Like many recent college graduates who are eager to take on the world, we are reminded nearly every day from friends, moms, and the media of our unlimited potential. “You have no real responsibilities!” and, “You can do anything!” are common reminders that this should feel like the most glamorous time of our lives. We have to live it up now, so later when we buckle down we won’t have any regrets. At the same time, some claim that your 20s are some of the worst times of our lives. So what are we supposed to do? What is reality?
The Defining Decade, by Dr. Meg Jay, brilliantly blends research findings in developmental psychology with real stories from men and women in their 20s who have felt, as Taylor Swift puts it, “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.” But unlike Ms. Swift who may or may not live in actual reality, The Defining Decade begins to show us that everything will most definitely not be alright if we forget about all about the deadlines. Amazingly, Dr. Jay manages to get these points across without sounding like every other parent, aunt, academic advisor, or acquaintance who wants to know what you’re going to do with your life now that you’ve graduated.
The book stresses the importance of making deliberate decisions while we still have the chance. Before long, we will be overwhelmed with a different set of responsibilities such as our chosen careers, husbands, kids, and in-laws. The point is that if all goes well, we will want to be overwhelmed with things like these. If not, we will spend a majority of our “real” adult life taking very first steps in our careers, our relationships, and even our health and future families. Through scientific evidence and real dialogue from sessions with patients, The Defining Decade makes a good argument that taking the job at the coffee shop may not be the best idea. It may be one of the first honest reality checks in the power of our decision-making. The result is a fresh and realistic interpretation of what it means to be 20 (or 22).
No, this book is not an account of heroic tales of young adults overcoming traumatic events or unbelievable struggle. It should also not be confused with a how-to article on how to invest thoughtfully or how to get promoted. It is simply an insight on the growing population of educated young adults that have the valuable opportunity to explore options. The Defining Decade manages to empower the average twenty-something with practical knowledge and awareness of what it means to have your whole life ahead of you.