Greatra Mayana

Career & Employment Opportunities

Why 30 is not the new 20 | Meg Jay

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast When I was in my 20s, I saw my very first psychotherapy client. I was a Ph.D. student
in clinical psychology at Berkeley. She was a 26-year-old woman named Alex. Now Alex walked into her first session
wearing jeans and a big slouchy top, and she dropped
onto the couch in my office and kicked off her flats and told me she was there
to talk about guy problems. Now when I heard this, I was so relieved. My classmate got an arsonist
for her first client. (Laughter) And I got a twentysomething
who wanted to talk about boys. This I thought I could handle. But I didn’t handle it. With the funny stories
that Alex would bring to session, it was easy for me just to nod my head while we kicked the can down the road. “Thirty’s the new 20,” Alex would say, and as far as I could tell, she was right. Work happened later,
marriage happened later, kids happened later,
even death happened later. Twentysomethings like Alex and I
had nothing but time. But before long, my supervisor pushed me
to push Alex about her love life. I pushed back. I said, “Sure, she’s dating down, she’s sleeping with a knucklehead, but it’s not like she’s going
to marry the guy.” And then my supervisor said, “Not yet, but she might marry
the next one. Besides, the best time
to work on Alex’s marriage is before she has one.” That’s what psychologists
call an “Aha!” moment. That was the moment I realized,
30 is not the new 20. Yes, people settle down later
than they used to, but that didn’t make Alex’s 20s
a developmental downtime. That made Alex’s 20s
a developmental sweet spot, and we were sitting there, blowing it. That was when I realized
that this sort of benign neglect was a real problem,
and it had real consequences, not just for Alex and her love life but for the careers
and the families and the futures of twentysomethings everywhere. There are 50 million twentysomethings
in the United States right now. We’re talking about 15 percent
of the population, or 100 percent if you consider that no one’s getting through adulthood
without going through their 20s first. (Laughter) Raise your hand if you’re in your 20s. I really want to see
some twentysomethings here. Oh, yay! You are all awesome. If you work with twentysomethings,
you love a twentysomething, you’re losing sleep
over twentysomethings, I want to see — Okay. Awesome,
twentysomethings really matter. So, I specialize in twentysomethings
because I believe that every single one of those
50 million twentysomethings deserves to know what psychologists, sociologists, neurologists
and fertility specialists already know: that claiming your 20s
is one of the simplest, yet most transformative, things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world. This is not my opinion. These are the facts. We know that 80 percent
of life’s most defining moments take place by age 35. That means that eight out of 10 of the decisions and experiences
and “Aha!” moments that make your life what it is will have happened by your mid-30s. People who are over 40, don’t panic. This crowd is going to be fine, I think. We know that the first
10 years of a career has an exponential impact
on how much money you’re going to earn. We know that more than half of Americans are married or are living with or dating
their future partner by 30. We know that the brain caps off its second and last
growth spurt in your 20s as it rewires itself for adulthood, which means that whatever it is you want
to change about yourself, now is the time to change it. We know that personality
changes more during your 20s than at any other time in life, and we know that female fertility
peaks at age 28, and things get tricky after age 35. So your 20s are the time
to educate yourself about your body and your options. So when we think about child development, we all know that the first
five years are a critical period for language and attachment in the brain. It’s a time when your ordinary,
day-to-day life has an inordinate impact
on who you will become. But what we hear less about
is that there’s such a thing as adult development, and our 20s are that critical period
of adult development. But this isn’t what
twentysomethings are hearing. Newspapers talk about the changing
timetable of adulthood. Researchers call the 20s
an extended adolescence. Journalists coin silly nicknames
for twentysomethings like “twixters” and “kidults.” (Laughing) It’s true! As a culture, we have trivialized what is actually
the defining decade of adulthood. Leonard Bernstein said
that to achieve great things, you need a plan and not quite enough time. (Laughing) Isn’t that true? So what do you think happens when you pat a twentysomething
on the head and you say, “You have 10 extra years
to start your life”? Nothing happens. You have robbed that person
of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens. And then every day, smart,
interesting twentysomethings like you or like your sons and daughters come into my office
and say things like this: “I know my boyfriend’s no good for me, but this relationship doesn’t count.
I’m just killing time.” Or they say, “Everybody says
as long as I get started on a career by the time
I’m 30, I’ll be fine.” But then it starts to sound like this: “My 20s are almost over,
and I have nothing to show for myself. I had a better résumé the day
after I graduated from college.” And then it starts to sound like this: “Dating in my 20s was like musical chairs. Everybody was running around
and having fun, but then sometime around 30
it was like the music turned off and everybody started sitting down. I didn’t want to be
the only one left standing up, so sometimes I think I married my husband because he was the closest
chair to me at 30.” Where are the twentysomethings here? Do not do that. (Laughter) Okay, now that sounds a little flip,
but make no mistake, the stakes are very high. When a lot has been pushed to your 30s, there is enormous thirtysomething pressure to jump-start a career,
pick a city, partner up, and have two or three kids
in a much shorter period of time. Many of these things are incompatible, and as research is just starting to show, simply harder and more stressful to do
all at once in our 30s. The post-millennial midlife crisis
isn’t buying a red sports car. It’s realizing you can’t have
that career you now want. It’s realizing you can’t have
that child you now want, or you can’t give your child a sibling. Too many thirtysomethings
and fortysomethings look at themselves, and at me,
sitting across the room, and say about their 20s, “What was I doing? What was I thinking?” I want to change what twentysomethings
are doing and thinking. Here’s a story about how that can go. It’s a story about a woman named Emma. At 25, Emma came to my office because she was, in her words,
having an identity crisis. She said she thought she might
like to work in art or entertainment, but she hadn’t decided yet, so she’d spent the last few years
waiting tables instead. Because it was cheaper,
she lived with a boyfriend who displayed his temper
more than his ambition. And as hard as her 20s were, her early life had been even harder. She often cried in our sessions, but then would collect herself by saying, “You can’t pick your family,
but you can pick your friends.” Well one day, Emma comes in
and she hangs her head in her lap, and she sobbed for most of the hour. She’d just bought a new address book, and she’d spent the morning
filling in her many contacts, but then she’d been left
staring at that empty blank that comes after the words “In case of emergency, please call …” She was nearly hysterical
when she looked at me and said, “Who’s going to be there for me
if I get in a car wreck? Who’s going to take care of me
if I have cancer?” Now in that moment,
it took everything I had not to say, “I will.” But what Emma needed wasn’t some therapist
who really, really cared. Emma needed a better life,
and I knew this was her chance. I had learned too much
since I first worked with Alex to just sit there
while Emma’s defining decade went parading by. So over the next weeks and months, I told Emma three things that every twentysomething,
male or female, deserves to hear. First, I told Emma to forget
about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. By “get identity capital,” I mean do something
that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next. I didn’t know the future of Emma’s career, and no one knows the future of work, but I do know this: Identity capital begets identity capital. So now is the time
for that cross-country job, that internship, that startup
you want to try. I’m not discounting
twentysomething exploration here, but I am discounting exploration
that’s not supposed to count, which, by the way, is not exploration. That’s procrastination. I told Emma to explore
work and make it count. Second, I told Emma
that the urban tribe is overrated. Best friends are great
for giving rides to the airport, but twentysomethings who huddle together
with like-minded peers limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak, and where they work. That new piece of capital,
that new person to date almost always comes
from outside the inner circle. New things come
from what are called our weak ties, our friends of friends of friends. So yes, half of twentysomethings
are un- or under-employed. But half aren’t, and weak ties are how
you get yourself into that group. Half of new jobs are never posted, so reaching out to your neighbor’s boss
is how you get that unposted job. It’s not cheating. It’s the science
of how information spreads. Last but not least, Emma believed that you can’t pick your family,
but you can pick your friends. Now this was true for her growing up, but as a twentysomething,
soon Emma would pick her family when she partnered with someone
and created a family of her own. I told Emma the time
to start picking your family is now. Now you may be thinking that 30
is actually a better time to settle down than 20, or even 25, and I agree with you. But grabbing whoever you’re living
with or sleeping with when everyone on Facebook
starts walking down the aisle is not progress. The best time to work on your marriage
is before you have one, and that means being
as intentional with love as you are with work. Picking your family
is about consciously choosing who and what you want rather than just making it work
or killing time with whoever happens to be choosing you. So what happened to Emma? Well, we went through that address book, and she found an old roommate’s cousin who worked at an art museum
in another state. That weak tie helped her get a job there. That job offer gave her the reason
to leave that live-in boyfriend. Now, five years later, she’s a special
events planner for museums. She’s married to a man
she mindfully chose. She loves her new career,
she loves her new family, and she sent me a card that said, “Now the emergency contact blanks don’t seem big enough.” Now Emma’s story made that sound easy, but that’s what I love about working
with twentysomethings. They are so easy to help. Twentysomethings are like airplanes
just leaving LAX, bound for somewhere west. Right after takeoff,
a slight change in course is the difference between landing
in Alaska or Fiji. Likewise, at 21 or 25 or even 29, one good conversation, one good break, one good TED Talk,
can have an enormous effect across years and even generations to come. So here’s an idea worth spreading to every twentysomething you know. It’s as simple as what I learned
to say to Alex. It’s what I now have the privilege of saying to twentysomethings
like Emma every single day: Thirty is not the new 20,
so claim your adulthood, get some identity capital,
use your weak ties, pick your family. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now. Thank you. (Applause)

100 Replies to “Why 30 is not the new 20 | Meg Jay”

  • I'm 30 and I'll take sweet, sweet denial thanks.

    And who cares, get married? 50% divorce rates. Career? Rapidly losing by technological innovation. I don't feel like learning to fucking code.

    Go for it, do what makes you happy, but it ain't 1951 anymore so good luck with that.



  • I’m 28 unemployed I’m from 3rd world country I’m a doctor but here the job opportunity and payment is close to nothing I pray my life wd turn around So help me God make the risk I’m taking the best this I ever did يارب

  • Yea not all 20 somethings can afford therapy (more than a Ted talk saying they are inadequate) to propell them into having a family or stressful career at a call center.

  • How did this make it as a Ted Talk? It's incredibly subjective, can be applied to "You're 30's" or even "You're teens". Also its wrong flat out. You can crush it in your 40's as a female or in your 60's. Thumbs down

  • I am almost 44. 20ies were tough and fun in the same time. 30ies were kind of time to iron in and solidify all the basics, mentally, spiritually and physically. AND fourties, thus far, are the happiest!

  • This talk is too politically correct for me and it might just aim to upper class women in their twens who go for career, no offense

  • I'm almost 34, havent really started accumulating "identity capital", but thats just how it is, so no need to complain. I always think, the one big injustice here is the biological one between men and women. I can start a family and have two or three children with 40, most woman can't. So if you start your family with the wrong kind of guy, don't beat yourself up for it.

  • I’m 27 right now and I will say there is truth value to what is being said about the extended youth or Twixter or kidult and there is also truth value to what she is being said. The only truth is everyone develops at different rates. The reason for 30 is the new 20 is based on new studies with people taking longer to reach adulthood and brain development not being completed until later on. However that is still not the case with everyone. In my early 20s everyone still seemed like a bunch of young kids. Many of us weren’t married, we either worked basic jobs or not work at all, we weren’t settled in at life, our careers didn’t begin yet the list goes on so I felt convinced that this theory would pertain to the entire 20s but that’s not entirely accurate. What is being said about 20somethings today is based on average but is not a handbook to how we live life. It’s more or less nothing more than an average of when stuff usually happens. And some studies about when the brain is fully developed say different things too. Some say 25 or 26, some say 28 or 29, some say early 30s and some say mid 30s. This is all an average and isn’t the same for everyone. I’m 27 I work 2 part time jobs I still live at home and still want to have fun like I did at any earlier age. Some people my age are still going through the phase of working than not working or doing stuff to keep themselves busy in the meantime and not so much for the future. Others are married, homeowners successful independent adults and have a successful career. The reason for why people are on different pages is everyone develops at different rates. For some of us we reach adulthood in our 20s we settle in and are determined. Others it doesn’t happen until 30s or so. It’s different for everyone some of us are still kids others are successful independent adults who are past this stage. The challenge is how well kept up we are with everyone else. It can be challenging because everyone goes at a different rate. Many of us it’s average others are way ahead of the curve.

  • Nearly 30 and my 20's were destroyed by a disaster combo of major medical illness, bad luck, disabilities and self image issues because of my appearance. I never had a single chance but I wish I did ''have a chance'' if that makes sense to anyone reading my comment. I mourn the loss of the life I wish I could have had. I ended up going into a profound depression because of what I experienced and watching my former friends go on to have fabulous lives and careers and blossom in every personal and physical way. The grief in me is strong.

  • Why does she say twenty somethings when all she references, regards, advises, for the entire talk is twenty something WOMEN?

  • "He was the closet chair to me when I turned 30." What a horrible and cruel statement. He thought you picked him because you loved him not because he was the only chair.

  • I prolly speak for a lot of dudes but I’m actually stoked I’m going to be 30 soon.
    More muscle, more money, more purpose.
    Everything has gone up in my life which is saying a lot I didn’t even have a date to my prom when I was 18. If you’re a young man work hard in your 20’s and this thing called life will finally start to make sense.

  • Never get married guys even to women in their 20's you will only get raped in divorce court. focus on physical improvement and obtaining your own personal goals in life, you don't have to be celibate and hate on woman just learn how to navigate your way around female nature and you will have a great life.

  • Guess what I’m 27 years old… married by 21…divorced by 26 and started my dream job by 20 which I now hate… I’m glad befor I turn 30 that I can honestly say I looking forward to living my life the way I want to live it. I have no disire to get married again but don’t mind a long “term boyfriend”, also I would rather travel more than work a blue collar job that essentially makes someone else richer while I live a “ decent life… so I will be putting in my two weeks notice soon ( aka dropping packet)😎
    In short..I would rather just Live!! I don’t want to align my life with society’s blue print of success or happiness. My happiness is my own… and that’s all that matter.
    I’m an officer in the military and after seeing so many people die who didn’t even make it to 30 I’ll be dammmmn if I listen to someone tell me to hurry up and do all the things necessary to live a full life.. when there’s others who just want to live!!, but couldn’t due to a early death.
    People do what works for you and YOU only!

  • Finally a woman with wisdom. Every wise man on the face of the earth knows women are destroying their 20s performing sexual thrills, then they wonder why they are overlooked in their 30s by men of means, who are looking for a family. It’s because they never developed into a woman. They developed into something the whole block wants to ride, that’s it.

  • Honestly. Nobody believe that I’m 30 years old. I get 20-24 (early 20s) sometime 18-19 years old. Full heard hair, round baby face, etc i feel like I look better than my early 20s! So I think it is the new 20s to me lol

  • Never settling and waiting for age 32 to settle down creates misery in mid thirties ! Relationship carousel fun in 20’s has expiration date 👁✔️👁.👌

  • i watched this ted talk 4 years ago and made a huge change in my life because of it..Meg Jay, you saved my 20s!! <3

  • yes 20's are very important. I am 28. And I see that. But I think the most important thing is developing yourself as a person

  • Imagine believing feminism when it comes to thousands of years of evolution. Imagine thinking your number doesn't affect your ability for commitment. Imagine thinking wh0r3s could become housewives.

  • They literally teach you in college that 30 is the new 20. If that's not the case, then I'ma make it my goal to kill off all humans for tricking me to wasting my 20s.

  • Probably one of the most needed speeches for young people at this point. Get it together and aim for something good when you're 20. You may just reach that goal by the time you're 30.

  • 30 is not the new 20 because biology does not care about feminism. Fertility peaks between 18 and 24 and from 25 it starts gradually falling, falling much faster by 30 and down to less than half by 35, down to minimal levels at 40, that is if menopause has not started already which is the case for quite many women.

  • I'm turning 30 next month, I haven't settled down and I actually enjoy it because I'm on the right path. I believe the necessity to settle down and have it all figured out by the age of 30 is a societal pressure and part of the quarter life crisis. This TED talk feels very subjective and only adds fuel to the fire in my opinion.
    Time is relative. Set goals, but don't forget to live.

  • Why are people talking about MGTOW when she's talking about growing up and taking responsibility for your life in your 20's?

  • Women don't care about the past and don't look at the future all that important to women is having fun now if it's working for them it's working for me hahahaha

  • I call BS to fertility peak for women is 28. Only of you start sexual reproduction at 18 years old. Actually human females finish sexual maturity at 16. I this is true sexual reproduction peak for female humans is 19-21. don't believe me if you like. don't blame me when you kids come out with genetic defects, mental deficiencies, extra fingers, toes, bad skin, food and animal allergies. Nature, and Human biology don't care if it hurts your feelings or doesn't match your social justice views.
    Female Age and Chromosomal Abnormalities (Aneuploidy) in Eggs and Embryos

  • Thank you Miss Meg Jay! I really needed to hear this I'll be 25 in less than a month and feeling lost and like I've procrastinated thus far career and health wise luckily I have chosen my family and he's great so I'm not feeling completely lost.

  • Great talk. My wife and I pushed our kids pretty hard, and taught them to push themselves hard. Both are starting out well. The older is almost 27, is 5 years into his professional career, has a great girlfriend that my wife and I both hope he marries, and he is saving up his down payment for a home. He works hard, and he knows how to have fun with friends and his girlfriend. The younger one is 22 and just graduated in June 2019, and landed a professional job as well. No girlfriend yet, but he is working hard to really learn his job. He loves what he does. He spends time with his friends as well. Somehow, they learned the lesson, don't waste precious time. Work hard but take time to have a life. I hope that by the time they reach 30 or so, they will buy a home and find someone to marry. Those two young men are the joy of my life. I wasted a decade when I was young, but they managed to avoid that.

  • Whatever society tells you, women still have their biological clock.
    I feel this talk should be aimed at modern women.

    They either go for a career and miss the opportunity to start a family OR they use dating apps to "sow their wild oats" until they realise they are getting less and less attention because they are hitting the wall.

  • I chose to focus on my relationship and building a family in my early 20''s. It is scientifically proven that women, compared to men, have a much shorter window in regards to giving birth to healthy children. Also, I did try the "career" for a while. It only made me miserable and something inside me kept pulling me towards family and home life. We are still going strong at it, I am the homemaker so to speak, and we are trying for our very first child. It just feels right to me, and him as well. It feels that now my life is actually meaningful and going somewhere. With a "career" I never felt that, and I damn every person who kept breathing down my neck to go get and education and a career to be of value to the world. Why is it that in this world we live in mothers are viewed as a waste and not valued in society? When in all areas of life a parent is so important for their child, and society as a whole.
    I guess the world sees paper pushers and cheap labourers as more valuable? Maybe, but there will never be a role as important as a parent, and upbringing their children.

  • My advice to young women in their 20s: You have plenty of time. Stay single, work on your career. You'll hit the wall sooner than expected. It's more noble to hit the wall than ruining another man's life. My advice for young men: Simple, MGTOW!

  • I’m a 71 year old baby-boomer male happily married for 46 years. I know many baby boomers who made this mistake back in the 1970s. They are around my age and playing around and wasting time back in the 70s affects them to this day! Really sad especially to see females doing the feminist thing. Young women be careful who you marry, but don’t wait past age 30. I would even say past 25 often is getting late. I know this is not popular to say. One more thing not popular – It does make a difference getting you and your intended spouse’s religion straight. It will come back to haunt the marriage if you don’t. Marriage is a religious commitment, secondarily romantic.

  • How about women lower their god damned expectations especially if you need to cake powder on your face to look attractive. All these women in their early 30's and below have huge expectations to the point they line up for one dude who has kids already.

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