I turned 30 the other night and it was pretty uneventful. No meteors fell from the sky, no wailing or gnashing of teeth, no Armageddon. I spent time with family and friends, I ran out to Home Depot (because it’s the place to be on the weekend), and I changed poop-filled diapers. Shortly before midnight, Jackie leaned over and notified me, “Your twenties are over!”
This was my gut reaction, my knee-jerk and honest sentiment. My twenties were an exhausting exercise in discernment, wrestling with the “big” life questions, and wondering what the heck God wanted from me. They were also an extremely formative decade, a decade of deepening friendships and questions that would only be answered in God’s time.
I’m not a guy who is in search of everlasting youth or ways to look forever young. I cherish the “wisdom” of grey hairs I already have on my head and honestly I can’t wait to yell at kids from a rocking chair on a porch. It seems that I’m already an old man at heart. So while my twenties were good to me, I had no desire to hold onto them. But, like all things, the ending of my twenties gave me an excuse to pause and do some philosophizing on the subject.
Some call the twenties a “disposable” decade—you don’t have to be a “real adult” yet. No one expects you to really grow up anytime soon. The cultural phenomenon of our “delayed adolescence” (a purposeful postponement of maturity) well into the late-twenties seems to reflect this nonchalance. So we consider it strange when we meet a mature twenty-year old who could care less about partying her nights away (it’s precisely her maturity that we find strange).
“Twenty is the new thirty,” right?
Unless you die at age 24—just like Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati did, after he contracted polio from the poor people he tirelessly served in Turin, Italy. In that case, you better make each day of your twenties seriously count.
Your twenties are an extremely important decade. Life doesn’t “begin” at age 30 or 40, or when you get married, have a kid, or retire. Life is happening now. I believe that the twenties are truly a deciding decade for one’s trajectory in life, for better or for ill. Whatever formation you received as a child and a teenager, you begin to put it all into action in this decade of life and your decisions will ripple into your adult life. Our grandparents’ generation knew this, but we seem to be slower on the upkeep.
My own journey took me from college student at age 20 to working as a firefighter to entering the seminary and discerning the priesthood to (finally) meeting my wife and even being graced with a baby at age 29. In the last ten years, I was blessd to see Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Scotland, and even Canada (eh!). I’ve matured and been tested through adventures and misadventures. I’ve had fantastic and gut-wrenching moments in ministry, and I’ve watched my prayer life deepen each year as I daily attempt to turn my life over to Jesus Christ.
My journey is my own and we all have a different story to tell. I think it’s only a pity if we look back at the years and suspect we learned nothing or did naught but “waste time.”
For motivational reading on getting your butt into gear, I highly recommend the Art of Manliness post on not wasting your twenties or reading “The Defining Decade” by Dr. Meg Jay.
Your twenties aren’t the decade to delay maturation, but the time to start looking outward and consider, “What will I leave this world?” Ask the scary question, “God, what do You want for my life?” Be open to missionary work or checking out a religious community. Go deeper in study and foster meaningful friendships. Feed your interior life with spiritual reading and time in adoration. Limit your debt. Swim against the tide of peer pressure that surrounds binge drinking and “hooking up” in meaningless encounters. Root out pornography and any other unhealthy crutches. Your later years will thank you for it.
I won’t be around forever and I don’t have forever to accomplish the tasks I want to here on earth. While I enjoyed my twenties, I have no desire to return to them.
“Your twenties are over.”
I have more life to live while I still have it.
PS: We will be posting soon about the birth story of our daughter Abigail, I promise!