By Danette Vernon
I saw a sign on the Internet, “The Hokey Pokey Clinic, A Place to Turn Yourself Around.” Too bad it doesn’t really exist. We could all use such a place.
In lieu of such a fabled opportunity, let’s flip through the pages of a book designed to motivate a few U-turns, “The Defining Decade, Why Your Twenties Matter — And How To Make the Most of Them Now” by Meg Jay.
Research shows that in your twenties you will most likely decide — intentionally or not — where you’re going to live, what your life’s work will be, and whom you’ll marry. This is a statistic that makes your twenties a critical decade, rather than an interim period to waste on a few more years at home, honing your beer-drinking skills.
Author Meg Jay reveals in her book just why in your teens and twenties you can be so emotional. She explains that when your under 30, the amygdala (to simplify, the emotional part of our brain) is in the driver’s seat, and the frontal lobe (the thinking part) is still under construction. The downside of this phenomenon is: if you get used to using your emotions, your amygdala, to run your life, you may, unfortunately, learn to live with (and for some, even relish) a high state of outrage and suspicion. You may never break the teenage habit of making endless calls to friends and family over your latest catastrophe (broken nail?), or venting at the family dinner table, even as you age out of your twenties.
Feelings of outrage, or despair, over everyday occurrences — such as having made a mistake, or being wrong, or being “wronged” in some way by a co-worker or lover — lead to anxiety, uncertainty, worry and feelings of depression.
It’s a lifestyle that does offer, as Meg discloses, the benefit of no surprises, as you are in a constant state of readiness — but at the cost of your health and any real happiness.
Meg identifies three moves in the right direction:
1. Building Identity Capital, which means, within Meg’s nomenclature, “do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that is an investment in who you might want to be next,” such as volunteering in a field you’re interested in, completing an apprenticeship, or making a new dot-com happen.
2. Develop your Weak Ties, in that, it is most often outside of your own inner circle, a friend of a friend, a distant relative, or an out of date number in your phone, wherein you will connect with the person you will end up marrying, or find the job that defines your career or your life’s work.
3. Meg strongly advises to Pick Your Family, in that “the best time to work on your future marriage IS BEFORE you have one, which means being as intentional with love as you are with work, so consciously choose who or what want, instead of who is choosing — you.”
The key, however, to negotiating your twenties successfully, or to life in general, is to have a growth based, rather than a fixed, outlook on life and its every day events.