As with most things my mother tells me, I nodded, then continued on as if nothing was said. She gave me a copy of the book but I just put it on my shelf, along with many other parental recommendations that I never quite had the time to pick up and get to.
This past January, though, I was sitting around with my friends and they were all panicking about this book they were reading, and how their lives weren’t where they should be for our age, and how their entire perspective had shifted after reading it. Naturally, I was intrigued. What is this book and why is it so powerful as to elicit such a panic from my friends?
As luck would have it, the book they were discussing was the same book my mother had tried to get me to read years before, and I knew exactly where it was sitting on my shelf. I picked up The Defining Decade as soon as I got home that evening, and didn’t put it down ’til it was done.
‘The Defining Decade’ by Meg Jay, PhD is, as cliché as it may sound, a call to action. It’s geared to those of us in our twenties (the ‘defining decade’), specifically, but realistically I think it should be required reading for everyone on their 18th birthday.
If not now, then when?
It’s become a common opinion that our twenties are ‘party time.’ They’re a time for us to figure out what we want, take it easy, and relax after those stressful college years. The attitude of “if not now, then when?” is often on our minds, and it’s difficult for us to see a clear path in front of us toward our future.
As popular as this mindset is, what Jay shares with us in The Defining Decade is that it can be extremely detrimental to our ill-thought-out futures if we continue thinking that ‘real life’ starts in our thirties.
In the introduction, Jay points us to an incredible simile that I think is worth sharing verbatim:
“Twentysomethings are like airplanes, planes just leaving New York City bound for somewhere west. Right after takeoff, a slight change in course is the difference between landing in either Seattle or San Diego. But once a plane is nearly landed in San Diego, only a big detour will redirect it to the northwest. Likewise, in the twentysomething years, even a small shift can radically change where we end up in our thirties and beyond.”
If that doesn’t resonate with you, well then I don’t know what will.
Common ‘20s Scenarios
Using a series of case studies of her own patients, Jay lays out a variety of common scenarios in which twentysomethings often find themselves. She covers all the most anxiety-inducing obstacles we need to surmount; namely work, love, and identity.
From the 27-year-old nanny with a passion for art but no direction, to the personal assistant who believed she just didn’t have what it took to make it in television, each of the stories Jay includes will have readers nodding in understanding.
They are all profoundly relatable, and it’s this relatability, the “oh my gosh this is so me!,” that makes The Defining Decade such an important tool for millennials. Because if we can see that we aren’t alone, that others have been where we are, and that they managed to make it out alive, then we can too.
The trick is to not squander these incredibly valuable years, and to remember that even a small shift now can mean great changes in our future.
Helen Chevreau is a student teacher, blogger and global adventurer. She also happens to be the daughter of Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau. She has a B.A. in English and has been blogging for four years. Her next stop is Scotland for postgraduate studies in education.