The Defining Decade

Author(s): Meg Jay

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I discovered this book when I saw a video by AmandaMaryAnna on trying to cure her phone addiction (a digital detox) [29:07] where she mentioned reading it. I decided to pick it up and I must say that while it’s something I needed to read, it isn’t applicable to every twentysomething out there.

Written by Meg Jay, The Defining Decade argues that contrary to the idea that the twenties are a throwaway decade, the twenties are a very important time for cognitive development. It’s where we solidify our personalities, launch careers and forge relationships.

I really enjoyed how she gave lessons combining her opinion, research and her client’s stories to tell twenty year old how to live. The part that hit especially hard for me was the one of work where she argues that it’s important to have a solid plan during under/unemployment lest it gets exponentially harder in the future. The idea is to take stock of your current skills and use those to build a career. Along with launching a career is on dealing with work where we should try and keep grounded. Sure you might make a tiny screw up, but it could be much worse.

There’s also the part about relationships with a big focus on compatability. It’s easy to overlook big issues and magnify small ones. It kinda falls apart once you get to the part about biological clocks. On the one hand, I get her point on deciding to have children sooner rather than later as the older you get the harder it will be to conceive and raise a child. On the other hand it can sound like you must have biological children, damn not being heterosexual, wanting to adopt later and just not wanting children. Get to marriage and breeding. She makes a good argument against cohabitating before engagement however, though that effect isn’t as big as in Europe.

I think the biggest thing I got out of this is that not making a choice is just delaying it and it’s better to pick sooner than later.

In all, I got a lot out of this book, but I doubt it’s for everyone. It seems focused on privileged heterosexual folk aiming for intense careers. It discounts the possibility that people are dealing with underemployment because of the crap job market instead of “trying to avoid responsibility. Also, there are many possible relationship dynamics out there. While she uses her client’s discussions, you should consider the sort of person who goes to therapy in the first place. In the US, it would be someone relativley wealthy or with good health insurance (probably using their parents). There are many lives other lives that could be used to show what the twenties could be, but are never brought up.

I would recommend reading this bearing in mind that you might not relate to some of the concepts in the book.