The best and worst part about being a twenty-something is that every decision you make can change the rest of your life. Once you're in your 30's or 40's, it gets harder and harder to reinvent yourself. In this Q&A with Dr. Meg Jay, the clinical psychologist explains why the twenties matter, and how to make the most of them.
二十几岁最大的优点(同时也是缺点)之处在于:任何一个决定都会改变你的一生。当你步入30、40岁,改造自己将变得越来越困难。在视频分享网站《大思想)这篇和Meg Jay博士的访谈中,这位临床心理学家将向我们解释为什么20岁是人生的关键,以及,我们将应该怎样充分利用这段岁月。

Big Think: Why are the 20s so important?
Big Think(以下简称BT):为什么说20多岁是人生的关键?

Dr. Meg Jay: Our 20s are the defining decade of adulthood. 80% of life's most defining moments take place by about age 35. 2/3 of lifetime wage growth happens during the first ten years of a career. More than half of Americans are married or are dating or living with their future partner by age 30. Personality can change more during our 20s than at any other decade in life. Female fertility peaks at 28. The brain caps off its last major growth spurt. When it comes to adult development, 30 is not the new 20. Even if you do nothing, not making choices is a choice all the same. Don't be defined by what you didn't know or didn't do.
Meg Jay医生(以下简称MJ):20多岁是决定成人轨迹的时刻。80%人生中最有决定性的时刻都会在35岁前出现。三分之二的加薪出现在职业生涯的头十年。到了30岁,大于一半的美国人都已结婚、或约会、或正在和未来的婚姻对象同居。你的性格在20多岁时会比人生中任意十年中都要改变得更多。女性的生殖力在28岁达到巅峰。大脑功能会在此时达到最后的冲刺。至于成年的发展,30岁远远比不上20出头的毛头小子。即使你呆着什么也不做,“不做任何选择”其实也是种选择。别因为年轻时你的无知和懒惰而葬送一生。

BT: You write about several cases of recent grads who feel they're drowning or floundering around in the world waiting for something to happen. Has it always been this hard to thrive in early adulthood?

MJ: No. There are 50 million 20somethings in the United States most of whom are living with a staggering, unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Many no idea what they will be doing, where they will be living, or who they will be with in 2 or 10 years. They don't know when they'll be happy or when they will be able to pay their bills. They wonder if they should be photographers or lawyers or event planners. They don't know whether they are a few dates or many years from a meaningful relationship. They worry about whether they will have families or whether their marriages will last. Most simply, they don't know whether their lives will work out and they don't know what to do. Uncertainty makes people anxious and distraction is the 21st-Century opiate of the masses. So too many 20somethings are tempted, and even encouraged, to just turn away and hope for the best. That's not the way to go.

BT: One of the main themes in the book is the line between thinking and doing. You argue that it's more important to just do something than to waste years dreaming up the perfect path. How can 20-somethings to put this idea into action?

MJ: One of my favorite quotes is by American Psychologist Sheldon Kopp: "The unlived life isn't worth examining." Too many 20somethings have been led to believe that their 20s are for thinking about what they want to do and their 30s are for getting going on real life. But there is a big difference between having a life in your 30s and starting a life in your 30s. If you want to be more intentional at work and in love, try working in a field you're curious about. Try dating someone who is different from that last person who turned out to be a disaster, and try conducting yourself a bit differently while you're at it. Sure the 20s are for experimenting, but not just with philosophies and vacations and substances. The 20s are your best chance to experiment with jobs and relationships. Then each move can be more intentional and more informed than the last.
MJ:我很喜欢美国心理学家Sheldon Kopp的一句话:“平淡的人生不值得审视”。有太多年轻人被误导着去相信:“20岁是用来思考自己想干嘛的,而30岁才是真正步入生活的时候”。如果你想更积极地去工作,去爱,选择一个你感兴趣的领域,然后开始工作吧。试着和上一个给你带来惨痛回忆截然不同的对象约会,并时刻提醒自己要开始转变。诚然,20多岁正是体验的时候,但光凭哲思般的空想、度假和物质满足可不行。20多岁是体验不同工作和感情生活的最好时机。你所做的每一步,都应该比上一次更具目的性、更富远见。

BT: How do you suggest they track their progress toward their future goals? Are milestones like 21 and 30 important?

MJ: Absolutely. Milestones--21, 25, 30, New Year's, birthdays, reunions--are important because they trigger self-reflection. Am I where I wanted to be by this age? Did I do what I said I would do this year? If not, why not. And if not now, when? A savvy 20something who interviewed me recently told me about a question she was advised to ask herself as she moved through adulthood: "If you keep living your life exactly as it is, where will you be in 3 years?" If you don't like the answer, now is the time to change course.
MJ:没错。21岁、25岁、30岁、新年、生日、团聚日——这些都是里程碑时刻,因为它们能促人反思。到了这个年纪,我有没有处在自己想处的位置?我年初的计划完成了没?如果没完成,原因又是什么?如果现在不完成,那么什么时候可以完成?最近有个很有悟性的、20出头的女孩采访我,她告诉我,有人建议她在这几年中反复扪心自问:“如果你保持着今天的生活状态,3年后的你会是什么样子?” 如果得到的答案并不是你所喜欢的,那么现在就是洗心革面的时候。

One way to keep yourself honest about the future is by making a timeline. At what age would I like to be out of this dead-end job? By when do I hope to be married? How old do I want to be when I try for my first child? It may not be cool to have a timeline, or to admit to having a timeline, but you don't have to etch it in stone. It's just a way of thinking about how your life might, or might not, be adding up. 

BT: About 25% of recent grads are unemployed, and 25% are underemployed. What is your advice for those who simply can't find a job?

MJ: Yes, half of 20somethings are un- or underemployed. But half aren't, so my first piece of advice is to figure out how to get yourself into that group. Most often, the way to do this is through what is called "the strength of weak ties." The strength of weak ties is from sociologist Mark Granovetter's work on social networks. What he found was that new information and opportunities usually come from outside of our inner circle. That foot-in-the-door at the company where you want to work isn't going to come from your best friends--your strong ties--or you would already be working there. That job lead is going to come from weak ties, or from people you hardly know. Email your aunt's neighbor or that old professor or your roommate's friend from college.
MJ:没错,大约一半的20出头年轻人不是找不到工作,就是找不到称心如意的。但也有一半的人找到了。所以,我第一个建议是:想想自己怎么能从这一半跳到那一半的梯队中。通常来讲,要实现这一点,“弱关系的力量”很重要。所谓的“弱关系”是社会学家Mark Granovetter在研究社交网络时提出来的。他发现最新的信息和机会往往来自那些你最亲密人以外的圈子里。假如你想去某家公司工作,这个职业机会绝对不会来自你的挚友(即强关系),否则你早就进去工作了不是么。这个工作机会很可能来自弱关系,或者来自那些你几乎不认识的人。所以,给你大姨的邻居、学校里的老教授、或是大学室友的朋友发个邮件吧,说不定你就得到这份工作了。

That's how people are getting jobs--especially good jobs--even in a tough economy. Most 20somethings hate the idea of asking outsiders for favors, but those who won't do this fall behind those who will. 20somethings who sit on the sidelines because of a bad economy will never catch up with those who figured out how to get in the game.

For those 20somethings who already have jobs but who are underemployed, it is crucial to remember that not all underemployment is the same. Be sure you have a job that is allowing you to earn some form of identity capital. Maybe you have a low-rung job at a hot company that adds value to your resume. Whatever you're doing should make the next thing you'd like to try seem more possible.

BT: How can 20somethings reclaim their status as adults given all the cultural trends working against them?

MJ: Don't let culture trivialize your life and work and relationships. Don't hang out only with people who are drinking the 30-is-the-new-20 kool-aid. I cannot tell you how many emails I have received from 30somethings since The Defining Decade came out, ones in which the writer says something like, "I used to roll my eyes at my peers who were determined to meet benchmarks--graduate school, real relationships, decent-paying jobs that reflect their interests--on time or early. Now I'm envious and admiring of them. Now I'm working twice as hard for half the result." Don't shrug your shoulders and say, "I'm in my 20s. What I'm doing doesn't count." Recognize that what you do, and what you don't do, will have an enormous impact across years and even generations. You're deciding your life right now.
MJ:别让这些文化趋势把你的生活、工作和情感变得无聊琐碎。不和那些鼓吹“在新世纪30岁就等于从前的20岁”这类言论的人交朋友。当《决定性的十年》一书出版后,我收到过无数封来自30岁人的email,其中一封信中说道:“以前,我总是对那些努力完成计划的人翻白眼。他们有的在准备读研、有的准备结婚、有的想找自己感兴趣同时又体面的工作……最终都及时甚至是超前地完成了他们的目标。而如今的我又嫉妒又佩服他们,只能用两倍的努力,却只能换来他们已拥有东西的一半。” 千万别耸耸肩无所谓洒脱地说:“我才20出头,做什么都是徒劳。” 区分什么该做、什么不该做能对你的人生、甚至你后代的人生产生巨大的影响。你的人生,要由你自己决定。

BT: As a clinical psychologist, what advice do you have for coping with emotions like anxiety which inevitably arise during times of economic uncertainty?

MJ: Given that life and the brain change so much across our 20s, this is the perfect time to learn new coping strategies. It's not okay to go to work with scars on your arms from cutting, it's not acceptable to scream at friends when things go wrong, and live-in girlfriends get tired of seeing us stoned every night. These are the years to learn to calm yourself down. Gain some control over your emotions. Sure, there's Xanax, which a recent conference presenter I heard only half-jokingly called "Jack Daniels in a Pill." But practice calming techniques that can work over the long run: exercise, therapy, mindfulness, yoga, cognitive meditation, deep breathing, healthy distraction, dialectical behavior therapy. Use your rational mind to counter the anxious and catastrophic thoughts you have: "I probably won't be fired because I dropped one phone call." Try to create your own certainty by making healthy choices and commitments that off-set the upheaval in the world around.
MJ:人们的生活和想法从20岁开始会有很大的转变,所以这正是最佳的学习应对困难的时刻。你要懂得,带着纹身去上班是不对的,出现问题时对朋友大喊大叫是不可取的,同样,也不要每天喝得酩酊大醉地回家——你的同居女友早就受够了。要学会冷静,学会控制情绪。虽然现在好像有种被戏称为“威士忌做成的镇定剂”存在,叫Xanax,不过真正的长期情绪控制还得靠自己。你可以尝试运动、治疗、专注训练、瑜伽、认知冥想、深呼吸、健康的分心、辨证行为疗法等。用理智来战胜焦虑和不安的想法,比如:“我只是漏接了一个电话,并不会因此被炒鱿鱼的。” 在世界环境变化莫测的情况下,你要通过做出正确、有益的选择,来给自己提供稳定。

BT: We loved this quote: "Claiming a career and getting a good job isn't the end, it's the beginning." Can you explain this a bit?

MJ: Most 20somethings are terrified of being pinned down. They're afraid that if they choose a career or a job, they are closing off their other options and somehow their freedom will be gone and their lives will be over. In fact, getting a good job is the beginning. It's the beginning of not hating that question, "What do you do?" It's the beginning of having something on your resume that might help you get that next job you want even more. It's the beginning of not overdrawing your bank account because of a flat tire. It's the beginning of feeling like you could actually think about dating since your time isn't taken up working those three part-time jobs you have in order to avoid a "real job." Research shows that getting going in the work world is the beginning of feeling happier, more confident, competent, and emotionally stable in adulthood.

BT: Can you discuss some of the current neurobiological research, and how that impacted your writing?

MJ: By now probably everyone has heard that the teen brain is not fully developed and that the frontal lobe--the part of the brain where we plan for the future and tackle questions that don't have black-and-white answers--does not reach full "maturity" until sometime during our 20s.

Unfortunately, this fact about the late-maturing frontal lobe has been interpreted as a directive for 20somethings to wait around for their brains to grow up. The real take-home message about the still-developing 20something brain is that whatever it is you want to change about yourself, now is the easiest time to change it. Is your 20something job, or hobby, making you smarter? Are your 20something relationships improving your personality or are they reinforcing old patterns and teaching bad habits?

What you do everyday is wiring you to be the adult you will be. That's one reason I love working with 20somethings: They are so darn easy to help because they--and their brains and their lives--can change so quickly and so profoundly.