Let's Talk Using the Term “Twentysomething”


Twentysomething is a word I see floating around all over the internet. It's a way that people, particularly women (it seems to me) describe themselves in profiles, posts, and about me sections. Twentysomething is like an identity, a way to quickly place yourself in space and time.

And yet, I can't help but wonder if this term is harmful. I will turn 25 in a couple of weeks. Every year I have fought my battles and gained ground. Every year I have grown, doubted myself, lost friends, made friends, changed my mind about things, changed my style, changed my priorities. If you tell me a year, I can tell you something important that happened to me during it. I can tell you 5 things, probably.

To me, twentysomething almost wipes away the struggle of each of those years, blends them into one. That decade becomes one long, playful year, and when you reach 30, you're ready...for what? For the years to start mattering again?

We have likely all heard about the lost 20's. About people taking longer to grow up. About people using their 20s to explore, delaying career and family decisions until their 30's. About people taking more time with their education, with identifying identity. Lost meaning delayed. Lost meaning "life" has been pushed back a decade, in lieu of (?) something else.

Maybe this is where the word twentysomething comes from. Twentysomething means, I'm there in that mess somewhere. Twentysomething means, I'm figuring it out, maybe.

Or maybe twentysomething is just brevity. Twentysomething is, it doesn't matter to you whether I'm 20 or 24 or 29; that number doesn't tell you about my struggle, my story. Twentysomething is, I don't update this bio very option, so it will stay accurate much longer this way than if I posted my actual age. Twentysomething is, you don't need to know my actual age, a protection of privacy. Twentysomething is, here, you get the idea.

It is likely that I've described myself in this way before, with this term, as a twentysomething. Many of you likely have this word attached to yourself in some way. Good, let's talk about it! My aim is to start a discussion. My aim is to encourage us to think about the ways we identify ourselves, to think about the language we assign to ourselves. We live in a culture of buzzwords, of word vomit. We consume it all day and it becomes us. It is called word vomit because it comes out without thought, because we cannot help it. I don't want a key descriptor of myself to by involuntary.

And yet, there too is the word 30's, used earlier in this very essay. Is this the same as twentysomething? I could almost say yes and shut my mouth about this whole thing...but the connotation seems different to me. It's something with the word "something," I think. It's the way it dismisses the latter part of the age where a 4 or 8 or 1 should be with a wave of the hand. 30's doesn't attempt to guess. It admits to its scope.

After I passed my thesis defense, my advisor asked me what my plans were after graduate school. I told him I didn't know. I told him, I'm only 23. He said, don't do that.

In fiction workshops, we always ask, what does this character want? We ask this because desire is the primary driving force for action. This is an important question for life, too. Perhaps the most important question. That's what he was asking me that day.

I have been asked this question many times since then, mostly in regards to career, and I still don't have a great answer to it, but now it's not because I haven't thought about it. I have, and I'm reading, and I'm trying things out, and I'm thinking about it every.damn.day.

Perhaps I have digressed a little. What I mean to say is that your years matter, and whether you are making big decisions or small decisions, whether you are on a career path or not, whether you've started a family or not, whether you have a 10 year plan or are still figuring out this question of what you want in life, you are moving forward every day. Or at least, I hope you are.

Maybe your age doesn't tell your story to anyone else; everyone has their own path in this world. But, those years matter to you. That number means something to you. Be aware of the passing time, be present, be thoughtful. And don't let anyone–not culture, not yourself–rob you of that.

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