The Defined Decade

Desmond Du
7 min readSep 5, 2023

Abstract

In this blog article, I reflect on the approaching milestone of turning 30 and the transition from college graduation to life in Jersey City. I delved into topics of identity, the profound impact of a car accident, and finding solace in friends and hobbies. Inspired by “The Defining Decade”, the article explores past decision and self-improvement efforts, while contemplating those to come in the future.

Introduction

SCAD Commencement 2023, Me and the Boys

It’s truly remarkable to realize that I am just three months away from turning 30. I found each year progressing faster than the next and I never thought my twenties will fly by so fast.

Three month ago, I graduated with a MFA from SCAD and relocated from Savannah to Jersey City with my partner to be closer to our work offices and as well to experience a different lifestyle and chapter of our lives in the US. The first few weeks of my move to a new city was bizarre, I experienced a profound sense of disconnection from my familiar life and identity. This feeling stemmed from the belief that I had conquered a significant milestone in my journey— the completion of both BFA (2016–19) and MFA (2020–23), spanning a total of six years. Additionally, I had secured a full-time job and successfully managed my solo studio business too. In my mind, I had reached a point where I could finally take it easy. However, this perspective contradicted the very essence of graduation. After all, the term “Commencement” used for graduation ceremonies, signifies that this moment marks the beginning of our lives, not the end of our accomplishments.

My closest friends in SCAD helping me and my partner move boxes into a moving truck. I had a whiteboard of the moving gameplan.

Following my move, I felt an urge to embark on the next big thing. However, I found myself grappling with uncertainty about what that entailed, beyond giving my best at my job. To be more precise, I had seemingly forgotten the life plans I once had and was struggling to recall what I was supposed to be pursuing. This sense of identity amnesia was also possibly exacerbated by a life-altering incident when I was struck by a car while riding my OneWheel at a pedestrian cross in Savannah on May 5. At that moment, it felt as if a part of my soul had been impacted or lost.

I believe we all maintain an mental image of who we are and what we aim to achieve at every point in lives; these are the things we hold dear. However, that accident shattered the mental image I had cultivated. When I relocated to Jersey City, I grappled with another wave of this amnesia regarding my next steps. Fortunately, one thing that provided solace was reaching out to a friend or two each week, it was almost as if every conversation with a friend helped mend the gaps in my identity.

I also began to read more books and journal regularly. I listed numerous goals and aspirations, but I struggled to muster the willpower to initiate them. Perhaps I was too hard on myself for expecting to have life figured out right after graduation, which dampened my motivation. However, I found that setting aside time to indulge in activities in watching anime, documentaries, or shows for an hour at night brought me a sense of happiness and improved my outlook in my life.

The Defining Decade

I feel like I’m in the middle of the ocean. Like I could swim in in any direction but I can’t see land on any side so I don’t know which way to go. — The Defining Decade, xxiv

My new routine serendipitously led me to recall a book I read a few years ago: “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now” by clinical psychologist Meg Jay. I stumbled upon this book in December 2019 (based on my Goodreads entry), not too long after completing my BFA, and it had a profound impact on the way I approached life.

Back then, I was just as lost in the post-graduation whirlwind, but I had a clear aspiration to become a teacher or professor in the future. This book’s insights about laying the foundation for that future role made me realize I needed a Master’s Degree and get started on my YouTube channel for Motion Design tutorials. Four years later to the present, having accomplished those two primary goals, I find myself much closer to my dream! And all I need now is just more work experience.

Even though I am going to be 30 soon, I still felt that this book was incredibly relevant in putting the past four years into perspective and planning for the next four. I promptly bought a second-hand copy of the book online, knowing it held the key to understanding my past, present and future.

As the title suggests, the book revolves around making the most of your twenties. It emphasizes self-examination, future planning, decision-making, all of which significantly impact our lives, whether it’s our careers, our relationships, or any other pursuit of happiness and fulfilment. In essence, it’s about “how do we live our lives now, so we can be in the place we desired to be in the future.”

Here are several key points that resonated me:

  1. Many people in their twenties are overwhelmed by the perceived abundance of opportunities, leading to choice paralysis. They often believe that avoiding decision keep their options open for later. However, inaction is a decision in itself, fostering fear and doubt. Each action, regardless of its outcome, propels us closer to our goals. The book dispels the myth of endless choices, explaining that, in reality we typically have six viable options at any given time.
  2. Twenty-something sometime idealize this phase as a time for carefree indulgence, indulging in activities, habits, or lifestyles that does not align with their true desires. This mindset can hinders personal growth and success, rather than enhance it.
  3. The book emphasizes that the best time to work on your marriage is before you have one. This concept may seem unconventional, but it underscores the importance of self-improvement, maturity, and resilience as the building blocks for a successful marriage or any other life goal. For instance, aspiring to be a creative director means gaining knowledge in the field, honing communication and pitching skills, and taking on leadership roles. It’s a reminder that we all have the power to take action immediately toward our desired life outcomes .

So yes, it’s about taking action in the now, but the question remains what actions do I take?

Conclusion: The Defined Decade

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

While I don’t possess a crystal-clear vision of the next four years, I do have a sense of the path I would like to tread. My unwavering aspiration is to become a teacher, as I believe this role allows me to make a profound impact on others by sharing knowledge and wisdom, just like how my teachers have done the same for me. To achieve this, I understand the importance of bolstering my creative profile, accumulating experience, published written works, crafting online video tutorials, and delved deeper into the realms of motion design, creative technology, education, and media theory.

In my current job, my sights are set on ascending to a Lead or Director position. This shift will enable me to contribute greater value and insight to projects and collaborations. I envision refining my communication skills, particularly in areas like storyboarding and art direction, to empower my team with a clearer vision for their design and animation endeavors.

As an artist/designer, I am genuinely intrigued by generative art and world of Processing, experimenting with drawing machines, and even embarking a personal storytelling journey through film.

In my role as a romantic partner, I aspire to hone my culinary skills to provide my future family with delicious meals. My mother has always cooked such great dishes when I was young and it brought me a lot of joy, and that’s what I want for my future child as well. Additionally, I’m considering regular therapy sessions as a professional outlet for discussing life’s intricacies and addressing any overlooked issues.

While acknowledge these aspirations, I’m open to the possibility of discovering new and even better paths. Regardless of the journey I undertake this article will serve as a testament to person I’ve become over the past years and the transformations I aim to undergo in the future.

--

--