30 is not the new 20

80% of your life-changing decisions happen in your 20s. This crucial decade is when you start your career path. It’s when you pinpoint the qualities you want in a life partner. It’s when you start to get out of debt, or, unfortunately, start accruing debt. It’s when your collection of friends start dwindling down and you’re left with a core group of people who share the same priorities as you.

I watched the video below because the title contradicted an expression I’ve been hearing non-stop for the last few years: “30 is the new 20.” Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, explains why that is not the case. We can’t waste our 20s procrastinating and not taking our decisions seriously. Everything we do now will determine who we become. It’s ok to explore and try new things, but do it with purpose. Don’t think that anything will change, if you do not make the decision to change. If you date a loser now, you will probably end up marrying a loser later.

This is why I’m so glad I took The Living Course when I was 24. It helped me to determine exactly who I wanted to be, and who I wanted to bring into my life. I met my husband immediately after the course. I moved out of my parents house, got a steady job, and started taking my writing seriously. I can’t even imagine the sort of limbo I would have struggled through if I had not taken the course when I did. How many years would I have wasted living at 50%? (I’m not saying that my life is perfect, and I figured everything out in one weekend, but I do feel like I am on the right path, and that I have the tools to become who I want to be.)

Watch this video, and then sign up for this course. Don’t disregard this if you are not in your 20s. This message is not necessarily about age, as it is about not wasting your time at any stage in life.

In case you don’t have time to watch the whole video, here’s my favorite part:

 So what do you think happens when you pat a twentysomething on the head and you say, “You have 10 extra years to start your life”? Nothing happens. You have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens.

And then every day, smart, interesting twentysomethings like you or like your sons and daughters come into my office and say things like this: “I know my boyfriend’s no good for me, but this relationship doesn’t count. I’m just killing time.” Or they say, “Everybody says as long as I get started on a career by the time I’m 30, I’ll be fine.”

But then it starts to sound like this: “My 20s are almost over, and I have nothing to show for myself. I had a better résumé the day after I graduated from college.”

And then it starts to sound like this: “Dating in my 20s was like musical chairs. Everybody was running around and having fun, but then sometime around 30 it was like the music turned off and everybody started sitting down. I didn’t want to be the only one left standing up, so sometimes I think I married my husband because he was the closest chair to me at 30.”

2011 in Review

Well I finished my holiday eating, I’m done digesting, and now I’m ready to start blogging again. I liked Tracy’s Year End List so much I decided to do one myself.  I believe it takes some time to truly understand the past, and that is why I waited until today to review 2011- not because I’m a procrastinator.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

I started a blog and I went skydiving. The blog was a lot less scary.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes! I resolved to make my bed every day and I have except for vacations and colds. This year I made a resolution to organize my desk every night. And I made a mini goal of selling 500 BeddyByes by June.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

One of my best friends, Sojo, gave birth to a beautiful boy. He’s the inspiration for my new career!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Fortunately no.

5. What countries did you visit?

Kenya, Mexico, and Spain. And the Dubai airport for 8 hours. Does that count?

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

My company, BeddyBye LLC, up and running…and super successful.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

June 5th when I decided to quit my job. August 5th , our 3 year anniversary. October 18th, Challenge day.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Deciding to quit my job and not having a plan – I’ve never been a risk taker before. Also, coming up with an idea for a new product and actually following through. It would have been very easy to dismiss it.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I always feel like I’m not working hard or fast enough.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had a dry socket after getting my wisdom teeth removed. This is when a blood clot doesn’t form over the new hole in your jaw bone so the raw nerve is completely exposed. I went to an online support group (yes, it was so bad I needed online support) and one woman said it was more painful than when she gave birth. I’ve never had a baby, but I’m going to assume she’s accurate.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My Toshiba Portege. I’ve always been an Apple girl, so it was scary switching to the other side, but I’m so glad I did. This computer is so fast, so light, and has incredible memory – not to mention it was half the price of the most comparable Apple.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Food. And where did most of that go? My hips.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Focusing on the HeSo project. It’s funny how little time most people spend thinking about what will make them happier and more fulfilled.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Oh boy this is difficult. Adele’s Someone like You. I don’t know why I love breakup songs so much.

 15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?  Happier

b) thinner or fatter? Thinner

c) richer or poorer? Poorer

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Work on my fiction writing.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Watching t.v. Damn you Real Housewives!!!

18. What was your favorite TV program?

Portlandia and Happing Endings.

19. What were your favorite books of the year?

Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections: A Novel.

20. What were your favorite films of the year?

There were a lot of great movies this year. Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Descendants, Midnight in Paris (which I just got for Christmas!), 50/50, and Bridesmaids.

21. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 27 and Mike took me to see Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana. It was so exciting!

22. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A four day trip to a warm island without any culture so I wouldn’t feel guilty about spending the whole day sipping cocktails at the beach.

23. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

“Who needs more than one pair of jeans?”

24. What kept you sane?

Marla sleeping on my lap. And Mike laughing at me when I take myself to seriously.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

When all else fails breath. Also, your choices determine who you are.

I’d love to hear your answers to these questions. Leave a comment!

Ok, here goes…

We’ve all heard it a thousand times before. “Do what you love,” “Think of what you would do for free, and make that your career,” “Money will follow the passion.” I love watching re-runs of Dexter, but I don’t see anyone rushing to cut me a check. I love painting, but I also love going out for dinner, getting drinks with my friends, and being able to pay the rent. Can I realistically maintain the latter with the money from the former? I didn’t think so, and that is why I sold out. Big time. For the past three years I have been the Vice President for my mom’s company. I went to college for Fine Arts, and volunteered in Mozambique for seven months. I was all set to be a bleeding heart/starving artist. I had fallen in love with the romance of poor bohemia. But when I moved to New York City and tried to live off a teacher’s salary I quickly realized, as Jonathan Larson put it so eloquently, “bohemia is dead.”

All of a sudden I was challenging property assessments to lower real estate taxes in one of the richest counties in America. I was 26 and making more money than I ever thought possible. I thought my life was all set. And to top it all off, I even had lots of free time, and practically no boss. But why wasn’t I painting in my free time? I was part of a writer’s group, and I had the most flexible schedule of all the participants, and yet I was producing the least amount of writing.

The reason for my lack of creativity was that my HeSo had dried up. That’s my nickname for my heart and soul. I was suppressing the part of me that just wanted to be happy, give back to the world, and express myself. I was ignoring my HeSo with the security of a fat paycheck. The more the little voice inside my head said, “Stop it. This isn’t making you happy,” the more fearful I become of losing my financial security. Whenever I thought, maybe I should take a break from this corporate stuff and do something else for a while, the little voice said “you’ll be imprisoned with debt, and you’ll never be able to take a vacation or buy pretty clothes again.” But the truth is I was already in a self-made prison. Robert Anthony’s quote comes to mind, “Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.” I realized I needed to get out, take a chance, and make my HeSo a priority.

Two months ago I gave my mom notice that I was quitting. She was upset. Not about losing an employee, but by the fact that her baby would lose a very comfortable safety net. After all, the only reason why she asked me to work with her in the first place is because she thought I could do my creative stuff during my free time. But now I am convinced that you can’t balance the two. You can’t write a short story when you have an excel spreadsheet on the desktop. Or at least, I couldn’t. Creativity can’t be something you do on the side. How can you express yourself when you feel inauthentic? What scared my mom, even more was that I didn’t have a plan.

I began applying for jobs online. I wanted to work for a non-profit that promoted the arts. I went to the place where all young, idealistic, motivated people go – After sending out four, yes, only four applications, I realized this is not for me. Here are some things I learned from applying for jobs. I hate:

–   Writing cover letters

–   Writing resumes

–   Midtown

–   taking the subway during rush hour

–   the thought of two weeks vacation (literally it makes me sick to my stomach)

So, in order to avoid this list I cannot get a conventional job. But I will do the most patriotic thing I can do, pursue happiness. I must follow the cliché and do what I would do for free. So here are some things I know make me happy, in no particular order:

–       Cooking/baking

–       Watching movies

–       Drawing/ Painting

–       Interior decorating

–       Volunteer work (particularly abroad)

–       Traveling

–       Taking pictures

–       Creative writing

I want to start a business; in fact I want to start several. For the next year I will pursue any crazy idea I have that first makes me happy, second pays the rent. I am willing to invest $10,000 of my savings. If I fail, I will lose my savings and have to crawl back to the corporate world with my tail between my legs. However if I’m successful, I will be a shining example that you really can do what you love for a living. I’ll get my HeSo back, and have some fun. Are you with me?!? Say Aye.

Here are my financial goals:

–       Make $45,000

Ok, here’s the reality of it. I’m not going to be happy being homeless. I need $10,500 for rent, $15,000 for taxes (taxes are higher when you’re self employed and living in a city) $12,000 for monthly expenses (I’m cutting my prior spending in half, mind you), $3,500 for my Roth IRA (I’m taking a risk, but not with my retirement. I’m not going to work into my eighties), $4,000 for vacations and other things that make me happy (what? That’s the point of all this, right?)

–       Make an additional $10,000 for charity

Here are my HeSo guided goals:

–       Inspire other people to take risks

–       Make Queens a little more hip

Everyone knows there’s been a long-standing rivalry between Brooklyn and Queens for the coolest borough. Ok, that’s a lie. I live in Long Island City, and although I love my apartment, and there are great stores and restaurants in the area it definitely lacks the hip factor of Brooklyn, and my friends act like they’re visiting another country when they come to see me. I would like to bring some more hip, artsy charm to the borough with the most potential.

–       Make every day count

For the last three years I’ve been waking up and dreading returning business calls, sending out invoices, and acting like an adult with my clients. I want to wake up excited for adventure and potential that every hour brings me.

As you probably guessed, this is very scary. The thought of running out of money petrifies me. The thought of having to start all over from scratch keeps me up at night. Being entirely accountable for my happiness and success is intimidating. Having no rules and no boss is surprisingly vomit-worthy. But I have no choice. I refuse to be unhappy. I refuse to let my life pass by without any say in it. I refuse to believe that security is more important than freedom. So please send me all your support and ideas.