Partially improvised play in 20-year chapters


Look at life in overlapping 20-year periods:

0-20: From new-born to young adult, includes virtually your entire programming of who you are, what you believe, how you fit into the world, and how you need to function and act to stay out of trouble most of the time and enjoy a reasonable chance of a good life

10-30: From young child, almost teenager, to 30-year-old adult; includes final elementary school years, high school, post-high school education, starting a career, maybe buying a house and getting married

20-40: Tertiary education, start your working life, get married or find a partner, settle down, maybe buy a house, maybe start a family

30-50: Work hard on your career or own business; may raise children and see how they become their own people; think about what you are going to leave behind of your existence; work on financial well-being

40-60: May reach the pinnacle of your profession; work on what you want to leave behind, make as much money as possible to look after family and prepare for retirement; make lifestyle adjustments to combat health problems

50-70: Work on what you want to leave behind; continue building wealth; keep a close eye on any signs of deteriorating health; make specific preparations for retirement

60-80: Start living at a slower pace; focus on maintaining your health and a good quality of life; give advice when asked by younger generations; fervently hope your money lasts until the end

70-90: Become increasingly dependent on other people – family, or staff at a retirement resort or nursing home; most likely no longer economically active; focus on relaxed activities with family and contemporaries


The bad thing about the above scheme is that it makes your life look like a play with the parts neatly outlined.

On the one hand, it’s how it is: the first block of twenty years, you’re actually just waking up. By the time you realise you can indeed end your own life – that you’re not caught up in something that was never your choice, you are already knee-deep in it, and you realise the price of doing so may be too high for yourself or other people you care about.

On the other hand, there is plenty of space to go beyond the outline. You can improvise. You can start a new career in your forties, or even fifties. You can start your own business and get rich from it in your sixties. Some men become fathers for the first time in their sixties and sometimes seventies, and some women have their first child in their early forties. And people also get married for the first (or second, or third time) long after their twenties or thirties.

There is always a mainstream that varies by country or region, and by culture. It also adjusts with time – people no longer do things exactly as older generations did in the fifties or sixties of the last century.

Important to remember as you celebrate the transition from one block of years to the next: You are as free as you think you are.