Twenties’ Bucket List: How to Unstuck?

An Interview with Robin Marantz Henig.

The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have. ~ Louis E. Boone

What the hell am I doing with my life? What do I really want to do? Should I follow the footsteps of legendary greatness like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs and Mahatma Ghandi? Or should I just sit and maintain the status quo? Afterall, Chief Bogo once said to Judy Hopps that “life isn’t some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and all your insipid dreams magically come true.”

Co-author of the book: Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?, Robin Henig, shares her profound research and expertise on what makes millennials seem to be around the sky floating aimlessly. But before diving right into the water, here’s a quick peek of what Robin is as a person, a writer, and a twentysomething back in her day.


Me: Robin, what prompted you to write?


Robin: The first time I had fun writing was in fifth grade, when the teacher would write a sentence on the board and tell us we needed to write a story that somehow included that sentence. I loved the challenge, and loved the feeling of putting words on paper, and around that time I decided that I’d try to figure out a way to make a career of it.

Me: What is your hidden talent that you’d rather not tell the world?

Robin: Alas, what I’d rather not tell the world is that I have absolutely no hidden talent.


Me: What was the article/book you had most fun in making?

Robin: The most recent book I wrote was the most fun, because my co-author was my daughter Samantha! She was 27 years old at the time, and the book I was asked to write was to be called Twentysomething, about what it was like to be in your twenties. I thought that Sam would be more of an expert on the subject than I was. She was already a journalist — she was working then at The New Yorker, and had already held jobs at Newsweek and Slate, and during the book writing she ended up getting a job at The New York Times, where she still works now — so it was a really good fit. I did most of the writing, and she did the editing and wrote some sections that we set off with a different typeface. It was a really fun collaboration.

Me: What do you like to do best in your spare time when not writing?

Robin: I belong to three book clubs, so I do a lot of reading just for fun, almost all of it fiction. I like to take long walks around my neighborhood in New York, often listening to podcasts or audiobooks. What I like best of all are Wednesday afternoons, when I go to Brooklyn to pick up my two-year-old granddaughter at daycare, give her dinner, give her a bath, and put her to bed. It makes me feel young and happy to spend time with her.


Me: Many people think that Psychology is not science but “common sense”. As a freelance science writer, what can you say about this?


Robin: The most interesting parts of psychology are the findings that actually go AGAINST “common sense.” There have been some concerns recently that some psychological studies are too small or too badly designed to produce useful (or reproducible) results, and that could be a problem. But I do feel like some of the classic psych studies have given us insights into the human mind that are both surprising and enlightening.

Me: Who/ what inspired you to write the article: “Why are so many people in their 20’s taking so long to grow up?”


Robin: It happened in the opposite direction — I wrote the article first, and it was very popular, with lots of shares on Facebook and the like, which is what led a publisher to ask me to write a book on the subject.

Me: Who/what inspired you to write the aforementioned book?


Robin: I had two daughters in their 20s and found myself curious about that time of life. I found a psychologist who was doing research into whether the twenties were a distinct developmental stage. He was calling the stage emerging adulthood, but some other experts thought it wasn’t a distinct stage at all. So it was a controversial theory, and controversy always makes for good magazine articles.


Me: Describe your book to the people who have unfortunately not read it yet.


Robin: We wanted to describe what it feels like to be in your twenties. Whether the experience is different for Millennials (Sam’s generation) than it was for Baby Boomers (my generation). We found that the twenties are a lot more similar for the two cohorts than they are different. The biggest differences are that today’s twentysomethings are taking longer to marry and have children, are more constantly connected socially because of the internet, and are generally more in debt from student loans. But the feeling of indecision and uncertainty about the future seems to just be part of being in your twenties, whether in the 1970s or the 2010s.


Me: You stated in your book that young adults of today reach milestones later than the previous generation. Do you think this is something to be worried about?


Robin: One reason to worry is that young adults’ parents become grandparents at later ages. This might have important social implications, which is something I’m thinking about exploring in my next book. Grandmothers traditionally have played a very important role in helping the youngest generation survive and thrive. If they’re too old and frail themselves to really offer much help, that would be a loss. This is something I don’t think today’s twenty- and thirtysomethings are considering/


Me: What troubles did you encounter when you were in your 20’s? In what way are they the same/ different from the millennial 20’s?


Robin: I personally was an unusual twentysomething. I married at 19 and I’m still married to the same man. I also went right into journalism and I’m still involved in the same career.


Me: Advice to today’s young adults who seem stuck in life.

Robin: Relax. Give yourself permission to try new things, and not to commit to any one path prematurely. And if your parents are giving you a hard time because of what looks like aimlessness, tell them to read my book. I think it will help THEM relax, too.


Chief Bogo exists in our life. He is our “reality checks” in a dream of popcorns and unicorns. Or our parents who condemn us with the path we carve for ourselves because it looked ridiculous. He could be society, setting out standards and criteria on what a “normal” person should be at a particular age. Worse, he could be us, self-criticizing all the damn time


Take a deep breath and follow Robin’s advice. It’s OK to be out there job hopping. It’s OK when you seem to have not figured out anything. And  it’s OK to have a dream and to reach for that dream no matter how bizarre it may seem.


Because the greatest regrets in life is not what you did. It’s what you didn’t do.

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