Thursday, March 26, 2015

Twenty-somethings, you have my heart

The twenties: chaotic, thrilling, exhausting, delicious
-- and short.
I'm writing about twenty-somethings today, not because I have four of them, but because I respect and enjoy them and have four of them. I'll have to generalize, something twenty-somethings hate, but we're all busy and it will save time.   

I love a few things in particular about twenty-somethings.

I love their sense of humor which is wry and casual and irresistible. 
I love their open caring for one another because that is one huggy generation. 
I love that they fit career goals to who they are, rather than the other way around. This generation lives mindfully, with balance and awareness of how they spend time, and 
with whom, and on what.  Because  twenty-somethings are comfortable with who they are.



Of the things that don't change from generation to generation, one is this: the twenties can be one mind-stretching decade.

In a quiet restaurant the other night I listened to a couple of twenty-something women behind me discuss a work problem that one of them was having. She had committed some error after being given unclear instructions. First she didn't want to appear inexperienced by asking for clarification. Then she was corrected, and corrected publicly. From the content (they were sitting right there) I guessed she was a young attorney working among more established people, possibly in her first job, eager to please, or, at least, eager not to make a mistake. The correction had really gotten to her.

But worse, she talked about how this must have made her look to them when she was doing what she thought was the right thing.

I encounter such worry a lot in my eavesdropping. I wanted to slide my chair over and tell her, "It gets easier."

I too, encounter people my age (which I refer to as not-forty) who see twenty-
Example of a not-forty person
who was probably never young
even in his own mind
somethings as self-involved, unmotivated and aimless. It would be more helpful if such not-forty people who regard twenty-somethings that way would recall the same "who am I and what do I want now?" questions they tussled with after the kids left. Not to mention their own twenties-angst as they shifted from following rules to writing them.   

As my experience and restaurant research has shown, the twenties is a time when one must deal with self-doubt in everything from work suitability to the personal lives they've crafted, and here is why in my opinion:

To start with, the state of being completely secure and self-assured is not aged into, but reached, and not without some travel through the former state of being, well, angsty, as you kids call it.  I also think there is a here-and-now mindset in the twenties, when it seems that what it is, is what will always be. Time's gifts of perspective, which include proof that we can change as we see fit, can't be realized yet. Thus, the pressure to get it right, right now.

Choice-anxiety is an old problem with a new acronym - FOMO - or, fear of missing out.

We had that FOMO thing in our twenties, but we took Cosmo quizzes for it. Because, no magazine was more eager to exploit – oh, I'm sorry, I meant "explain" – the anxiety of twenties-in-flux than Cosmopolitan Magazine with it's holy crap cover teasers:  Who are you really? How sexy are you really? What do people think of you really? And so on.

Me, I found nothing in my twenties more daunting than those "really" questions. Did I really know myself? Was I really happy? Questions which only launched we innocent twenty-somethings into binge-worrying about everything from what our co-workers thought of us, to whether we had the right linen to invite the boss for dinner.

It was enough to suffer the squirmy feeling that everyone else, Cosmo for example,  knew me better than I knew myself without a quiz result that said, "You need more confidence!"

For fun, while I was writing this, I peeked at the Cosmo site and they're still at it: Are you really in love or forcing it?  And this: Are you really a secret bitch?

Sigh. It's all fun and games until you wind up with answers you don't like and sit moody and glaring at your not-really lover across the table because he probably thinks you're really a bitch.

Something else I came across while I was reading up on twenty-somethings I don't actually know, was, a site created by Paul Angone who specializes in the being of twenties. Mr. Angone makes the elegant suggestion of discovering happiness by first discovering and pursuing your passion.

Raise your hand if you are a twenty-something saying, "I don't have one of those yet."

It's okay. In his piece called "The unsexy truth to finding your passion," Mr. Angone offers a nice homing device:  

Through my 20’s, many of my “great ideas” and passionate pursuits have gone straight to the trash, except for one thing.


And I haven’t kept writing because I’ve been pinch-me-I’m-dreaming “successful.” I’ve kept writing because I can not, NOT do it.

If you are a twenty-something grappling with questions of who you  are and what you want now, take heart:

You probably have the answers to the questions now, just not on demand. Instead, they may be covertly toiling to drive you from the plan which blocks your passion, and toward the place where you come alive. You may only know it when you no longer have questions. You will definitely know it when you regard yourself as the true authority on what's good for you.

Many of us who are not-forty respect and cheer you twenty-somethings. 


We know that while some things will come more easily to you now than at any other time, some things will never be harder to figure out than they are right now,  which means one good thing – it only gets easier.


  1. I remember my 20s as being very exciting yet so very confusing and scary also. I definitely had more than my share of job mistakes caused by not asking questions. I'm glad that you reminded me of this.

  2. I remember people talking about confidence as if you could just go get it somewhere. It's a lot like telling someone to be more secure. Both of those things are the result of many other things going right first. Thanks for visiting, Jennifer!

  3. I have two twenty-somethings and enjoyed reading your post. It was a magical and free time, at least the early 20s. Now that I am retired from my full-time job and living on less, I sometimes feel like I'm back at 25 but have all the wisdom I didn't have earlier.

  4. Judi, I agree. Magical and free are good words to describe that time. And I don't know about you, but the twenty-somethings I know seem to understand now what took me a loooong time to learn. Thanks for your comment.

  5. When I was in my 20s I knew just who I was and just where I was going. Now I look back and see that I had no idea who I was or where I was going.
    And yet, somehow, I got here, so in the end it's all good.

  6. I love your comment, Karen, and you're not alone in feeling that way, I know that.

  7. Hello, Susan! I'm visiting from Janet Reid's blog. Love your visuals!
    Lilly Faye Poodle

  8. I think this was such an accurate post. Each generation has their view of the younger generation and unfortunately today's twenty-somethings might just be getting the short end of the stick. I find them charming. (how's that for an old Granny Googenheimer word?)

  9. Hi Susan, I'm popping over from Janet's blog. What an insightful blog. I have a couple of 20-somethings in my life too, both trying in various ways to get their feet under them as they look for a professional job, a partner, a home.

  10. Something to look forward to, once I've navigated the teen years with my munchkins.

    Stopping by from QOTKU blog :)

  11. Stopping by from QOTKU... I feel like an adult tweener. I tween the twenty-somethings and not-fourties. I'm a tweener. Too old to know that I don't know and not old enough to have been there. Here's to all the phases - JEN Garrett

    1. I think you are at one great point in life. Thanks for stopping by, Jen.

  12. I'm also stopping by from QOTKU blog. You write in such a vivid and lovely way. I'm sure you are the coolest, most caring mom. Your kids are very lucky! :-)

    1. Lilac, thank you! I enjoy my kids more every day, and I love having four in the twenties. It's a fantastic decade to watch from the audience.