I’m not sure when it happened, but it seems like we have all agreed upon this idea that during our 20s we need to lay the groundwork for the rest of our lives. Meaning it’s the small window of time allotted for each of us to fall in love, buy a house, and begin our dream jobs. Some people seem to fly effortlessly through this period in their lives, like an eagle in a thermal; the rest of us are left struggling through the trenches of early adulthood. But here’s the good news for those of us plodding through our 20s: you don’t have to have your life figured out before you turn 30. It’s just not true.
So here are three myths that need to be busted open.
Growing Up Means Beginning Your Dream Job
I left home a few months back to work on a vineyard in southern France. One evening I sat on the porch with Kim and Lisa, the husband and wife who own and operate the vineyard. We ate dinner, watched the sun go down over the grapevines, and talked about their decision to leave their jobs in London to start over as wine makers. At the time, they were both entering midlife, leading successful careers, and making great money. But their hearts weren’t in it anymore, so they packed up and left the hurried pace of the big city. Having transplanted themselves to rural France, Kim now mows the fields and Lisa pursues her dream of singing opera by performing in and around the local centuries-old villages.
Take encouragement from Kim and Lisa. There isn’t a deadline for discovering what you want to do with your life, so don’t put so much pressure on yourself to determine a lifelong career path.
Growing Up Means Moving Out
When people imagine 20-somethings living at home, many picture an unambitious slacker treating Mom and Dad’s place like a free B&B, letting his folks cook all his meals while he kicks around with his friends and chases girls. But this is an unfair generalization. Considering the number of 20-somethings working minimum wage jobs while trying to pay off a mountain of student loan debt, the idea that we must move out on our own in order to fit the cultural mold of adulthood is unrealistic.
Bearing in mind today’s economy, living at home in your 20s doesn’t say as much about a person as perhaps it once did. In fact, according to a recent Pew Research poll, over a third of young adults between 18 and 30 live with their parents. So remember, you aren’t a slacker simply because you live at home. You still have plenty to offer the world, regardless of where you lay your head at night.
Growing Up Means Getting Married
There are many great men and women who have never married. Would anyone dare say they didn’t fully enter into adulthood because they remained single? Certainly not, and yet many of us feel like we’ll always have one foot outside of adulthood until we tie the knot. So some of us rush ourselves down the aisle or beat ourselves up for not keeping up with the marriage rate of our graduating class.
John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath, wrote a letter in 1958 to his oldest son who was convinced he had fallen in love. In the letter, Steinbeck gave his son some advice about romance and relationships, and then he ended his letter with this poignant piece of reassurance: “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — the main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.” Take comfort in Steinbeck’s words. It’s never too late to fall in love. Don’t rush it. Nothing good gets away.
“When I grow up” was once a hope-filled statement. It was a prayer whispered among friends. It was something we said when time was still on our side, during that season in our lives when we were eager to pull the pages from the calendar because the passage of time meant we were one step closer to becoming whatever we wanted to be.
Many of us are still whispering that prayer, but we say it with a heavy heart because we believe we’re alone. We have bought into the lie that we have irrevocably fallen behind in adulthood. But you aren’t alone. And you haven’t fallen behind.
Let’s remind each other that growing up doesn’t mean checking items off a culturally-prescribed list.
Let’s say the words, “When I grow up,” out loud, with one another. And then let’s allow God to finish the sentence.
Flickr photo (cc) by titimo