This morning in my half asleep ride to the LAX airport I listened to the Ted talk on the “Defining Decade”– a discussion of 20 somethings and the role these years play in our future. Seeing as it is 2 weeks away from my 24th birthday, and I am therefore almost half way through this decade, it got me thinking. The speakers main point was that society has a skewed view on our 20′s being the new 30′s, that we do not have to yet be serious about our careers, love lives, etc., as this is just a time for fun and can choose to do things just to pass the time. She argues that these beliefs are illfounded, and that in fact, these years are some of the most important as they serve as a foundation for and frame our adulthood. The most striking connection I made however, was to her comment that 8 out of the ten most defining moments in our lives will happen before our mid 30′s.
In three days I am moving to Thailand for an indefinite amount of time. In all of my big life decisions thus far, I have easily been able to identify what I was doing and why. As the speaker advised “Make whatever you do purposeful.” The 20′s are for exploring, both personally and professionally, but it is not for wasting time and pushing everything off until we are 30. So what then is my purpose for this trip. Personal growth? Professional endevours? I struggle with defining this period because it has yet to begin. The mystery, the adventure, and the fear is part of the joy. These are things that I have learned in my early twenties that are an essential part of me living. Maxie minus adventure, challenge, and bravery, is just not Maxie.
However, this time around it is more difficult to justify. Learn to live in another culture, check. Learn another language, check. Challenge myself in ways that will lead to personal and professional growth, check. My year in Spain covered most of the reasons why I would move to another country, but here I am doing it again.
Professionally, I have a career if I so desire in teaching. I have job opportunities in policy lined up and research possibilities. I am bilingual which opens up immense job opportunities and I have freaking masters at the age of 23 for free for gosh sake. It would seem that I am good; that my path is pretty much paved and this is definitely not something most 20 somethings visiting their therapist could say; however, somehow it feels like there is still something missing. It all seems too easy–although I would never say that working in education is easy. I almost feel like I need to struggle more with my life decisions. Always having known I wanted to teach, has limited my exploration, and therefore leaves me to question how I can really know that this is what I want forever if I have never tried anything else.
Personally, I also feel fairly stable; almost too stable for someone of my age. I am a responsible, hard working, and driven person, and therefore everything I have desired to do, I have done. However, it may be just that that makes me question whether or not I have been living and experiencing my early twenties the way I should be. Sure I dance, and go out, and enjoy myself, but even through college I never was one to act my age. I wonder, is being out of control when your in your 20′s a right of passage and a way that you learn about your limits and learn from your mistakes? Did I miss a critical period of testing my boundaries and building tales that I would once look back on as cautionary tales? Even now, 2 years out of college and I have lived a life full of excessive responsibility. As a teacher, there is no less than 100%. You have children’s lives and futures in your hands, and when I taught 38 children to talk through their problems, calculate math problems in their heads, as well as read and write, I truly felt that weight.
Now I am almost 24 and I have never been that “crazy.” I have never lived a truly carefree experience where I just had to worry about adult me–no school, no students, just focusing on developing me, and I guess according to this Ted Talk those 20 somethings who just push off growing up does not quite apply to me. So this is what my next step in Asia is–continuing to grow into who I want to be: living those experiences that I postponed when I joined Teach for America and being open to building relationships and living experiences that may impact my future and my choices as to where to live, and what career I choose to pursue. I cannot predict what I will find, who I will meet, and if I will fall in love, but I can say that the decisions I will make, I will make purposefully. Who knows what this next year hold for me, but I can say that there is no waiting until age 30 to figure it out.