“The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay is the best book for young grads about how to get ready for real life. It’s the perfect self help book for those coming of age. I gave this book to my younger sister after she graduated college. She was so fresh faced and optimistic and I kinda wanted her to experience adulthood without all the bumps and headaches I had to learn from. My older sister had read it, she was trying to understand the mistakes she had made in her 20s and why she was so unhappy in her early 30s and recommended this book as well.
I would say don’t judge a book by its cover, it kind of has a bland and doctorish look to it but I found The Defining Decade to be a refreshing bit of truth in a world that says that your 20s are just an extension of adolescence. But we all have to grow up and some grow up later than others. Using your 20’s as a leaping post to get a head start on life could be the best decision you ever make.
I really liked how the author is a clinical psychologist and uses her client’s stories to highlight some of the hard choices and pitfalls a lot of 20 year olds go through. I mean in her work section, she’s very candid on how your 20s are a period to grow career wise. Not to put too much pressure, but the earnings you make between 20-30 can grow exponentially. I’ve seen it in myself. The first year in real estate, I made -$6,000. Now I’m making nearly $90K, five years later. Meg doesn’t take bullshit about how you need to find yourself in your 20s. She basically says that by the time you’re a young adult, you have two decades of experience under your belt. Maybe you don’t know exactly what best suits you as a career but you have a general idea of what your strengths are. The key is to use those strengths and put it towards a viable career.
Her discussion on relationships was very real and informative. Meg Jay says it best, that the biggest decision you’ll ever make in life is who you’ll marry. And most people don’t think twice about who they marry! They just fall haphazardly into relationships.
She touched base on cohabitating and how it affects the success of marriage. Cohabitating is not the same as deciding to get married. And the issue is that people start cohabitating and then slide into marriage. You don’t necessarily slide into it with the idea of what it takes to have a successful marriage. The book recommended a few key steps in cohabiting successfully.
I personally loved all the short stories about her clients, though I think she gave us the simplest examples of the type of clients she saw. Her writing was that of a concerned mother who had already experienced life and knew all the pitfalls. Her story telling was very good but I felt like there was an underlying problem with all the clients she saw: THEY DIDN’T THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE. And, well, anybody who doesn’t think of the future and how to accomplish far off goals is going to have problems.
Other parts that caught my interest were the discussions on fertility, friendships and family.
Her discussion on fertility actually reminded me of an old friend who planned on having children EARLY. She knew that her menstrual cycle was wonky and decided to see a fertility doctor at 20! The doctor told her she had some issues and she needed to start really thinking about having children right away if that’s what she wanted. It was what she wanted, and she ended up marrying young at 22 and having her first child at 25, but not without struggle and treatment. A lot of the women that Meg Jay interviewed thought that they could easily have children at 40! They thought they had all the time in the world and felt resentment when they realized their fertility was on a timer..
I’d rate “The Defining Decade” as a thought provoking book. I think it’s good for people who struggle with decision making and who might be waiting for life to happen to them. The The Defining Decade reminds you that time waits for no one and that you need to make your life and future happen now! I don’t think she came up with clear solutions to the issues that her clients brought up but she did bring up some questions that I had to stop and ask for myself. At times Meg Jay had a kind of judgy tone towards her patients, so I’m not sure if I would be interested in her as my own psychiatrist, but her writing is definitely entertaining.
Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read this book or are interested in other book reviews like this.
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Check out my other posts as part of this book club: