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.”

It’s never too late to be an astronaut

I love stories about people who ignore made up time lines for how your life is suppose to move along, such as the middle-aged law school student. Now I have a story about a guy who became an astronaut much later in life. Here’s where my inner-nerd comes out. Yes, I went to Space Camp (the greatest place ever), and yes, in my middle school year book when it asked where I would be in 20 years I wrote “Space.”

I think astronauts are the coolest people on the planet (and in space). You might ask why I didn’t pursue this career. I simply did not like math and physics enough to make that my expertise. I sincerely hope that one day commercial space travel will be available to the masses and I will get to  go into space without having to memorize a ton of formulas.

English: Michael J. Massimino, STS-109 mission...

On Friday I went to a free Tedx conference at Columbia. I decided I should start going to as many conferences as possible since I’m interested in starting my own. The last speaker was Michael Massimino, an astronaut who flew in 2 space shuttle missions to the Hubble Space Telescope. He shared with us his incredible story of persistence and reward.

Starting when he was 6, when he watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon, he was mesmerized by space. When he went to college he really had no idea what he wanted to study. It was only after he watched the movie The Right Stuff about a hundred times that he realized how much he wanted to be an astronaut. He changed his major which ended up pushing back his graduation date by a few years.

After he graduated he wasn’t sure if he really had what it takes to be an astronaut, so he settled for an engineering job at IMB. Two years later (maybe he watched The Right Stuff again) he realized that he couldn’t give up on his dream, so he entered the prestigious masters program at MIT.

After he graduated from MIT he applied to NASA’s space program 3 times and got rejected even after interning there. He gave up and began teaching at Georgia Tech. Eventually applied to NASA for a final time and got accepted.

Micheal began telling us about how beautiful the view of Earth is in Space. How it was prettier than what he imagined heaven to look like. He even got teary eyed talking about it. That’s when he realized that none of his struggles, none of his doubts, none of the rejection was worth giving up on his dreams. The fact that it took him a few extra years to graduate seemed so silly to him at that moment. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It doesn’t matter if others don’t think you have what it takes. In the end it only matters that you get to do what makes you happy.

The Power of Vulnerability

One of my amazing friends directed me to this Ted talk about vulnerability. Since I know you’re all busy I decided to summarize the key points. But watch the video if you can because Brene Brown is absolutely charming and insightful.

Brene is a social worker and she wanted to understand what causes shame. While she was doing her doctoral thesis on shame, she interviewed thousands of people and realized that shame comes from the belief that something about you is not good enough; if someone were to find out the ‘truth’ of you they would not love you.

Although everyone she talked to had experienced shame, people tended to fall into one of two categories: those who had a strong sense of love and belonging and those who struggled for it. The people who had a sense of love and belonging believed that they were worthy of love – as simple as that.

Courage was the common character trait of someone who felt worthy of love. She points out that courage is not the same thing as bravery. The Latin routs for courage translate to “tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” Wow! The Latins were really onto the HeSo project 😛

Here are three things that all these courageous people had in common:

-they accept their imperfections

-they are compassionate towards themselves

-“they are willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they are”

Most importantly, a person must embrace vulnerability. These people who had a strong sense of self-worth believed that vulnerability was part of what made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability as being difficult or easy – just a necessity.

“They talked about the willingness to say, ‘I love you’ first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.  They thought this was fundamental.”

This conclusion really bothered Brene because she couldn’t understand how vulnerability can cause the very pain that makes people feel shame, but it can also be the cure. It bothered her so much that she needed to go into therapy for a year to wrap her brain around the idea.

It’s true that vulnerability can open you up to pain and rejection, but it can also open you up to personal connection and acceptance. I was afraid to admit that I was feeling doubt. I thought since my blog is about inspiring people and staying positive, I shouldn’t talk about negative feelings. However, so many people reached out to me and said they feel the same way too sometimes. And it really made me feel better.

She argues that today’s society works so hard to numb the negative feelings that we also numb the positive. We try to be so certain that we become close-minded. She gives the example of organized religions transitioning from the power of faith to the power of being right.

We need to start accepting some of the inherent struggles of life. We need to start accepting that we will never be perfect. We need to start questioning ourselves and being honest…and loving the truth of ourselves.

Women are not that bad

I was browsing the aisles of a small book store when I overheard two young women talking.

“I’m trying to remember the title of that memoir that’s supposed to be like the male version of Eat Pray Love,” one said.

“Oh, I bet the male version would be much better!” the other said.

“I know! I can’t stand women authors. They’re so self-indulgent.”

Just recounting this story makes me shake my fist and say out loud “Why I oughta!” And let me remind you that these were women. I picked up a large book to hide behind and followed them around the store. I learned that they were English majors at NYU. COME ON! Was their dream to one day put their heart and soul into a novel just to have two catty girls dismiss it  because the author wears a bra? Why were they hating on women authors? It was like their professor told them that women can’t write and so they had to repeat the sentiment to sound smart. I would read Barbara Kingsolver over William Faulkner any day.

And so, in the spirit of defending my gender, I am posting a link to one of my favorite TED talks and it happens to be by a woman – Elizabeth Gilbert. I love her vulnerability and insight when she talks about the effect of fear on creative people.