Monday, January 30, 2017

The Defining Decade - Meg Jay

The Defining Decade
Title: The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter -- And How to Make the Most of Them Now
Author: Meg Jay
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 241
Genre: Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I saw Jay's TED Talk
Date Completed: 1/15/17

Summary: Jay, a clinical psychologist, discusses the importance of the twenty-something years.

What I Thought: I have had this book on my TBR list for quite a while. Years. Every since I saw Jay's TED Talk back in 2013. Yet, just as Jay discusses in the book, time flies in your twenties and this book in particular had thus far escape me. 

In December, though, I was culling my TBR list and noticed it again. Since I turn 30 this year (*cut to me weeping in the corner*), I figured I better get on with reading a book about life in your twenties. After all, I'm down to only seven months of my twenties left - a thought which only mildly terrifies me.

I was really nervous to read the book. A message that seemed important and timely at 25, now felt as though it could be threatening. What if I read the book and felt like I had wasted my twenties? It was a legitimate concern going into the book.

Jay breaks things into three main categories: work, love, and "brain and body." So let's tackle those one at a time, too.
Work: This was the category about which I was most nervous to read. I have my masters and am teaching a cumulatively full-time load as an adjunct professor. Still, there are plenty of days when I feel really far behind my peers in the career field. Sure, my chosen career requires more time investing up front than some others, but it can be discouraging. I worried that Jay would make me feel even more behind. Instead, I came away feeling the opposite. Jay talks a lot about how time is an investment. The twenties are not typically glamorous years for one's career. They are the years in which you are laying a foundation, paying your dues, getting the required degrees. And that's exactly what I've been doing. Sure, I could have moved a little faster in some of those areas, but I spent the first half of my twenties figuring out what the heck I even wanted to do with my life. While I was doing that, though, I was working full-time and gaining important life experience. These days, I have a lot of the hard work left to go (I'm looking at you, doctorate degree), but I have a plan and a timeline to get there. Jay's thoughts definitely encouraged me to stay focused. I don't want to lose the momentum of my later twenties. As much as I really don't want to study for the GRE and research doctoral programs, I need to get a move on. Time won't stop moving just because I do. This is a work in progress and will be for a while yet, but Jay's ideas about investing your twenties by gaining identity capital helped me feel as though I've been on the right track longer than I knew. I was never someone who wanted to spend my twenties "just having fun." I've always been a goal setter and that aspect of my personality is beginning to pay off.

Love: Jay really rips apart the casual dating culture in this section. She spends a lot of time talking about how the delay of commitment and marriage has a ripple effect in other aspects of your life. Thankfully, I have this part of things locked down already, so I read this section feeling, admittedly, a little cocky. I so easily could have been the person who was single at 30 with no clue how or where to find a partner. But, by the grace of God, I have Kevin. Jay's thoughts on romantic relationships made me feel pretty good about ours. Age at marriage as an indicator of divorce stops being a major factor at 25, the age we got married. I feel like I got married at a really good point in my life - both young enough and old enough. Of course, I didn't need Jay to tell me that. 

Brain and Body: Jay discusses how the twenties are a time of intense brain development. This is the decade when, arguably, our personalities are truly and finally set for adulthood. I can see a lot of this shift in myself. I'm such an incredibly different person that I was at 19 in so many ways - good ways, I think. Jay also spends a good chunk of time talking about fertility and how the idea of deferred parenthood is not as simple or easy as our culture seems to believe it is. This one certainly hit home for me. We are not remotely interested in having children right now. We've been married almost five years and I feel no closer to being ready than I did when we got married. However, this is where I really diverge from Jay's thoughts. She talks a lot about fertility, but doesn't mention adoption or alternative routes to parenthood at all. While I know those paths aren't right for everyone, they are good and important paths, deserving of at least a mention. Besides, the idea of not being able to have a biological child is not something that worries me, particularly since it's never been a big goal of mine. For now, I'm totally content with not having kids. If and when we do decide to go down that path, the foundation is already laid. Unlike many of the case studies Jay discusses, I don't have to figure out a romantic relationship and financial stability first. We could have a kid tomorrow and I would feel fine about those things. I definitely do not want a kid tomorrow and I want to keep strengthening both our marriage and bank account before we do, but there is definitely a feeling of security knowing the pieces are in place whenever we do decide to take that plunge. 

Ultimately, I came away from this book feeling much more positively about my twenties and the choices I made therein than I expected. Jay's book ended up being really encouraging. While I definitely made some mistakes and did some pretty stupid stuff in my twenties, I don't remotely feel that they were wasted. Instead, I feel validated in many of the choices I made and encouraged to continue down a path of intentionality and goal-setting. 

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone in or around their twenties. I think people of any age could benefit from it, although the intended audience is definitely those in their twenties. Still, Jay's message of using the time you have and not squandering it is valuable no matter how old you are or at what stage of life you find yourself. I plan on integrating some of her ideas into the unit of my Critical Thinking course when we talk about goal-setting and problem solving. Every student in my classroom, despite their diverse ages, could benefit from some encouragement in that department. We all can.

Quote I Loved: "It is easy to imagine that life's significant experiences begin with big moments and exciting encounters, but this is not how it happens."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Unlikely, but I plan to integrate some of it into my course
If You Liked This, Try: Scary Close / Keep Moving

A Reduced Review: A great reminder of the importance of using time wisely - no matter what age you are.

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