But These Are Supposed to be the Best Years of My Life!

Twentysomethings too often think their lives are supposed to be a glamorous party life or a meaningful life of saving the world. There are too many preconceptions we, twentysomethings try to live up to. These preconceptions about what the twenties are supposed to be are misleading. When our twenties are not like this it causes many twentysomethings to become stressed and sometimes depressed. So, what is the truth? Dr. Meg Jay says in her experience “’…these are the most uncertain and some of the most difficult years of life.’”

Twentysomethings want to discover their full potential. When we don’t know where to start looking, we compare ourselves and our dreams to these preconceptions instead of looking inside for our potential.

“Working toward our potential becomes what developmental theorist Karen Horney called a search for glory when, some how, we learn more about what is ideal than about what is real.”

People on a search for glory are easily spotted by their enslavement to “shoulds” and “supposed to’s”…

I should be working for a company who is trying to make a difference in the world… I’m supposed to be traveling through Europe discovering myself… I should be at the same work level as my friends are… I’m supposed to be having the best years of my life!

I don’t think any of these things would be necessarily bad, but the constant comparison is not good. This is what Horney would call the tyranny of the should.

We should be working towards our potential, not glory. (And that’s one good “should”.) Someone’s potential consists of working towards the goals he/she has set for him/herself. These goals are personal. They are unique for every person. They can come from within out unthought knowns. “Shoulds” and glory are judgements we make on ourselves from the outside. Judgements based on others’ potential.

“Contrary to what we see and hear, reaching your potential isn’t even something that usually happens in your twenties – it happens in your thirties or forties or fifties”, says Dr. Meg Jay in The Defining Decade.

These are the years where, just like everyone else before us, we do the grunge work. We work for underpaid jobs and overqualified jobs. (Remembering to choose the job with the most capital.) We do the work no one else wants to do. We do it, and we do it with a smile. This is a time to not only show what we can do but also to learn from the more experienced.


*All quotes from this post and this post series come from The Defining Decade and should be accredited to Dr. Meg Jay.*

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6 thoughts on “But These Are Supposed to be the Best Years of My Life!

  1. Great point Katie. I know I struggled with this a lot when I first got my job out of college. I always felt like I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing, or like I needed to be doing more. It took some time to change that attitude, but I have been a lot happier since I did!

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