We hear labels like this all the time: 50 is the new 30! No, 50 is the new 65! 60 is the new 40! 70 is the new 60! Why can't age just be what it is - a number? Why the expectations at certain increments? Why, when we live in a society so adamant that it values differences and individuality, are we expected to have completed the exact same checklist as everyone else just because we had a birthday?
Now, I admit I totally fell for 30 as the new 20 because it made me feel better about where I'm sitting halfway there. "Sure, I'm not where I hoped to be at 25, but hey, it's okay because 25 isn't really 25, and I'm at least on the right path." Then I read Meg's reasons for why this mindset is wrong:
- 80 percent of life’s most defining moments take place by age 35.
- The first 10 years of your career have an exponential impact on how much you’ll earn.
- Over half of Americans are with their future partner by 30.
- The brain has its second and last growth spurt in your 20s.
I'm not sure what I can do about my brain spurting, so I'll leave that alone, but now it feels like I have to view my life through a point system. So how am I doing? Career? Nope. Minus 25 points. Married? Yes! Add 30 points! Kids? Um...hopefully when I'm - you guessed it - 30. Minus 25 points.
Does this mean people without those negative points are winning at life and I'm not? And why is this measuring life on such a narrow scale? Is there nothing but a career and creating offspring with a partner? What about people who spend these years traveling? What about creating great friendships? What about finding a religion or something bigger to believe in? What about adopting by yourself at 35 or 40?
Further confusing the situation, I'm always hearing from older people, after they find out I'm 25 (and get over the shock that I'm not a teenager, despite my appearance), that I need to relax, that my whole life is ahead of me - the exact attitude people like Meg warn against.
So back off a little, please, because although there are plenty of people carelessly letting their lives go to waste, there are also plenty of us fighting an uphill battle with all our might. Higher education is increasingly and outrageously expensive, the job market is incredibly unstable and becoming a wife or mother is not the ultimate goal for women anymore, so we're not all fitting into the expected perfect mold.
My 25 obviously doesn't fit into Meg's ideal model, and it doesn't look like that of thousands of other 25-year-olds. My 30 won't either. It will just look like... me at 30. And if your 30 is a solo trip overseas or you as a student, a coffee shop manager, teacher, stay-at-home-dad or CEO, as long as we're all learning and growing and able to go to sleep smiling, I say we can all check off success.