We go through different stages in our lives. In our earliest ages of life we learn to trust and to take control over physical skills. We learn to be more independent; we learn about success and we develop an understanding of the importance of purpose. Through our school days we learn social and academic skills. During our teen years we begin to develop our own personal identity.
And then come the 20s — oh those fantastically exciting 20s. Our 20s are some of the most important developmental periods of our lives — they often set the tone for the remainder. While our 20s aren’t a start-all end-all period, what we accomplish and, more importantly, how we develop psychologically, will either make our 30s and 40s productive and successful or lost and confused.
There are two main areas in which psychological development during our 20s plays a key role. The first is in our careers and working habits. During our 20s, we have either just gotten out of college and into the workforce or are (supposedly) working around having to go to school, but nevertheless figuring out what it is that we would like to be doing as far as our careers go.
We live in an age and in a society that allows for more comfort than previously possible, to the largest group of people in history. Most of us have no need to work or to support ourselves because we are able to rely on our parents or caregivers. Human beings rely on their parents for survival for longer than any other animal on the planet as it is, but now with the world’s poverty rating at an all-time low, many choose to remain comfortable rather than struggle on their own.
This seems to be the smart thing to do — why make life more difficult for yourself if you don’t have to? Yet at the same time, whether it be sooner or later, we all will have to come to terms with the fact that we have to carry our own load. Whether we decide to grow up now or later is irrelevant as long as you do realize that at some point it will need to be done.
Personally, I feel that the 20s are the ideal time to get your act together. You are still young enough to put off other goals, such as marriage and starting a family. You are young enough to make mistakes without them being held against you and if you do decide to start early then, in theory, you will be able to finish (retire) early too.
Finding a career that suits you perfectly is not an easy task. It requires a rounded knowledge of self, of one’s capabilities and weaknesses. Getting to know yourself takes time and is best done while engaged in a field of interest. Of course, taking a few years off to get to know yourself spiritually may be necessary, but in order to understand what type of work you would like to be doing, you will need to engage in that work. A lot of times we will find that a job that we believed we would enjoy, we find painstaking once we have given it a try. You may get lucky and land the career of your dreams early on, but more often than not, it’s a game of trial and error.
Our careers are not the only things that require development. The area of our psyche that requires the most development is the area involving the way we love and the relationships that we are capable of maintaining with others. Building loving relationships is not simple and does take time to develop. Like all learning, it will require trial and error, it will require patience, failure and the making of mistakes.
Our 20s are the time to put ourselves out there — they are a time to wear our hearts on our sleeves and the time to have our hearts broken. Finding out what type of persons you are compatible with, what you like about your partners, what you don’t like and what you can deal with is crucial to being able to hold a relationship for the long haul.
More than that, you must learn to be in a relationship. Relationships are funny because they both seem unnatural and necessary. They often at times feel forced, yet at other times feel organic. No relationship will ever be easy and no relationship will be immune from breaking. For this reason, we must learn how to be in a relationship and how to make one work.
This will most likely take more trial and error than finding your career path. As we define ourselves better we will define who we are compatible with—all of which primarily happens in our 20s. Waiting until later to begin forming relationships and learning the ropes is how you get 60-year-old bachelors.
Our 20s are meant to be a time to live it up and a time to figure things out. If you live right, you can do both within such a short period of time. What is required is strong focus and a good understanding of what you want out of life and what you want out of yourself. Our 20s can be highly productive or miserably unproductive.
You could hold off until your 30s to begin to put your affairs in order, but don’t think that it will take any less time than it would were you to get things in order during your 20s. I recommend doing your best to find yourself during your 20s, leaving your 30s and 40s for putting your plans to fruition. Our 20s don’t have to be filled with action, but at the very least they ought to be filled with reflection and attempts at self-understanding.