HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Book Review #13: The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

I’m 25, and this is one of those self help books I’ve seen read/recommended to/recommended by my friends. Being in “your twenties” is a relatively new development stage as Americans postpone marriage and children until later and later. There’s this sort of pop culture idea that your twenties should be wild, and free, the best days of your life, and they don’t matter much because once you’re thirty you get your life together. Enter the newly named quarterlife crisis.

Jay’s book really makes the point that your twenties matter. Yes, they are a time for self discovery and exploration and travel and all of that, but if you want to be happy in your thirties and forties and beyond, you should be laying the groundwork in your twenties. That means building “identity capital,” or holding jobs that either interesting, challenging, or unique enough to give you a story that lets you sell yourself in future interviews. It means realizing your career options are not actually unlimited, you can’t do anything. You have a limited set of career options based on your education, skills and interests – so just pick one and get started! If you don’t like it, you can switch careers. But you need to start your career in your twenties so that you have work satisfaction, and feel challenged and accomplished, later in your life.

And it also addresses the very real, but very ignored (at least by my friends and peers) concern of the biological clock. Yes, focusing on your career and ignoring marriage and family when you’re young seems like a good idea, but biology dictates that there’s a relatively small window where having children is easy. Having a child when you’re forty is the exception, not the norm. As easy as it is to ignore that reality, it’s something to consider.

The problem I have with this book is that my friends fall into two camps. I have many friends who this book is geared towards – who have hopped from internship to internship, from romantic partner to romantic partner, without really thinking about what they want out of life and what steps they should be taking to get it. This book is what they need to solve their “quarterlife crisis” – it’s not saying to stop enjoying yourself or experimenting, it’s asks you to think about the life you want and take steps to secure your future happiness.

But I fall into the other camp.

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