What We Should Be Doing in Our Twenties
A few weeks ago I did a purge of my Facebook friends list. I deleted all the people who I had nothing in common with and with whom I hadn’t communicated with in over a year. The main reason for this is that I realised my news feed and updates became flooded with news of weddings and babies. I don’t have anything against marriage and children. I just think it unwise to jump into a commitment before you’ve really had the chance to get to know yourself. In my experience, this seldom happens before people reach their thirties.
I think we should learn from the mistakes of our parents and the generations before us. We can do this by not repeating their mistakes. An old school friend of mine is divorced and the mother of a young child at the age of 26. Her parents also married young and divorced. It’s frightening that people feel that after studying (whether ending their education in high school or at a tertiary level) it’s time to get married and have kids. How about getting to know yourself? How about furthering your education, becoming self-reliant and growing yourself as an individual? How about getting to know the person you want to marry? Getting to know each other involves a lot more than just dating and going on holidays together. Many married couples don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they start living with each other. Cohabiting out of wedlock is practical yet frowned upon by fundamentalists and the more conservative part of our communities. If you live with someone, without entering any binding legal agreements (i.e. signing a marriage certificate), you give yourself the chance to call it quits when it doesn’t work out. It’s simpler and less painful when you don’t have to struggle through divorce proceedings or have any kids involved. You also allow yourselves the time to build a strong and healthy relationship with each other proving to yourselves that you are loyal and committed.
A simple Google search about divorce statistics and the link between marriage and education reveals what many of us likely already know. Firstly, less educated people get married and have kids younger than other groups and have higher divorce rates. Poorer families tend to have more children as well. Secondly, people with a tertiary education normally get married later, i.e. in their late twenties or early thirties, have a lower divorce rate and are likely to have less children than those with a high school education or less.
As a result of these trends, our society is filled with people who are focused on survival and trying to please other people (their boss, spouse or children), who later realise that they don’t truly understand themselves. I read that the fastest growing age group of subscribers to dating websites are people in their fifties and sixties. Part of the reason for this is that people, especially women, tend to only discover themselves and begin to enjoy their lives in their fifties. During and after this self-discovery they are more likely to find suitable partners than they might have been when they were younger. This is because they are probably divorced and the kids are all grown up and no longer need looking after, therefore women have nobody but themselves to truly look out for.
If this period of self-discovery happens in the twenties, people make wiser decisions later about their partners and when to start a family. Modern medicine has allowed us to live longer healthier lives. Therefore we no longer have to rush into starting families. Moreover, one of the greatest threats to the Earth and the greatest contributor to pollution and global warming is overpopulation. We already have too many people therefore it is not essential that we continue to reproduce at the current rate. By taking the time to discover ourselves and spend our youth in growing rather than jumping into what is considered to be a social norm, we allow ourselves to make wiser decisions and enjoy life in our prime. That way our older, wiser selves can have better careers, be better parents and contributors to society.
Our twenties are a time to learn, study, grow, have fun, travel and lay the foundation for the rest of our lives. That foundation is important. If our priorities are not in line with what we truly want for ourselves we may join the 80% of our population who hate their jobs, are in unhappy marriages or divorced and generally lead unfulfilling lives.