There’s an excellent post today at Bridge and Tunneled, a blog describing itself as “A twenty-something’s take on the ‘Quarterlife Crisis’ from somewhere in the swamps of New Jersey.” The tone is spot-on for the current generation of new law school grads. And the blog author, Nemorino, clearly has good taste, since he links to this blog. Although he also cites Zoolander as one of his favorite movies (check out his blogger profile), so maybe not.
Anyway, today’s post on Bridge and Tunneled is about being a recent law school grad and not being quite sure what to do with your life. The thought is that a lot of people in their 20s feel like they are just marking time. Nemorino writes that for people currently in their 20s, "There's no clearly defined endpoint anymore, no fixed date where our lives as we know them will end abruptly and we'll be forced, like it or not, out into the real world." That's profound and wistful thinking.
Interestingly, though, being in my late 30s I actually do have the answer--or at least an answer. I know where the endpoint is. The endpoint is age 34.
At 30 you're still young. "Cool, now I'm in my thirties!" is a typical reaction. No one seems fazed by 30 anymore. And 31, 32, and 33 are still early 30s, so they’re generally fine too.
But 34? Now that's a whole different story. At 34 you only have one more year to round down your age and qualify as "early 30s." At 35 you are undeniably in your mid-30s, and at 36 you are one foot into your late 30s. 40 is closing fast. This realization hits like a load of bricks, and you soil yourself. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Here’s how it works: one minute you're 28 and have loads of time to figure your life out; the next minute you’re 6 years older and your financial planner (if you have one--which you probably don't because you’re still too young for that stuff, aren’t you?) is telling you you’ve missed several key years of investment compounding.
So Nemorino is right: it is absolutely critical to have a plan for your life when you are in your 20s, even if the plan constantly changes. Because if you do not, you soon will be 34 years old and in crisis. Happy birthday! But if you plan, you can keep your options open. Then, once you figure out what your professional calling is, you will have improved your odds of successfully landing a position in that field.
For me, my chief options were law partnership and law teaching, and I planned for both, even when I was not sure which one I would pick. As a result, I got to make my own choice, instead of having it made for me. I don't offer that anecdote so that everyone can feel really good for me. I offer it because I'm living proof that Nemorino's advice works when you follow it.