Why 30 is not the new 20
When I was in my 20s, I saw my very first psychotherapy client. I was a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology at Berkeley. She was a 26-year-old woman named Alex.
记得见我第一位心理咨询顾客时，我才20多岁。当时我是 Berkeley 临床心理学在读博士生。我的第一位顾客是名叫 Alex 的女性，26岁。
Now Alex walked into her first session wearing jeans and a big slouchy top, and she dropped onto the couch in my office and kicked off her flats and told me she was there to talk about guy problems. Now when I heard this, I was so relieved. My classmate got an arsonist for her first client. (Laughter) And I got a twentysomething who wanted to talk about boys. This I thought I could handle.
第一次见面 Alex 穿着牛仔裤和宽松上衣走进来，她一下子栽进我办公室的沙发上，踢掉脚上的平底鞋，跟我说她想谈谈男生的问题。当时我听到这个之后松了一口气。因为我同学的第一个顾客是纵火犯，而我的顾客却是一个20出头想谈谈男生的女孩。我觉得我可以搞定。
But I didn’t handle it. With the funny stories that Alex would bring to session, it was easy for me just to nod my head while we kicked the can down the road.
“Thirty’s the new 20,” Alex would say, and as far as I could tell, she was right. Work happened later, marriage happened later, kids happened later, even death happened later. Twentysomethings like Alex and I had nothing but time.
Alex 说：“30岁是一个新的20岁”。没错，我告诉她“你是对的”。工作还早，结婚还早，生孩子还早，甚至死亡也早着呢。像 Alex 和我这样20多岁的人，什么都没有但时间多的是。
But before long, my supervisor pushed me to push Alex about her love life. I pushed back. I said, “Sure, she’s dating down, she’s sleeping with a knucklehead, but it’s not like she’s going to marry the guy.” And then my supervisor said, “Not yet, but she might marry the next one. Besides, the best time to work on Alex’s marriage is before she has one.”
但不久之后，我的导师就要我向 Alex 的感情生活施压。我反驳说：“当然她现在正在和别人交往，她现在和一个傻瓜男生睡觉，但看样子她不会和他结婚的。” 而我的导师说：“不着急，她也许会和下一个结婚。但修复 Alex 婚姻的最好时期是她还没拥有婚姻的时期。”
That’s what psychologists call an “Aha!” moment. That was the moment I realized, 30 is not the new 20. Yes, people settle down later than they used to, but that didn’t make Alex’s 20s a developmental downtime.
这就是心理学家说的“顿悟时刻”。正是那个时候我意识到，30岁不是一个新的20岁。的确，和以前的人相比，现在人们更晚才安定下来，但是这不代表 Alex 就能长期处于20多岁的状态。
That made Alex’s 20s a developmental sweet spot, and we were sitting there blowing it. That was when I realized that this sort of benign neglect was a real problem, and it had real consequences, not just for Alex and her love life but for the careers and the families and the futures of twentysomethings everywhere.
更晚安定下来，应该使 Alex 的20多岁成为发展的黄金时段，而我们却坐在那里忽视这个发展的时机。从那时起我意识到这种善意的忽视确实是个问题，它不仅给 Alex 本身和她的感情生活带来不良后果，而且影响到处20多岁的人的事业、家庭和未来。
There are 50 million twentysomethings in the United States right now. We’re talking about 15 percent of the population, or 100 percent if you consider that no one’s getting through adulthood without going through their 20s first.
Raise your hand if you’re in your 20s. I really want to see some twentysomethings here. Oh, yay! Y’all’s awesome. If you work with twentysomethings, you love a twentysomething, you’re losing sleep over twentysomethings, I want to see — Okay. Awesome, twentysomethings really matter.
So I specialize in twentysomethings because I believe that every single one of those 50 million twentysomethings deserves to know what psychologists, sociologists, neurologists and fertility specialists already know: that claiming your 20s is one of the simplest, yet most transformative, things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world.
This is not my opinion. These are the facts. We know that 80 percent of life’s most defining moments take place by age 35. That means that eight out of 10 of the decisions and experiences and “Aha!” moments that make your life what it is will have happened by your mid-30s.
People who are over 40, don’t panic. This crowd is going to be fine, I think. We know that the first 10 years of a career has an exponential impact on how much money you’re going to earn. We know that more than half of Americans are married or are living with or dating their future partner by 30.
We know that the brain caps off its second and last growth spurt in your 20s as it rewires itself for adulthood, which means that whatever it is you want to change about yourself, now is the time to change it. We know that personality changes more during your 20s than at any other time in life, and we know that female fertility peaks at age 28, and things get tricky after age 35.
So your 20s are the time to educate yourself about your body and your options. So when we think about child development, we all know that the first five years are a critical period for language and attachment in the brain. It’s a time when your ordinary, day-to-day life has an inordinate impact on who you will become.
But what we hear less about is that there’s such a thing as adult development, and our 20s are that critical period of adult development. But this isn’t what twentysomethings are hearing. Newspapers talk about the changing timetable of adulthood.
Researchers call the 20s an extended adolescence. Journalists coin silly nicknames for twentysomethings like “twixters” and “kidults.” It’s true. As a culture, we have trivialized what is actually the defining decade of adulthood.
研究者称20多岁是延长的青春期。记者就引用傻傻的外号称呼20多岁的人，比如“twixters” (twenty-mixters)和“kidults”(kid-adults)。 这是真的。作为一种文化，我们的忽视的正是对成年起到决定性作用的十年（从20岁到30岁）。
Leonard Bernstein said that to achieve great things, you need a plan and not quite enough time. Isn’t that true? So what do you think happens when you pat a twentysomething on the head and you say, “You have 10 extra years to start your life”? Nothing happens. You have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens.
And then every day, smart, interesting twentysomethings like you or like your sons and daughters come into my office and say things like this: “I know my boyfriend’s no good for me, but this relationship doesn’t count. I’m just killing time.” Or they say, “Everybody says as long as I get started on a career by the time I’m 30, I’ll be fine.”
But then it starts to sound like this: “My 20s are almost over, and I have nothing to show for myself. I had a better résumé the day after I graduated from college.” And then it starts to sound like this: “Dating in my 20s was like musical chairs. Everybody was running around and having fun, but then sometime around 30 it was like the music turned off and everybody started sitting down.
I didn’t want to be the only one left standing up, so sometimes I think I married my husband because he was the closest chair to me at 30.” Where are the twentysomethings here? Do not do that. Okay, now that sounds a little flip, but make no mistake, the stakes are very high.
When a lot has been pushed to your 30s, there is enormous thirtysomething pressure to jump-start a career, pick a city, partner up, and have two or three kids in a much shorter period of time. Many of these things are incompatible, and as research is just starting to show, simply harder and more stressful to do all at once in our 30s.
The post-millennial midlife crisis isn’t buying a red sports car. It’s realizing you can’t have that career you now want. It’s realizing you can’t have that child you now want, or you can’t give your child a sibling.
Too many thirtysomethings and fortysomethings look at themselves, and at me, sitting across the room, and say about their 20s, “What was I doing? What was I thinking?” I want to change what twentysomethings are doing and thinking.
Here’s a story about how that can go. It’s a story about a woman named Emma. At 25, Emma came to my office because she was, in her words, having an identity crisis. She said she thought she might like to work in art or entertainment, but she hadn’t decided yet, so she’d spent the last few years waiting tables instead.
这里我想讲个故事说明问题。这个故事是关于名叫 Emma 一个女人。她25岁的时候走入我的办公室，因为用她自己的话说，她有自我认识危机。她说她也许想从事关于艺术或者娱乐的工作，但是她还没决定。所以取而代之的是她花了过去几年的时间当服务员。
Because it was cheaper, she lived with a boyfriend who displayed his temper more than his ambition. And as hard as her 20s were, her early life had been even harder. She often cried in our sessions, but then would collect herself by saying, “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends.”
Well one day, Emma comes in and she hangs her head in her lap, and she sobbed for most of the hour. She’d just bought a new address book, and she’d spent the morning filling in her many contacts, but then she’d been left staring at that empty blank that comes after the words “In case of emergency, please call … “
有一天，Emma 走进来，她双手抱头于膝盖，然后抽泣了几乎一个小时。她刚买了一个新的通讯录本子，然后花了一整个早上的时间填写她的联系人信息。当她填到 “万一发生紧急情况，请联系…” 的时候，她没有任何人可填。
She was nearly hysterical when she looked at me and said, “Who’s going to be there for me if I get in a car wreck? Who’s going to take care of me if I have cancer?” Now in that moment, it took everything I had not to say, “I will.”
她几乎崩溃地看着我并说，“如果我被车撞了，谁会在那里？假如我得癌症了，谁会在那里？” 在那种情况下，我花了好大力气才忍住说 “我会。”
But what Emma needed wasn’t some therapist who really, really cared. Emma needed a better life, and I knew this was her chance. I had learned too much since I first worked with Alex to just sit there while Emma’s defining decade went parading by.
Emma 所需要的并不是理疗师所真正关心的。她需要一个更好的生活，我知道这是她的机会。自 Alex 开始，我从这份工作上学到了很多，不能只是坐在那里看着 Emma 十年黄金定型期白白消逝。
So over the next weeks and months, I told Emma three things that every twentysomething, male or female, deserves to hear.
所以接下去的几个星期几个月，我告诉 Emma 三件事，所有20多岁的男生女生都值得听一听。
First, I told Emma to forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. By get identity capital, I mean do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next.
首先，我告诉 Emma 忘掉她的自我认识危机，去获得一些身份认定的资本。身份资本是指做增加自我价值的事。为自己下一步想成为的样子做一些事一些投资。
I didn’t know the future of Emma’s career, and no one knows the future of work, but I do know this: Identity capital begets identity capital. So now is the time for that cross-country job, that internship, that startup you want to try.
我不知道 Emma 的工作将来是什么样的，也没人知道将来的工作是什么样的，但是我知道：身份资本会创造出更多身份资本。现在是时候去尝试你想要的海外工作、实习或者新起点。
I’m not discounting twentysomething exploration here, but I am discounting exploration that’s not supposed to count, which, by the way, is not exploration. That’s procrastination. I told Emma to explore work and make it count.
我不是轻视20多岁的自我探索，而是轻视那些随便玩玩无所谓的探索，或者从某种意义上说那不是探索。那是拖沓！我告诉 Emma 去探索工作，让她的探索有所回报。
Second, I told Emma that the urban tribe is overrated.
第二，我告诉 Emma 不要高估自己的朋友圈。
Best friends are great for giving rides to the airport, but twentysomethings who huddle together with like-minded peers limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak, and where they work. That new piece of capital, that new person to date almost always comes from outside the inner circle.
好朋友会载你去机场，而和 “志同道合的朋友” 瞎混的20多岁的人，他们的交际圈、知识面、思维方式、说话方式和工作层面都被限制住了。新的资本或者新的约会对方往往是从内部交际圈之外来的。
New things come from what are called our weak ties, our friends of friends of friends. So yes, half of twentysomethings are un- or under-employed. But half aren’t, and weak ties are how you get yourself into that group. Half of new jobs are never posted, so reaching out to your neighbor’s boss is how you get that un-posted job. It’s not cheating. It’s the science of how information spreads.
Last but not least, Emma believed that you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Now this was true for her growing up, but as a twentysomething, soon Emma would pick her family when she partnered with someone and created a family of her own.
最后一点也很重要，Emma 相信你无法选择你的家庭，但是你可以选择你的朋友。可这只是她成长时期的状况。作为一个20多岁的人，Emma 很快会与某人为伴组建她自己的新家庭。
I told Emma the time to start picking your family is now. Now you may be thinking that 30 is actually a better time to settle down than 20, or even 25, and I agree with you. But grabbing whoever you’re living with or sleeping with when everyone on Facebook starts walking down the aisle is not progress.
我告诉 Emma 现在就是你选择你家庭的时候。现在你也许会想相比于20岁，25岁或30岁时组建家庭会更好。我同意你的看法。但是当你 Facebook 上的朋友都开始步入婚姻殿堂时，你随便抓一个人一起生活、睡觉绝对不是组建家庭的过程。
The best time to work on your marriage is before you have one, and that means being as intentional with love as you are with work. Picking your family is about consciously choosing who and what you want rather than just making it work or killing time with whoever happens to be choosing you.
So what happened to Emma? Well, we went through that address book, and she found an old roommate’s cousin who worked at an art museum in another state. That weak tie helped her get a job there. That job offer gave her the reason to leave that live-in boyfriend.
Now, five years later, she’s a special events planner for museums. She’s married to a man she mindfully chose. She loves her new career, she loves her new family, and she sent me a card that said, “Now the emergency contact blanks don’t seem big enough.”
Now Emma’s story made that sound easy, but that’s what I love about working with twentysomethings. They are so easy to help. Twentysomethings are like airplanes just leaving LAX, bound for somewhere west. Right after takeoff, a slight change in course is the difference between landing in Alaska or Fiji.
Likewise, at 21 or 25 or even 29, one good conversation, one good break, one good TED Talk, can have an enormous effect across years and even generations to come. So here’s an idea worth spreading to every twentysomething you know.
同理，在你21岁，25岁甚至29岁的时候，一次好的谈话、好的休息、好的 TED 演讲，能在未来的几年甚至几代人的时间里带来巨大的影响。因此这个想法值得传达给每一个你所认识的20多岁人。
It’s as simple as what I learned to say to Alex. It’s what I now have the privilege of saying to twentysomethings like Emma every single day: Thirty is not the new 20, so claim your adulthood, get some identity capital, use your weak ties, pick your family. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now. Thank you.
这想法就像我后来告诉 Alex 的话一样简单。我应该每天都对像 Emma 这样的20多岁的人说：30岁不是一个新的20岁，所以规划好你的成年生活，获得一些身份认同资本，利用你的弱关系，选择你的家庭。不要被你所不知道的，从未做过的事所禁锢。你现在的作为决定着你的人生。谢谢。