rate a memory. For what? I had a good time in my twenties, but did I need to do all of that for eight years? Lying there in the MRI, it was like I had traded five years of partying or hanging out in coffee shops, for five years more I could have had with my son, if I had grown up sooner. Why didn’t someone drop the manners and tell me that I was wasting my life?”

This story is comes late in a book called “The Defining Decade, Why Your Twenties Matter — And How To Make the Most of Them Now” by Meg Jay.

Meg’s ideas mirror my own experience. My twenties, for better or worse, set my life for decades to come.  To wit, I was recently surprised to find the dregs of my youth in the form of a trophy. A trophy I had received for graduating at the top of my class in 1978 surpassed only by my cousin and her soon-to-be husband. Thirty-five years later it’s faded and water-damaged, but its mystery is forever veiled. Mystery? Money for college came with it, but I never found out how much, or where it was to be spent. I had moved away from home a month before graduation, and hadn’t attended my high school awards ceremony. The trophy had been handed off, without much savoir faire, by a disgruntled guidance counselor.

By moving out on the day of my 18th birthday, I embarrassed my parents. My early exit confirmed community accusations that they weren’t quite the best parents. They refused to speak to me on the street, and didn’t come to my graduation. From there, I made my own mistakes, marrying early and poorly.

Then one day I got on a bus in California, a child and a newborn in tow, and left the shackles of marriage behind, broken in the street.

I was set for a life of exits.

Maybe that is why Meg’s book rang so true for me. At 53, there are still so many critical heart and mind forming ideas that I am just realizing.

I am behind.

Oh, I bought a house, finished college, traveled. I raised sons that I am immensely proud of, but I lost one, my youngest son. An accident, but those missing pieces contributed to that loss.

Is it too late for me to use any of Meg’s advice? Or if you’re heading fast for 30 yourself, is it too late for you? If your child is on the fast track to 30, is it too late for them? I don’t think so. I hope not.