Life Begins at 20?! …Flippin’ ELLE, I’d Better Get a Move On

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You know your attention’s been stolen when you’re bed, work or boy bound and still wrestling to get it back. Mine, recently tangled in a string of words written in ELLE’s April ’13 issue, is definitely in a hostage situation – my applause directed to the genius who snuck up and took it from my Monday night mag read/nail art session, held with the TV on. Said words read as follows: ‘…dump that guy. Quit your job. Move cities… and do it NOW’ – the opening to Dr Meg Jay’s poignant, prompting and almost panic-inducing piece on Why Life Begins at 20. Read it to your motivational-slump’s peril.

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The Attention-stealing Culprit, as captured by @ELLEUK

Hidden within ELLE’s usual splendour is the much-needed advisory article on getting-up and going for it – whatever ‘it’ is that you want to make of your life. And, like a knife to any post-grad, ‘forever young at heart’s there are out there, probably travelling their way around an outback, picking strawberries and instagramming (coffee) froth, her words come sharp and to the point: your twenties are not a vacation on the way to womanhood, “a sort of Las Vegas in the life cycle.” In fact, says Jay, 20 to 30 is “the most defining decade,” one that “will have an enormous effect across years and even generations to come.” Cripes. I’d better stop stressing over my last Jelly Baby binge and start worrying about my future family’s family’s family, if my decisions will have a butterfly effect on the quality of laminate flooring they’ll end up with…

Jokes aside, Dr Jay (almost typed Mr Jay there, whose pretty face would defo break this news easier…) is of course right – but more importantly, managed to put it so rightly, clearly and non-parent-y, that I’m now not only shaking, but thinking beyond the obvious negatives of still living out of a bedroom in my parents’ house at 25. Now is about how to navigate my white wash walls and clutter to a whole house full of it; a house I can call my own in the next, say, 10 years. Now is the “time to make your twenties count.” Little time for shaking then, though at least I’m on the move… sort of?

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Dr Meg Jay, photographed by Jen Fariello

While definitely inspired to work harder for the career I’ve always wanted, I’ve not interpreted Dr Jay’s ‘wake up, grow up’ call as instruction to become a bill-paying independence machine (I will always vote ‘doing what you love’ against ‘doing whatever pays’), rather that this decade is about growth – the biggest growth I’m ever going to achieve towards my goal. The straight-talking doc writes, “Eighty per cent of life’s defining moments take place before you’re are 35.” I’m ten years from that deadline and, if ever there was a more epic reminder to start making more important decisions, that was it.

But I was also able to take away some reassurance that what I’m doing now, does count: Blogging, networking and taking on new projects can be filed under “identity capital… what makes you memorable and relevant later”, and seeing new sights, breaking loose ties and working with new teams of people, can “create luck” in my career progress. And who’s to say such activities won’t go down in The History of Me (working – and narcissistic – title, there) as some of my life defining moments, which Jay also talks about? These are the things I will mention in interviews for new roles and promotions; to break the ice with new important contacts, and maybe one day, to encourage my great grandchildren.

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One of ELLE’s April’13 covers, which all star Rihanna

While moving through my twenties, which often feels like slow progress through a marsh that’s more mallow than stable, I’m now further pushed to make as many big leaps as I can alongside the small steps I’m already taking, and thanks to Dr Jay’s unforgettable article, I can forget spending wayyy too much time flicking over nail art tumblrs and Topshop’s ‘new in’ page – which is probably fair enough, if it means potentially better blinds in my family’s family’s family home’s back bedroom.

So, Why Life Begins at 20 is the new gospel, according to Dr Meg Jay, heralded by ELLE Magazine and utilised by an ever more productive me – ever since I read it in my Shawn The Sheep slippers, latest episode of Girls fittingly a-blare in the background. Read it yourself, debate it with @ELLE via Twitter with the hashtag #WhyLifeBeingsAt20, and I’ll see the inspired few of you the other side of 30… I’ll be the one clutching Dr Meg Jay’s latest book with a hand full of shit nail art and no clue what to wear. #ThanksELLE

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