Two winters ago I walked into an appointment for spiritual direction…and was directed to the self-help section of the book store. I had been told to buy The Defining Decade. I read it in a day and a half; it was transformative.
The Defining Decade challenges everything you’ve heard about that promising decade of life: the twenties. The author, Meg Jay, is a clinical psychologist. Through stories of the quarter-life crises of her clients, she dispels common myths about what the twenties “should be like” and presents a bigger picture that is equally exciting and even more full of potential.
The overarching point of this book is that the twenties are important. Rather than being a time for hook-ups, couch-surfing, and barista jobs, Dr. Jay argues that this decade is full of pivotal moments that need to be seized. She demonstrates how to build “Identity Capital” to present oneself to potential employers with something to offer. She warns about casual relationships and gives insight into how to choose a sustainable partner. She shows how confidence comes through learning to control one’s emotions under pressure, and how this skill is essential for maturity.
One of my favourite aspects of this book is that it has a far more optimistic view of twenty-year-olds than what is typically presented in the media. Dr. Jay believes that twenty-somethings do care about our lives and futures. We have been told too many times that our twenties are a decade in which we can do (or not do) anything we want without consequence. Through the stories of her clients, Dr. Jay drives the point home that a life that looks carefree and happy on Facebook often isn’t the whole picture.
The Defining Decade has hugely shaped the way I see my twenties. If you are looking for a meaningful Christmas gift for the young adult in your life, I highly recommend it. (And if you are a twenty-something yourself, put this book on your Christmas list!) You can listen to her insights and wisdom.