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Her20s

A Case For Not Peaking In Your Twenties

Growing up, I would daydream about my twenties and assume that by then, I’d miraculously have life figured out. I imagined that I’d land my dream job, travel the world, and embrace flexibility and freedom — all while feeling confident in my path. While my twenties have been generally enjoyable, they’ve also led to tumultuous change, confusion, loss, heartache, multiple career pivots, and unexpected life lessons that 17-year-old me would’ve never predicted. At 27, I can say with full confidence: If you’re in your twenties right now, you don’t have to have life figured out — and truthfully, you probably won’t for a while. 

Whether the narrative comes from your family, society, or a mix of both, we’re often sold the idea of a linear life path. Chances are, you were told at some point to attend school, go to college, land a job, meet your life partner, get married, start a family, and be a responsible adult for the rest of eternity. Easy, right? Additionally, you may have been told that college will be “the best four years of your life” (eye roll) and that everything is harder after that, so, “enjoy your twenties while you can!” Although it’s usually well-intended, this narrative sends the message that you’ll hit your “peak” in your twenties, and it’s all downhill from there. I hate to break it to you, but this simply isn’t true.

It’s time to let go of the myth that we all “peak” in our twenties. In fact, as gloomy as it sounds, your twenties might not be the incredible time you were hoping for. Making friends is weird. Dating can be wildly frustrating. Navigating money and your career is no joke. You may realize that you actually don’t want to pursue that niche thing you studied in college. On the weekend, half your friends will end up at frat parties while others are buying houses and having kids, which can be…strange. Not only that; but in your twenties, there is constant pressure to date, get married, and start a family — which can be a frustrating topic to navigate.

“Where I’m from, people often meet their partners young and marry by their mid-20s,” says Lexie, 26. “When I was in college, I felt so pressured by my family and childhood friends to find a lifelong partner. I was looking for that all over the place.” 

As if dating in your twenties isn’t already a whirlwind, there’s usually an unspoken expectation about relationship “timelines,” and for Lexie, this became a considerable challenge. 

“I have definitely felt the heat,” she tells Her Campus. “When I finally started dating for me — and just not to find a life partner — that’s actually when I met my now fiancé, followed by years of, ‘So, when are you getting engaged?’ Now that we’re engaged, the commentary has changed to ‘When are you having kids?’ I’m talking literally hours after he popped the question.” 

It’s no secret that women are consistently pressured to get married and have kids, and they’re often forced to explain or justify the reasoning behind their plans. However, young people are actively combating the idea that their twenties are the “peak time” for starting a family; they are no longer rushing to get married, and Gen Z continues to redefine what it means to be in a relationship in the first place. Additionally, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. fertility rate is steadily declining and many American women are delaying motherhood, according to The New York Times. 

“Starting a family can look different, from letting a partner into your life to getting a pet, having kids, or adopting,” Lexie tells Her Campus. “It’s incredibly unfair to be pressured into taking these steps before you’re ready — or at all — if these things aren’t for you!”

Apart from societal pressure, it can also be easy to compare yourself to the trajectories of fellow twenty-somethings. Imposter syndrome and seeing others’ successes — both IRL and on social media — can make you feel like you’re behind the curve. 

“I’ve really felt the pressure to hustle in my career and move up the ‘corporate ladder’ based on how fast my peers are [advancing],” says Lexie. “There was a time early in my career when I felt ‘less-than’ in comparison to my colleagues.” 

Being in a state of constant comparison is natural for many of us in our twenties, especially when you take into consideration significant age-related milestones and accolades like the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. You might say, “Wow, look at how much these people accomplished in their twenties. They must have it all figured out!” However, I can assure you they do not, no matter how perfect they appear on paper or Instagram. (In fact, they’re probably having imposter syndrome about being on that list as we speak.) 

Do you ever encounter TikToks where a twenty-something shares a video capturing their typical “day-in-the-life?” They wake up at 5 am, make a smoothie, drink it peacefully by their window overlooking the New York City skyline, work a glamorous job, come home and snuggle with their partner (or puppy), and complete a 5-step skincare routine before turning off the lights in their minimalist bedroom. No shade to those who actually have this routine or lifestyle; but just saying, these depictions seldom capture the real experience of being a human in your twenties. If your life doesn’t look like this right now, fear not: There is still time for you to become exactly who you want to be. 

“I used to have extreme anxiety about all of these things in my early twenties,” Lexie tells Her Campus. “I wish someone would have told me that it’s my choice to decide if and when it’s time to take certain steps in life. Enjoy being young, have fun, and move through this decade at your own speed.” 

PSA to anyone reading: Please know that your twenties are not necessarily the “peak” time in your life, and it’s okay if your “defining decade” isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Chances are, things will get complicated, and you’ll have to face yourself and your values over and over again. Don’t be afraid to change your mind, switch jobs, set healthy boundaries, and be gentle on yourself. You are not behind, and you are doing amazing. When the going gets tough, remember: Peaking in your twenties is an illusion, anyway.

Tianna is an Associate Editor at Her Campus Media HQ where she covers all things pop culture, entertainment, wellness, and TikTok trends. She graduated from North Carolina State University and received her masters from Columbia University. Tianna currently lives in New York City where you can find her sipping coffee, practicing yoga, and singing show tunes.
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