Why your 20s aren’t really the best years of your life

I am about to turn 30, so this has been on my mind a lot lately.

Do you know why everyone says the 20s are the best years?

Because most people stop living after they turn 30

And most stop living even while they’re in their mid-20s.

Most people graduate college with degrees they didn’t really want. They just got the degree their parents wanted them to get, or the degree they thought they should get in order to find a stable job, or the degree that was easiest to tolerate for four years.

Most people leave college and settle into a job they don’t really enjoy. They pick up the first “good job” that presents itself, get comfortable, and decide to start working their way up the ladder there.

Most people begin living life beyond their means as soon as the opportunity presents itself. They don’t save money, they spend money. They pick up an expensive car payment. They blow it on bar tabs and once a year trips somewhere so they can forget about the other 51 weeks they spend doing something they don’t really enjoy.

Most people get married because they think they have to. Or they get married because nothing else exciting is going on in their lives and they think, “This is what being in your 20s is all about!” They get married because they would rather be with someone else than be alone. Etc. etc. (And if you’re getting married for the right reasons, by the way, congrats.)

Most people start having kids. They want to buy a home. They want to provide for this family-in-progress — and so now there is absolutely no possible way for them to leave their job or career path because they have too much overhead. It becomes a financial no-no.

The reason everyone says your 20s are the best years is because most people create a safe and comfortable lifestyle before they even turn 30.

And then as soon as they turn 30, they’re done.

They don’t have any more “goals.” They don’t work on acquiring new skills. They don’t find ways to go outside their comfort zone. They stop reading. They stop learning. They stop, essentially, looking at life as an opportunity for growth, and instead repeat the phrase, “I am so old.”

That is the opposite of how I ever want to live my life.

I realize the above are sweeping generalizations, but the sad part is they are true. In a lot of cases, the majority of people stop. They just stop. They find what’s comfortable and then they’re done. Life becomes a countdown to dusk, instead of a journey toward the sun.

And the worst part?

They look back and say, “Your 20s are the best years of your life!”

Every year has the ability to be the best year of your life.

It’s up to you what you choose to do with it.

This article first appeared on Medium.