It can’t go on like this.
Adolescence cannot last from 11 years old to 29 years old.
The headlines are everywhere:
- Where Have the Good Men Gone? – Wall Street Journal (Too many men in their 20’s are living in extended adolescence)
- Why Are So Many People in their 20’s Taking So Long to Grow Up? – New York Times
- Why Aren’t “Emerging Adults” Emerging as Adults? – Christian Post
Most sociologists view adolescence as beginning at puberty (for some at 11-12 years old) but that’s not the problem. The problem is there is no longer any conceivable end to the age of adolescence.
Adulthood used to be measured by 5 major milestones (completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child). Yet these depict a cookie cutter path to adulthood that not everyone takes. (See: You May Never Get Married)
And that’s okay. Some of the most mature people I know have never had children or been married and some of the most irresponsible crazies I know have the most children. But I would argue the first three of those traditional milestones are still really important.
So are 20-somethings just up the creek without a paddle? It’s getting harder and harder to obtain financial freedom. Student loans are a necessary evil for many and that debt can shackle you for decades. Not to mention the degrees you took the loans out to obtain mean less and less all the while more and more education and experience is being required for entry level jobs. Where do you go to work to get the 3-5 years experience that everyone seems to want for you to get a job?
I know the deck can seem stacked against 20-somethings in many ways. But that’s not my concern. I see it almost everyday. Some of my friends have looked at the landscape of their 20’s and simply concluded, “This period of my life doesn’t matter.” And that’s a narrative they have bought into: hook line and sinker.
All this talk about millennials yet so few conversations with them. With that in mind…
5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter
1.) You’re not a teenager anymore. You’re not an “emerging” adult. You’re an adult.
While there is no denying adolescence, it needs to have a definitive ending point. Your 20’s are not simply a continuation of your teenage years. They are not a time to grow up; they are a time to be grown up. I know it can feel like you’re stuck sometimes but real life is happening all around you today. (See: The In-Between Places)
The apostle Paul wrote the following about maturing into adulthood:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. – 1 Corinthians 13:11
2.) The relationships you make and cultivate in this defining decade will shape the rest of your life..
Many people meet their spouse in their 20’s. Who you date matters because who you marry matters.Your 20’s are not a time to waste time dating losers you know you could never marry. Keep the bar high because if you lower it a whole bunch of jokers will start jumping over and then you’ll have deal with the fall out.
The friends you have in your 20’s are also different than any friends you’ve had before, even if they’re the same people. In high school and college it can be hard to tell who your real friends are because they’re picked largely based on proximity. You go to class together. You live near each other, etc. But once you graduate college and/or start working, you really start to learn who your real friends are. Friendships can be harder to maintain but ultimately more worthwhile.
3.) You’ll gain financial freedom or financial captivity.
Student loans stink. Learn to HATE your debt. Think about all you could do without that amount weighing you down every month. Work hard. Get promotions. Move up the ladder as you’re able and feel comfortable in doing so. Learn how to manage a budget. (See: Chop Wood, Carry Water)
It’s not just a financial issue; it’s a discipleship issue. Everything is God’s. We’re managers at best. Manage well. Your success or failure in this area during this decade will largely determine your financial health for the next three decades. (See: The 1 Thing We Fight About)
4.) You’ll find your sweet spot at work, eventually.
A lot of your 20’s is spent discovering what it is you’re truly passionate about. You’re young enough to switch careers and depending on your personal life situation (married/unmarried, with/without kids, etc.) you can really pursue a wide path. But don’t be afraid to settle in when you find something you love. No situation/job/boss is perfect. (See: Why I Love and Hate Kids Ministry)
In the immortal words of Monica to Rachel, “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it.”
5.) Your 20’s are not your own.
You don’t own any part of your life. It’s all a gift of grace. Life with Christ isn’t just for your 30’s and beyond. You’re not even guaranteed to make it to 30.
Your 20’s are a wonderful gift, given to you and me from God. Honor him with these years. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have had more to be truly grateful for in my 20’s than ever before.