musings on: the 20/30 transition.

I was out for dinner with some girlfriends over the weekend, and someone brought up the point that we are now an entire undergraduate degree away from having completed our undergraduate degrees (4 years, yikes), that we are now much closer to 30 than we are to 20 (can that be right?), and that if we want to have kids by the time we’re 32, we really should have met the guy who will be the father of said children, like, yesterday. A little frightening, no?

Let me start by saying that I have never been a big believer in the “biological clock.” I’m not denying that such a thing exists—it is scientifically proven that women who become pregnant and have children past a certain age are putting both themselves and their baby a little more at risk. What I mean is that I don’t believe in putting that kind of pressure on our bodies; I think that our lives unfold in different ways and at different times, and there is really no use in becoming frantic about the fact that we aren’t quite where we thought we might be by a certain age.

But this kind of anxiety is all part of what I’ve started to call the 20/30 transition—those few years in which you’re caught moving between the chaotic student life of a 21 year-old (whose main concerns are: exam schedules, flipcup, pub crawls, all-nighters, jeans vs. trackpants, and complex carbohydrates) and the somehow even more chaotic life of a burgeoning adult in their 30s (who is more likely to be dealing with things like the corporate ladder, RRSPs, car payments, credit card statements, mortage vs. rental, and, of course, that dreaded biological clock). For those readers who are still enjoying the relatively carefree life of someone in their early 20s, here are a few things you can look forward to. (The rest of you, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

  • A weekend bender now results in bloodshot eyes, a killer headache, the dehydration bloat, and a seriously unproductive Monday at the office, instead of a 3:00pm wake-up call and a trip to the closest fast food joint.
  • “Dating” used to mean making eyes with someone over the beer pong table, maybe a late night study session or two, dancing the night away at the campus bar, and then giggling as all of your friends gush about what a cute couple you make. It now involves tracking down a bar with the appropriate demographic, self-help books, online profiles (cringe), awkward, not-so-subtle matchmaking from your couple friends, and sifting through endless man-boys (think Britney Spears’s “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” anthem, the masculine version) who aren’t quite sure what they want yet (which is OK, because you really don’t either).
  • Monday mornings now begin by putting on your newest blazer, commuting to work, and arriving at your desk to find a massive to-do list courtesy of your boss, instead of rolling out of bed at 10:00am, putting on your newest school-incrested hoodie, and then falling back asleep in the back row of PSYCH 101.
  • Your relationship with your parents used to consist of hastily written emails telling them you were still alive as you ran out to either a class or a party (because where else would you be?). It now involves regular phone conversations in which you are hyperventilating over your lack of money, your lack of a decent job, your lack of a decent apartment, and/or your lack of eligible men—and them assuring you that it will all be OK.
  • Holidays with your family used to involve questions about what classes you were taking, what cool clubs you were a part of, and what you might want to do after you graduated. They now involve variations of the question: “Why haven’t you met anyone yet?”

Case-in-point: growing up is hard. But no one ever mentioned that “growing up” doesn’t end after you turn 18—in fact, it continues (and seems to become increasingly harder) as you make your way through your 20s towards the age where you can no longer pretend you’re not a real adult: 30. And, not to dampen the unique set of pressures faced by people in their 20s who are balancing the standard demands of building a life and a career on top of caring for a spouse and/or children (because I have mad respect for you!), but my experience suggests that the 20/30 transition is especially daunting for the singles of the world. Trying to figure out who you are on top of trying to figure out what type of person you want to be with—and how you are ever going to manage finding such a person—feels impossible. But here’s what I’ve started to learn: you can always count on Paul McCartney for some solid words of wisdom.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly.

We can work it out.

Let it be.

Time will keep turning. The biological clock will keep ticking. 30 will come, whether you feel ready for it or not. And you will be fine.

j.

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