Surviving Your 20s: Tougher Than A Road Trip With Mom

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Sign for a restaurant named "Mothers."

There’s no escaping “mom” on any part of this trip—including stopping at diners.

Tomorrow, I start a road trip to the Midwest with my son. As much as I love him, the thought of being held captive in a car all weekend, subjected to rap music for hours, isn’t really what I want to do with my time. (Though I’m sure the fall leaves will be lovely …)

However, we won’t be the only two people in the car. I’m also bringing along Dr. Meg Jay (at least, in spirit), author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How To Make The Most Of Them Now. So, let the guilt trip—I mean, road trip!—begin.


As you may remember, my son is currently taking a year off from school. We’ll talk a lot about what he is going to do with that time—and when he is going back to school—somewhere between here and Cleveland, just after lunch at a diner, I’m sure.

And that’s where Dr. Jay can help us, and you, out.

A Book Discussion With Mom

Dr. Jay’s book is for anyone trying to figure out life as a 20-something. Her message is powerful and simple:

  • Be deliberate about what you do in your 20s.
  • The decisions you make now significantly matter in determining the path you will take later in life.

If you are on the same path as my son and delaying your education, you could have some extra uncertainty to your future—something that scares any parent.

After all, 20-somethings face enough problems on their own, like transitioning from student to graduate to unemployed graduate to employee. These years can be stressful. And yet, they can also be great.  Just ask your parents. I’m sure they’ll agree their 20s weren’t completely perfect, but they probably still look back at them fondly.

Five Points From Dr. Jay

To ensure you remember your 20s warmly, Dr. Jay outlines a few things to keep in mind:

1. There are 50 million 20-somethings in the U.S.: This means you are not alone. At the same time, it also means it’s tough out there—so you need to stay focused. You are deciding your life right now, decision by decision.

2. It is natural to be confused about life in your 20s: Plenty of people go through an identity crisis. But try to focus on earning what Dr. Jay calls “identity capital” along the way—meaning that with everything you do, try to build tangible skills. Derail from a straight path if you must, but be deliberate about every decision you make, even if it’s just taking a seasonal job in a ski town.

3. 30 is not the new 20: The media may lead you to believe you have plenty of time to figure things out, but you can’t just cruise through your 20s in hopes of somehow having a great career by 30. Claim your 20s and make thoughtful choices.

4. 80% of life’s most defining moments take place before you turn 35:  You don’t want to wake up at 30 after a series of go-nowhere jobs (or relationships) saying “What was I thinking these past 10 years?” (Enough said on this point.)

5. Be intentional about choosing your friends and pick your family. Just as you choose your career path, be deliberate about the company you keep. (OK, I hope my kids to continue to “pick me” to be in their intentional family, even if I do give too much unsolicited advice.)

For more from Dr. Jay, check out her TED Talk. (You’re more likely to watch that than read her book, right?)

Riding Shotgun With My Son

So, wish my son and me bon voyage on our cross-county odyssey. As a parent, I am delighted to be there for my son, riding shotgun through his 20s with him.

I’m hoping to have our one-on-one book club on I80 West, while listening to Logic—and I’m sure he’s hoping that dealing with his mom is the biggest 20-something problem he faces.

Feel like your 20s are the best years of your life?  Let us know.

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