80% of Life’s Defining Moments Happen by Age 35…?

So I am currently watching a TED Talk entitled “Why 30 is not the new 20” (you can find the talk about which I’m referring at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhhgI4tSMwc ). In this “talk,” the speaker states (and I’m paraphrasing) “80% of Life’s Defining Moments Happen by Age 35.” The argument – as far as I can tell – being made here is that although things like marriage, childbearing, and “even death” have been put off in terms of age and years, the decades of time we have been socially conditioned to demarcate as the 10-year time frames in which “x, y, z” occur still remain intact and definitionally stagnant.

What does that mean? How I interpret this is that although things like marriage and having kids might be pushed off a few years in general, they are still things that happen before the age of 35 on average. Although there is nothing “inherently” “wrong” in any of this, I do find the CONCLUSION that 80% of “life’s defining moments” occur by age 35 to be problematic. *I just want to take a minute here and apologize for my lack of coherence in writing this – I am coming way down on my steroids after about 17 years of taking them and doing so is doing a number on my brain!*

Let’s put this into “classical” deductive terms: 1. people are getting married later, having children later, starting their careers later, &c., and 2. although these things are still occurring before the age of 35 ∴ 80% (or, for the sake of simplicity, the vast majority) of life’s “defining moments” still occur before the age of 35. This is a deductively valid argument, at least superficially (i.e., the “lemmas” lead necessarily to the “conclusion” – this is a very “simple” argument, obviously.). However, my problem with all of this does not occur from the conclusion or the “points” the argument makes – I suppose it lies within the entire structure of this particular argument. IF(iff) we assume 1. is true, we are also assuming that death is occurring later in the lives of people as a general rule as well. This is – at least as of now – empirically true. So what is the problem? The problem – to me – is that only 20% of “life’s defining moments” occur within over 1/2 of one’s entire life (assuming death at age 70, which is young at this point in time). We are also assuming here (not stated), that the “defining moments of life” are not those that occur within the first decade of life (and most likely we’re also not talking about the years between the ages of 10-20, at least not most of them); this means that the “defining moments of life” occur within a very narrow ~15-year-long period of one’s life.

Now, I realize I have a very different perspective on all of this, being someone who was largely unable to do much of anything during my 20s when I became so deathly ill. This is not me screaming about my bitterness to that end (I could easily do so … although that would'[t accomplish much of anything, would it?) but stating how incredibly depressing it is IN GENERAL for one’s life to more or less take place within a time frame that represents an approximate 1/5 of one’s total years of life. Although the consequences of this impact me more directly definitionally (i.e., I am affected because the general population has already lived out their “defining” moments by the time of my writing this here) than the “average” person, I find it to be incredibly sad and scary FOR the “average” person. What, then, fills the gaps of those “lost decades” of time? Is it any wonder that the rates of divorce are still so high, that career dissatisfaction is still incredibly high, that there are things like an “opioid epidemic” and “midlife crises?”

I will leave the pondering of all of these questions and all other questions that arise from this “argument” to you. However, I will state here and now that I personally wake up every morning psyched at what the future is going to bring. Although I am not yet 35, I am fast approaching it. Do I feel the pressure of the years weighing down on me? Absolutely. Is this contingent primarily upon the trap of social expectation that one must accomplish aforementioned “x, y, z” by age 35? Without question. But I HAVE to believe that there is more to life than reaching certain “milestones” by a certain time in one’s life. If the best of my life has already passed, what keeps me moving forward, being a better person today than I was yesterday? What compels me to continue to pursue the completion of my education in whatever shape that might take if I buy into the idea that the “great things” of my life are more or less over anyway? If I were a person who had not lost more than a decade of my life to chronic illness, I might not have an answer for questions like these. But what about the people who have other experiences that “forced them” into forfeiting the “best years” of their lives? What about the 40-year-old cashier at Wawa or the 60-year-old law student? The examples really could go on indefinitely. But what I am trying to get at is that we have a MAJOR social problem if the vast majority of our lives is defined by what happens within a decade of our lives (give or take); that the 60+ years of life that are excluded from the “defining moments of life” are essentially meaningless. What is the point of living longer lives and doing things later in life if that doesn’t affect our lives in a positive way as a whole? I will leave you to ponder all of this. Writing right now, having a friend who just lost a child at a very young age, I am particularly prone to feeling the heft of time’s actual value. Do not allow anyone or anything to define what you do and do not do with your life. I know it is a cliche thing to say (or write) but “do not be a statistic.” Be the outlier – live your life in those 60 or so years that everyone else is busy living for others or not living at all. Make the majority of your life – hell, your entire life! – a life of life-defining moments. Define your life by your own life-defining moments – take control of your life and grab those moments regardless of their ease of access to you and regardless of the times at which they come.|

*And the musical chairs analogy in regard to marriage? Regardless of the advice this “psychologist” and others might give, things will never change if we continually refuse to “buck” the system and keep looking around us at everyone getting married and thus marry the person closest to us. It doesn’t lead to happiness. It doesn’t lead to having more “life-defining” moments throughout your life. It leads to stagnation. Perhaps I am blessed to see this from an “outside” perspective – perhaps I am cursed! – but regardless, the truth of the matter does remain that people tend to marry people they are dating the more marriages occur around them. And one or two people fighting against “the Man” in this one won’t change a damn thing. And why the hell can’t you have that career that you want “midlife?” Why the f*ck can’t you give your “child a sibling” in your 40s or later? It is THESE kinds of statements (the ones that exist without the questions) that FORBID people from going ahead and bloody doing it anyway. You can go back and start medical school at age 45 if you want to – figure 4 years of medical school (add a year for pre-reqs), and we’ll give a 3-year-long residency – that puts you at age 55, give or take. Assuming the average person lives to be 75+ … and you have ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A DOCTOR, you still have 20 or so years (or more, God-willing!) to practice what you have always wanted. Don’t let time dictate your life. Don’t come to age 76 and say “Oh, I wish I had just gone with it and gone back to school in my 40s!” because IT IS THEN, AND ONLY THEN, THAT YOU NO LONGER HAVE THE TIME.*



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