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The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter - And How to Make the Most of Them Now

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Our "thirty-is-the-new-twenty" culture tells us the twentysomething years don't matter. Some say they are a second adolescence. Others call them an emerging adulthood. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, argues that twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.

Drawing from a decade of work with hundreds of twentysomething clients and students, THE DEFINING DECADE weaves the latest science of the twentysomething years with behind-closed-doors stories from twentysomethings themselves. The result is a provocative read that provides the tools necessary to make the most of your twenties, and shows us how work, relationships, personality, social networks, identity, and even the brain can change more during this decade than at any other time in adulthood-if we use the time wisely.

THE DEFINING DECADE is a smart, compassionate and constructive book about the years we cannot afford to miss.

241 pages, ebook

First published April 17, 2012

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About the author

Meg Jay

13 books315 followers
She is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Virginia and maintains a private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Dr. Jay’s book, The Defining Decade, was a 2012 Slate.com Staff Pick and her 2013 TED talk “Why 30 Is Not the New 20″ has been viewed more than 2 million times. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Forbes, Psychology Today, and NPR.

Dr. Jay earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and in gender studies, from the University of California, Berkeley.

At Berkeley, Dr. Jay was a research associate on the Mills Longitudinal Study, one of the longest-running studies of female adult development in the world. Her research on women, depression, and gender was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and was published in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association and as the Symonds Prize article in Studies in Gender and Sexuality. Her work on the assessment of depression has been published in Psychological Assessment.

An award-winning lecturer, Dr. Jay served as adjunct faculty at Berkeley where she taught Clinical Psychology, Personality Psychology, Social Psychology, and Psychology of Gender. Dr. Jay currently supervises doctoral students in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia.

Dr. Jay has served as a fellow for the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Center for the Study of Sexual Cultures, and the Robert Stoller Foundation.

Dr. Jay earned a B.A. with High Distinction in psychology from University of Virginia. She spent her own early twentysomething years as an Outward Bound instructor.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,893 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda.
50 reviews74 followers
November 6, 2013
I feel so conflicted about this book. I really, really wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did.
Like many others, I was impressed by her Op-Ed piece and pre-ordered the book, thinking that it would have more for me (I'm almost 29 and a *half*!), and that it would more objectively discuss social phenomena such as cohabitation and divorce.

On the one hand, Meg Jay has some pretty good career tips and makes some good points regarding time. While Dr. Jay only pays lip service to the recession and the changing nature of work - which I saw as a significant problem in the book - there are some good, concrete suggestions, though they are tempered by assumptions about "20somethings" wanting to "hide" with bad jobs because they are callow youths who are just too darn afraid of themselves. I think she also over-relies on the importance of networking. I'd still shove this into the hands / face / Kindle of people I know who are not being proactive about work, but they represent a minority among my friends who are out of work.

This book is full of assumptions that frankly offended me. I don't know anyone who is working a McJob because they want to, and her composite descriptions of clients often came across as condescending or even slightly judgmental. Her clients seem to be so privileged that I had a very hard time relating to any of them. There was so much of a cautionary tone in her writing that I felt like I was watching one of those after-school specials or 50s classroom films where the characters only exist to be shamed by the narrator. "See Jane. Bad, bad Jane. Jane doesn't know that working at a coffee shop is bad and she should be dating for keepsies! Jane doesn't realize her ovaries will automagically self destruct on her 35th birthday! Bad, bad Jane. Also she is on Facebook WAY too much. Tsk. Don't be Jane."

I have never met anyone who thinks an entire decade of their lives is for "practice," although apparently all of Dr. Jay's clients do.
Then I remembered that most of the people I know who are my age in the US don't have health insurance and can't afford a therapist anyway, so that was probably why.

Regardless, I think Dr. Jay did a poor job of making her clients, or a lot of her argument, meaningful to those of us who are stuck where we are simply due to terrible economic circumstances, and it seemed really dishonest of her to not acknowledge that her clientele is obviously a very wealthy subset of 20-somethings. She's not an economist, but the book would have been vastly enriched by a deeper study of the larger socio-economic contexts that have changed what this decade of life means at this point in time.

More troublingly, this work is almost totally heteronormative and assumes that everyone just wants kids, but they're too immature to realize it (and don't you think immature people make the BEST parents?). While Jay has some good points, she only acknowledges in one or two places that not everyone in America wants a house, a spouse, and 2.5 kids. And it's not just because millennials are so darn fickle, it's becuase not everyone is straight and not everyone wants children - and plenty of my friends can't even get married due to backwards laws.
The book would have felt a lot more honest if she had acknowledged that being child free / gay is a valid life path. Yes, she makes some good points about people not realizing that real life started about 5 years ago, but it doesn't balance out the overall exclusivity of what she's saying, for me.

I also found the lengthy discussion of basic brain anatomy to be rather useless. Anyone who has ever heard of Phineas Gage or taken Psychology 101 would not get anything new out of those sections, and they felt like cop-out filler: "Your BWAINZ aren't even developed! Poor widdle kidults!" If her target audience is as putatively mature as she argues, then just give a paragraph or two and point the astute reader to more resources.

Finally, and perhaps most seriously, as someone who is mere months away from 30, I left the book feeling like I had read a several hundred-page scolding (and I don't even think my 20s have been as screwed up as most people). It is a serious issue with the book that the target audience is very narrow: the book is really intended for privileged people aged about 23-26.

It would have been nice to address those who were reading this book very late in their 20s to avoid making it seem like the author was telling us our lives were hopeless becuase we failed to find the perfect spouse / job in our 20s. Maybe it's true that my life is hopeless, but I sure didn't want to pay to read that!

So, overall, if you are straight and privileged, if your parents are subsidizing your poor career choices and you are young enough to self-correct according to Dr. Jay's recommendations, you will probably like this book and you will be able to feel pretty good / smug about yourself for a few years.

If that isn't you, this book offers very little.

tl;dr:: Wanted to like this, found a few useful things, but the narrow audience and condescension throughout detracted from the book so significantly that I am not sure I could recommend it to most people.
Profile Image for Debby.
5 reviews
June 27, 2013
I don't think this book would've resonated with me in my early 20's as it does now in my late 20's. In my early 20's I was absolutely a go-getter - got a job immediately out of college, was in a relationship with a man I thought I was going to marry and I thought babies would come in due time. I had a 5-year plan and was on the fast track towards all of that by age 30. I would've scoffed at this book, saying why would I need this type of advice when I have everything going for me?

Along the way, I got a couple new jobs which have opened up my eyes to the real world and got my heart broken for the first time, and thats when I began to drift and lose my way. I gave up timelines, thinking that they would get screwed up anyways and decided to just live in the now. Now at 28, I feel like I've just gotten my bearings again and I'm starting to re-focus and figure out what it is I want - and need - now that the thirtysomething years are creeping towards me.

What struck me was how much I could identify with all her mini case studies. As a fearless twentysomething, I always thought I had time to figure out things later. And later has now caught up with me and I find myself starting to feel anxious about the 3 topics she focuses on - Work, Love, Body. As I was reading the stories, I realized how much I didn't want to be a thirtysomething and fortysomething playing catch up from my twenties.

I have a lot to think about now that I've finished the book. But I'm excited, because I'm now looking forward to finishing off my twenties with a bang!
Profile Image for Gwen.
1,043 reviews33 followers
January 27, 2016
Disclaimer: I am a single urban-dwelling female in my mid-twenties, and those attributes have definitely shaped my opinion of this book. And when I saw Kay Hymowitz's glowing recommendation on the back of the book jacket, I knew that I was in for a frustrating read.

The very day I read this book, The Billfold had a blog posting critiquing Jay's work, and between the review of Mike Dang (The Billfold) and Goodreads reviewer 'M' (below), I don't have much to add to their comments.

Dang's review, in a nutshell:

"Basically, Dr. Jay doesn’t like it when young people say they’re just going to let life take them wherever it takes them. She wants them to think about what they want, and to start making decisions about how they’re going to get there.

Of course, we live in a time when it is very difficult for a lot of people to get a job. So, what about that, Dr. Jay?"

And the last part, I think, is the most crucial. Jay did her research before the recession really took hold, and I find it absolutely galling that she has the nerve to say that "twentysomethings who hide out in underemployment, especially those who are hiding out because of a lack of confidence, are not serving themselves," (160) as if underemployment is a GOAL of twentysomethings who would rather just have fun. And that underemployed twentysomethings are more likely to drink heavily. While I can imagine this is true for some, how does an underemployed twentysomething find the money to pay for their drinking?

Had Jay's research taken place in 2011 and 2012, I'd like to believe that her denigration of the underemployed would be tempered with the reality of just how hard it is to find a job in your twenties. Sure, we use her networking tips and advice to seek out 'weak ties' to find jobs, but sometimes, those just don't work, leading to underemployment. (Assuming, of course, that you're fortunate enough to not be considered overqualified for many jobs.)

She fails to incorporate the structural issues that underpin so much of the contemporary twentysomething experience: the expectation that you need to earn a graduate degree to even begin a career, leading to entering the work force at a later age; the resulting student debt that makes buying a house or starting a family almost impossible; the fact that there just aren't jobs out there, no matter how hard twentysomethings try; or if you're lucky enough to land a job (or two, just to make ends meet), you're usually working so hard that meeting people to marry (as if that's the ultimate goal in life) is incredibly difficult. When you're competing against people with significantly more experience who are willing to work for low wages, why should a company hire you? (Which feeds into Peter Cappelli's structural analysis of the job market and hiring patterns...) It's a terrible trap that twentysomethings are in, and Jay fails to recognize--or even give lipservice to--just how hard is it for a twentysomething to even get started these days. (And yes, I've read all the articles about generational differences, the struggles of previous generations, that the modern generation isn't special, etc. I understand the history, but that doesn't mean that twentysomethings of today do not have the right to speak on their frustrations at the current economic and social condition.)

And then the glorification of heterosexual coupledom, as if that is the ultimate goal for every twentysomething. We read the standard biological clock rhetoric, the fearmongering about fertility, the statistics about older parenting, feeding on the fear that you need to find someone NOW or else you'll be alone FOREVER. "Being single while you're young may be glorified in the press, but staying single across the twenties does not typically feel good. A study that tracked men and women from their early twenties to their later twenties found that of those who remained single--who dates or hooked up but avoided commitments--80 percent were dissatisfied with their dating lives and only 10 percent didn't wish they had a partner." (172) I'm sure Kay Hymowitz has something to say about that...

There's precious little in here (but for a few throwaway lines) about the options for gay/lesbian couples or for people who wish to remain childfree--those options are almost completely off Jay's research radar. And with her case studies of largely privileged twentysomethings, this book is certainly not universally applicable.

Jay attempts to rebut "the Tyranny of the Should" (46)--that we 'should' be in grad school, that we 'should' be taking exotic vacations (ha!), that we 'should' have a perfect life. She says that all of these are ridiculous...which, I'll admit, is true. But then she spends the rest of the book telling us how we should actually live our lives. Ironic. She replaces one kind of 'should' with another--her opinion--and this may not be the way we wish to live.

She does, however, provide a few pearls of wisdom that I found useful:

* "Twentysomethings who don't feel anxious or incompetent at work are usually overconfident or underemployed." (147)

* "Tough days [at work] were just winds blowing by and that work was not as personal as [the case study] imagined it to be." (154)

* "Our personalities change more during the twentysomething years than at any time before or after." (166) So very true.
Profile Image for o.
466 reviews
July 22, 2012
Technically I think my review is "spoilery", so I'd advise not reading it if you want to read the book without influence from my opinion. I do not consider myself an authority in anything, and this review is simply my incoherent rants about things that made me upset, for my own reference. It's also pretty long.


This book made me really, really, really fucking angry.

Don't get me wrong, I understand what Dr. Jay's purpose for writing this was: trying to empower twentysomethings and help them realize that the decisions they make now effect them for the rest of their lives. Not every aspect of this book was rage-inducing; in fact, I quite enjoyed the segment on Facebook, and how what young people present on the site is an amplified, superficial version of their actual lives. I also enjoyed some of the advice concerning work & careers - even in your twenties, if you have a specific profession you are aiming for, it is important to formulate goals and move forwards. While I don't especially agree with Jay's assertion about part-time jobs such as retail or barista work being detrimental on a resume (honestly, I think future employers would be much more accepting of a job at Starbucks than a year of unemployment), I CAN agree that getting part-time work related to your selected field (even if it is temping or freelance) helps with focus and develops your knowledge of said field. I can even see the usefulness in the networking advice she provides. The two stars attributed in my review are for these good portions of the book.

However... There were many aspects of The Defining Decade that rubbed me the wrong way and straight into disgust. Here are some of my biggest bones to pick:

1. Jay's "clients" that she uses as examples throughout the book are predictably selfish, stupid, and vapid to the point it almost seems TOO formulaic. Being 22, I am fully aware of how juvenile and present-orientated my age group can be, but it would be wrong to say that we all suffer from some stupid hangup, which this book seems to suggest: there aren't any examples provided without the intention of causing the reader to shake their head a la "What an idiot, they have no perception of how the world works." Yes, we are young. Yes, some of us make terrible choices. But I refuse to believe that everyone is as clueless as the clients in this book. Even though this book uses words like "likely", "usually", and "possibly", this book doesn't characterize twentysomethings in a good light whatsoever. I think it's a real shame.

2. Going along with that, the examples she uses all fit the same boring mold - these people are young, attractive, and have SO. MUCH. POTENTIAL iftheycouldonlyseetheerroroftheirways! D:


I'm sorry, but there are plenty of twentysomethings, and thirtysomethings and fortysomethings... out there who will always work at Starbucks, or fast food, or jobs that this book characteristics as "unfulfilling". Not everyone has huge goals, or... Wait... Wait for it... the resources, family situation, or talent to achieve huge goals. There are plenty of young people who want to be actresses/actors, and have been dreaming about it since they were children, and have no talent in acting. Or they can't afford to drop everything to move to Los Angeles and actively pursue that dream. The book brings up these examples of people who work in dead-end jobs because they want to. Uh, what. Let's get real. Not everyone is going to reach their full "potential". It's horrible, and I hate it, and if I personally could guarantee success for everyone in this world I would. And maybe, just maybe, people are working at Starbucks because they desperately need the money and there isn't anything else available, not because they're "hiding" from something.

I can understand why Jay chose these particular clients, because they are inspirational and help readers who are unsure where to start. But I found myself giggling and yawning every time I read: "I wish I could go to grad school but I've taken too much time off!" said the forlorn twenty five year old waiting tables instead of having a real job. But little did she know that within a year she'd be halfway through her program at Brown.


Oh, and did I mention that everyone in this book is straight (or at least implied to be)? She mentions gay couples in the fertility section briefly, but the relationship conflicts in this novel are exclusively heterosexual.

3. The fertility bit. Oh yes. That thing.

Like, maybe some people out there never made decisions about having children because they thought they'd never meet anyone. (Yes, this is an actual belief that people hold.) Wow, by the time they actually "married", it was too late to have children. Are they still at fault?

Or maybe, some people want to wait until they meet their spouse before they make the decision - some people are simply NOT parent material. You can love someone, and be aware that the person that you love wouldn't be the best parent. I don't think this is a stupid reason to delay making a decision on children.

(oh, by the way, Dr. Jay, I can't have children at all. I'm 22, and I have a nonexistent uterine lining, through no fault of my own. So I fail to see how your preaching can be applied to everyone, that we all need to "hurry up and make some babies!" There are countless women with PCOS and other diseases who can't have children at all, even if they'd like to. Age is NOT the only factor for infertility, and from reading this book, you'd think it was the main reason.)

4. The story about the client Danielle bothered me. From Dr. Jay's descriptions of her panicking and obsession with control, it seemed pretty obvious to me that Danielle may have some form of anxiety disorder. Especially when Danielle herself mentioned the same emotional upheaval and instability in regards to an old ex-boyfriend. People with anxiety disorder have... A medical disorder? I mean, if Danielle is expressing the same worrying and fears on two different aspects of her life, i think it might go a bit further than: "Danielle was a worrier, but learned to put down her roots." People with anxiety may require lifelong medication and therapy, because they simply interpret information differently. I don't think Danielle was choosing to worry - from the description, it sounded like her fears were invasive and obsessive. Those invasive thoughts will probably return again, several times over the course of a person's life. I don't think that combating anxiety, or other emotional disorders, is as easy as acquiring a new worldview. Brain chemistry can play a big part.

Tl;dr While this book is certainly well-intentioned, while reading I find several messages that are being sent to the twentysomething set are problematic, and in some cases, do not address the variety of factors that can influence the actions and thoughts people make and have.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,178 followers
April 13, 2021
At twenty men think that life will be over at thirty. I, at the age of fifty-eight, can no longer take that view.
—Bertrand Russell

I must begin this review by noting that, a few days ago, I made the monumentous transition from 29 to 30. Indeed, I decided to read this book as a way of commemorating my official departure from the happy fields of youth, to the wasted prairies of adulthood. My twenties are at an end—dead, buried, gone!—and I can already feel my body start to shrivel. So I wanted to check in with Dr. Jay as to whether my life is on course, or whether I am a lost cause.

The core message of this book is simple and, I think, unobjectionable. Jay pushes back against the common notion that one’s twenties are inconsequential—a time for shallow relationships and irrelevant jobs. On the contrary, she argues that our twenties are a crucial time of personal and professional growth, which sets the course for the rest of our adult lives. Her essential message, then, almost has an existentialist ring: We must choose our lives, in the full knowledge that our choices define who we are going to become. There is no such thing as a time without consequence.

Now, if the book stuck to this simple—and quite true—theme, then I would have no problem whatsoever with it. But the basic wisdom of this message is interwoven with the black thread of bourgeois morality. Far too often, Jay is not merely informing us to choose wisely, but is directing our choice towards conventional success—a white collar job, a heterosexual marriage, and children—that ultimately gives this book a stuffy, stogy, and reactionary ring. As a result, what could have been a liberating embrace of self-determination becomes, at times, a kind of parental lecture on the need to get one’s act together.

As a case in point, one of the final sections of this book concerns fertility—the biological limits on when a person can have a child. Now, this information is quite important to know, of course. Many people have overly-optimistic notions of when they can reliably conceive. However, it is clear that Jay basically takes it for granted that her reader is heterosexual and wants children. She even dwells on the sadness of grandparents hardly knowing their grandchildren, because of delayed child-rearing. But there is no discussion as to how a person can think through whether or not to have children, or advice for people who cannot. The message is simple: breed before it’s too late.

The book, then, seems to be aimed towards those who think that they can live their twenties as rebellious bohemians, while reliably making it to their thirties with well-paying jobs and traditional families. But how many people actually think like this? The examples Jay provides of her clients (admittedly altered, to protect identities) struck me as so exaggerated as to beggar belief. In Jay’s world, twenty-somethings are working as baristas and having one-night-stands, imagining that time alone will magically transform this lifestyle into a fancy career and a loving marriage. In my own experience, twenty-somethings are most often under-employed because they want to do something unusual or creative that the market does not richly recompense.

So if you are laboring under the assumption that prosperous, middle-class life magically falls out of the sky at a certain point, then I suppose this book can serve as a needed wake-up call. But if you are free of this delusion, Jay does not have much to offer, except for an additional turn of the screw of life anxiety, another echo of the haunting question: “Am I on the right track?”
Profile Image for Sarah.
76 reviews20 followers
August 6, 2014
Yuck, I will not be finishing this one. She comes across as very judgmental to both her clients and readers--I would hate to have her as my therapist! The biggest problem is she stacks everyone up against the same measures of success: a "good" job, finding a suitable spouse, and procreating. If you decide to have children in your thirties or even forties, you're apparently squandering your prime baby-making years in your twenties. She doesn't seem to factor in that maybe not everyone wants the typical American Dream life with a house and 2.5 kids that their parents had. Or maybe not everyone has the resources to achieve these things.

She also seems to think that all 20-somethings are making purposefully poor decisions about their lives. This book is for privileged 20-somethings who truly are wasting their time bumming around, not for 20-somethings who are actually out there at least trying to do something.
Profile Image for Hannah.
130 reviews16 followers
January 8, 2013
I like the overall message of the book: Your life, even at your twenties, means something, so make the best of it. I fully believe that people, no matter what their age should not waste away their life by partying all the time and practicing bad habits. Goofing off every now and then is perfectly fine, but making a career out of it is pointless unless you get paid for it and you find it fulfilling. Therefore, this review may be a bit biased.

With the basic message out of the way, I do think the audience is limited to people who have access to resources and opportunities, mainly the middle class and upper class. I think the same basic message is viable for all classes, but people of lower classes who don't have access to internships or college may have a harder time connecting with Jay's clients.

Jay backs up all her claims with psychological research that most college students learn in basic psych. While having Jay repeat the same information I've already learned is kinda boring, it is interesting to see how she applies the research. I've read a few reviews and comments on her articles and books, and basically, they complain that her book is too conservative and that she claiming causation instead or correlation. I don't think she's that conservative or confusing causation with correlation. She uses caution and subtle sentences in explaining the difference, but that's how I would expect every psychologist/psychiatrist to react. Her book centers on research and experience in her practice, not on ideology or politics. The major problems people have with her book are probably more due to a limited research/experience with those certain situations rather than her general principles.

By adding her clinical experiences, she means to illustrate the research and her ideas in real life, which works. However, some people may not realize that case studies are specific instances in which it works a certain way for one person. Things may go differently for someone else. That's why when reading her case studies of people, you have to be careful to understand the general idea and not concentrate too much on the details. I know that seems kind of backwards since a case study focuses on specific details and it's not valid to use generalizations from one case study to another, but for the sake of understanding her argument, I suggest you break that scientific rule and go with the flow. She's using the case studies as examples and not scientific proof.

I do think that Jay did a better job on the work issues of her book and that's the section I find more accessible than any other section. However, her other discussions of topics have validity, especially the fertility subject. Some people may not have kids, so they can breeze over the section if they wish, but I think she spends a lot of time talking about fertility is because it's something couples need to talk about: if they want kids, when they want them, possible fertility problems--I think it's important for every couple to talk about even if they don't want kids just in case birth control fails or an accident happens. I also fully agree with her on being in good relationships all the time and not staying with someone who's a deadbeat. Humans are creatures of habit and someone may get stuck in a bad cycle of relationships if he or she is not picky about whom he or she dates.

My only real issue with the book is that it's too future oriented. Yes, it's important to plan for upcoming events, but at the same time, if you're not enjoying your life now or you're so stressed about the future, you can't realize what's in front of you and something's not quite right. I wish Jay would've spent a bit more time talking about the past, present, and future, but she didn't really connect them too much. She sort of blames twentysomethings for being too present oriented, which is funny 'cause I'm twenty and think she's too future oriented to the point where she forgets to tell people to enjoy their current situations. I think her book would have a better tone if she said something along the lines of, "Hanging out is nice and it's important to treasure your friends, but don't forget you still have future goals to achieve. To achieve them, you need to make sure you're taking steps in that direction earlier in your life rather than later."

Another issue I have with this book is saying how bad off thirtysomething and fortysomething people are. They're not all bad off. We can learn from older people's mistakes, but I don't think they should be berated for choosing to do things later in life. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. However, by using poor decisions of older people, Jay is emphasizing her point that it's better to start planning when you're young, which I kind of agree with. She crosses a line sometimes when she speaks about her older clients. I know she's trying to point out how later decisions affected them, but at the same time, it comes close to almost wagging her finger at them when they've already suffered enough.

Sometimes, Jay's writing feels like a mother/aunt/teacher who can just give you a look and you know you're doing something wrong. I don't necessarily feel like it's condescending, but it does make me wonder and ask questions about my life. Based on other psychology books I've read, I know her advice is relative based on the situation, but it's strong advice. If you get anything out of the book, I think it should be this: Your life matters, so make the most of it by taking deliberate actions earlier than later, especially in the direction that you may want to go in. Decisions need to be made because they do impact your future. If you just let life happen to you, it may not be all that fun.

Her advice seems to go against what most people say nowadays, such as, "You have time for that later," "Marriage and babies are for older people," "You're only 23. You don't need a serious relationship or career," and so on. However, I really do believe that we need to put aside these sayings that give "freedom" to twentysomethings and instead use Jay's advice and give them "responsibility for their lives." I want responsibility, so I'm shrugging off anyone who tells me I have time to wait. I'm taking time by the horns and taking action in the direction I want.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews525 followers
November 23, 2013
Make your popcorn, kids, and gather round: I read a self-help book.

Sooo….never read one of these before, and I always assumed that the audience of self-help books was composed largely of people who don't actually have what I think of as "problems." And by that I mean self-help books are for people dealing with something that can be dealt with, as opposed to something that can't. The difference between 'I need to learn to be more assertive' and 'my retina tore in half and it's inoperable' (true story). Because my assumption has always been that dealing with things that can be dealt with is a skill that results from all the shit you learn from the things that can't be dealt with.

This book did nothing to change my mind, since it assumes the reader doesn't have problems as I conceive of them, but instead is struggling with all that making way in the world stuff. You know – money, a vocation, love. And the idea is to, like, talk people through adulting. Does this actually work on anybody? Because I'm assuming it's a largely useless endeavor, since all of my learning has been of the other variety. The 'boy hospitals are quiet at 4 a.m.' variety, or the 'twiddly-doo, wish my STD tests would come back' variety (…true stories). So I find it difficult to imagine that reading a book that tells you in vague terms how some anonymized case studies handled finding a career would actually help anybody. But hey, maybe I'm wrong. I've learned a shit ton from books in my life; it's just all of those books were fiction, and somehow that works so much better for me.

Either way, this wasn't the book for me. Its cookie-cutter notions of what straight, able-bodied, self-doubting life looks like have very little to do with how my twenties went. I mean, my twenties were, in retrospect, fucking insane. I crammed a massive amount of stuff into one decade, and had yet more crammed in on me.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but actually, you know what? I rocked it. I rolled that decade like a motherfucking cigarette and smoked it. I got a couple degrees and was poor and was rich and fucked a bunch of people and read amazing books and found my person and said "it's cancer, okay, coping initiated" and wrote a million words of crap and a few words of not crap and lost my eye and lost my mind and clawed it back and earned my way into an amazing one-in-a-million job and sang every day and walked away from my parents and learned and learned and learned.

And I screwed stuff up. All the time. But this book seems entirely irrelevant to that. Or to anything else I'm carrying right now. What can it possibly tell me about yesterday's negative pregnancy test that I don't already know?

Though I guess it did crystalize for me that I have done okay. And never having been asked to take stock like that before, I suppose that's nice.

But really. Does this stuff actually help anybody?
Profile Image for Kristin.
270 reviews11 followers
November 8, 2013
Well, if you want to suffer from panic attacks and depression, then by all means, READ THIS BOOK! I liked the first couple chapters of this book that talked about the working world and how it's really important to network and not be a loser jumping from one lame-o job to the next. She had a good message stating that these are the years in which we need to begin creating a stable career identity in order to move forward and/or up in the future. GOOD STUFF. The rest of the book...NOT GOOD STUFF.

I am a mid-twentysomething who has worked at the same company for 7 years, first as a part-time assistant and then moved into a full-time position almost 4 years ago. I have the benefits that come with a full-time job. What I don't have is a relationship. This book made me feel horrible because it felt like she was saying "Well...you better get crackin' on finding that guy and the family you want to pick before you get too old! And you better start before your personality turns to crap! Because if you're over 30, your eggs start to morph into these crazy alien things and you will then have a hard time getting pregnant and/or have mangled babies! Who cares that you have this stellar career that you are extremely passionate about and put 4 years of grad school into it? If you're not in a relationship that is on its way to married town, you suck at life!"

Okay, that last part may be a bit extreme. As a graduate student in a counseling psychology program, Jay, as a clinical psychologist, made me feel like crap. As if I don't already feel the pressure from family and society to get a boyfriend, this book just added to it. I have to say that by the end, I was extremely disappointed in it. I understand the points she is making. It does become harder to establish relationships and have children as you get older. NOW is the time to begin investing in your future life. I get that. I am on my way to that. I think that is a great message that many twentysomethings need. I just feel like the rest of the ideas she touches on sounded condescending and made me feel like I am not where I am supposed to be. It made me feel like "Oh, crap. Have I wasted the last seven years because I haven't worked on perfecting my personality? And as I approach my late twenties, the time I have to cement that personality is slipping away?" I just feel more pressured than before reading this and I don't like it.

READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION! Many people say they enjoy this book. Am I the only one who felt panic?
Profile Image for Scott Shepard.
280 reviews8 followers
January 7, 2013
I found this book very helpful. I think anyone in their twenties who don't know what they should do with their life should read this book.

Dr. Jay does not say that young people in their twenties who don't have a steady job are doing it wrong, or that thinking about a career or love later in life is a bad thing. She merely states (accurately) that all our actions have consequences and if you want a career and children in your thirties that you should start thinking and planning those things in your twenties. She says that your years post-graduation matter and that the executives and experienced professionals in the workplace got there by having years of work behind them. You don't turn thirty and become an experienced professional by magic, it takes work.

She also offers solid concrete wisdom on dating, marriage, finding a job, health, hobbies, and the rest. I found her approach not off-putting but motivating. Overall a very useful book.
Profile Image for Alan.
419 reviews181 followers
March 19, 2021
Tricky to review this one. On the one hand, I believe that you’re getting a comprehensive set of ideas (I cannot stress this enough) to get you started for further research in the field. They are merely primers. They cannot stand on their own as advice. But if you have never come across a first or second year psychology textbook before, learning about Phineas Gage and the cohabitation effect and weak social ties can be interesting. On the other hand, the general population (and certainly the intended audience of this book) will pick it up to get advice. I personally disagree with this sentiment. I do not believe that anyone can (or should) give prescriptive advice, but rather should strive to work out a topic with another individual, hoping that they come to their own best-fitting solution. However, I digress. The “twentysomethings” that Dr. Jay refers to in this book will be picking it up to find out the following:

- How do I find out what I am “meant to do” in my life?
- How do I reconcile the fact that I feel listless with the fact that I am meant to be living it up in my twenties?
- How do I know if she/he is the one?
- How do I know if I should be trying for kids?

As other reviews have pointed this out, the overwhelming assumption is that the average reader wants to get to age 30 with a decent office job, a mortgage, and 2-3 kids. On this assumption is built a series of concepts that start the job. If you are reading this as a guide, you may be disappointed. My “advice” (despite what I just said, I know) is to continue the conversation with yourself. Constantly question your assumptions, seek professional advice, and broaden your horizon in terms of professional and personal development literature. Also, make sure to toss in readings on exercise, diet, finance, taxes, communication, contextualization, and a smattering of philosophy/psychology. All the best.
7 reviews2 followers
May 12, 2021
Ok, I’m ready for a review. To put it bluntly, I think this book encapsulates what it means to be so uncritical as to not only tolerate but actually serve white supremacy culture.

I tried reading for tidbits of nice ideas, some of which I found in the pages, but overwhelmingly I found this book to be more problematic than illuminating.

While purporting to be a universal guide for twentysomethings, the premises of each example are built on traditionally white, straight, cis, upperclass conceptions of success and the uncritical recommendations serve to uphold these structures.

For example, her charge to devalue “strong ties” (because you are likely exposed to all the same ideas and experiences as those you’re closest to) in place of valuing “weak ties” (because they grant you access to growth and opportunity) demonstrates a deep blind spot in her understanding of class stratification in America today. Only those who are proximate to powerful or well connected “weak ties” might benefit from leveraging them, and to suggest that “close ties” are only valuable for emotional support misses the extent to which minority communities find safety and survival inside community.

The example she brings demonstrates the non-universality of this tip perfectly: sure, for the former frat brother who finds himself lost, pent up with his buddies wasting time, all he needs is to leverage his father’s friend to land a position at a startup he knowingly is unqualified for, which sets him up for his next step as a CIO somewhere else—but for anyone without access to powerful “weak ties,” tough luck. Just how many elite private institutions in large part serve to educate and connect the next generation of well-to-dos to other elites (think massive recruiting for consulting and IB at Ivy League schools), constantly leveraging powerful “weak ties” keeps power among the already powerful, which in our context are those that the cis, heteronormative, white supremacist culture works for.

I also found her arguments surrounding low-wage-paying jobs to be unsavory and judgment laden. They fall flat in their lack of understanding that most people who work in the service industry are not doing such out of wanting to “pretend [they] aren’t working” or out of “lostness”, as she explicitly suggests, but as one of the few means of making ends meet. Recommendations to always take jobs that appear more interesting and story worthy (what she calls “identity capital”) on a resume regardless of pay instead of settling for “underemployment” is only accessible to those with secure family safety nets. She quotes research that says folks who are “underemployed” suffer from depression, lack of motivation, and heavy drinking—do you think this comes about simply from the decision to be “underemployed” or is it due to the challenging circumstances around ones life that forces someone into “underemployment”? She puts the blame on the individual in a way that misses the broader circumstance completely.

Her views on relationships I found interesting yet flawed as well. It might be the case that right now if you ask a handful of couples, most will suggest more “successful” marriages occur between people from the same socioeconomic background, as she quotes. But the research is being done in the same population that upholds and maintains white supremacy culture—Americans. In other words, just because marriages between people from the same socio-economic background has been easier in the past does not mean we should continue recommending them in the future because that is a part of what maintains socio-economic stratification. Also, she acknowledges that between generations the divorce rate remain at 40% but instead of taking this to what I expect is the final conclusion that perhaps it’s the institution of marriage itself that is flawed, she settles with recommendations of certain psychological nudges one way or another. Another example of trying to come up with bandaid solutions while missing the root causes of issues.

Perhaps I would be less cynical if she included an acknowledgement that this book was written to help the upper-class figure out their lives. But her lack of diversity in examples and language, and uncritical recommendations demonstrate to me a fundamental lack of understanding of the underpinnings of American society. This is the opposite of a root-cause analysis.

Sure, this book might help “lost” or “underemployed” well-to-do upperclass white people, but more important is that in the ways this book misses whole swaths of society, it ultimately serves to maintain white supremacy culture instead of critically examining why these things exist and pushing for what is right.
Profile Image for Kimly Nguyen.
2 reviews23 followers
June 4, 2013
It was as if I had my own personal psychotherapist in the comforts of my own room, spoon-feeding me the ugly truth and guiding me towards my desired pathway of success and happiness....minus the outrageous charges.

At the prime of my 20s, this book was just what I needed. As a 20 year old young lady who is in the midst of figuring out what the hell I should really do with my life, why my romantic relationships have been debilitating, and what kind of academic and career choices I should carry out, I bought this on impulse to see if I could reek some beneficial advice from it. Within two days, I finished it...and the pages are now filled with high-lighted marks and post-its on each chapter.

Meg jay did a phenomenal job at picking apart the so-called millennials, in which we are labeled as the "lost ones/baby adults/forever adolescents" from the previous generations, and she clearly identified the manifested insecurities that hinders us from our personal growth. It wasn't another "self-help" book that repetitively drones on about the same crap we've been knowing and neither did it have pretentious diction that seemed to talk down to twenty-somethings; Meg was savvy enough to incorporate her own patient's relateble experiences and delves into them in an almost scientific way with thorough research, data, statistics, and of course...a bit of her own witty two-cents. There wasn't one chapter where I didn't catch myself nodding my head along with what she elaborated on...I mean...I could relate.

It was an honest and articulate read...that I will continue to re-read for many years to come.

I highly recommend it for any young, struggling twenty-something who views their future as murky waters and needs a bit of fire under their ass. After reading this book, it'll motivate you to get that potato bum off the sofa, brush up on your resume, pursue your passion, put 10,000 hours into your craft to truly become a master of it...and, most importantly, to not laze around...under the false premise...that we're forever young,wild and free...because time's a ticking...and our 20s is THE defining decade of our lifetime.
Profile Image for Siena Mirabella.
61 reviews6,684 followers
February 20, 2023
4.5! I absolutely loved this book and found it so helpful. It was the perfect first non-fiction to start the year with.
Profile Image for Ava.
14 reviews30k followers
February 5, 2021
As someone who has just entered their twenties, I found this book quite interesting to see the different struggles that (apparently most) people go through in their twenties. The author provides a lot of real life examples that she experienced through her patient's therapy sessions. I found that throughout the book, the big message was "your 20s are not extended adolescence.. get going." I think some may find themselves becoming stressed after reading this.. like it will make you feel as if you're not doing enough or your timeline is narrow. Certainly, there are some great core concepts touched on this book, the three categories being work, love, and body and mind. I would possibly read this again maybe in my mid-twenties just because I found a lot of the topics covered don't apply to me yet.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
52 reviews
May 26, 2012
First off, I expected to hate The Defining Decade. Which does beg the question as to why I was reading it, but never mind that. I feared that the book would read like one giant "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG" to me, a single, 28-year-old law clerk living at home while I continue the search for a more permanent position. I suspect Dr. Jay would tell me that I am doing a few things "wrong," at least in the sense of not furthering my goals, but I also learned I have probably done at least a few things right. Most importantly, the book offers some guidance as to how to set things right, and it didn't make me feel like I'd run out of time to make changes simply because I'm approaching 30.

The book is a quick, easy read. I could relate to many of the twentysomethings Dr. Jay profiled in her book, and the blend of anecdotal evidence with social science research appealed to me as a reader. I don't know that there's any particular reason to read this book if you're totally satisfied with your life, and I probably wouldn't recommend it if you've determined that a more conventional lifestyle (career, marriage, kids, house) is not for you because I doubt that the book would have very much to offer you. If, however, you're feeling adrift and looking for some advice, this book is an honest and insightful place to start.
Profile Image for WhatIReallyRead.
685 reviews494 followers
December 10, 2018
I loved this book! I think I highlighted more than a half of it :D

The Defining Decade definitely struck a chord with me - it touched upon many issues I'm facing or faced quite recently, so a lot of times I was emotional and couldn't read more than a couple chapters at a time.

It's written in an engaging way - showing struggles and dilemmas through people's stories.
The author also cites her sources, books and research, which is something I value and admire.

Most of all I loved that it didn't contain the typical self-helpey sugar-coated bullshit like "follow your dreams" and instead addresses how to deal with a real issue of not having any dreams to pursue or the struggle of trying and finding out that your dream doesn't look as glamorous as you thought.
Profile Image for Meghan.
32 reviews1 follower
August 21, 2020
DNF - for a few key reasons.

1. I don’t believe we should put so much pressure on one decade of our life. Sure building a strong foundation in life is important, but focusing too much on your 20’s could cause you to feel stressed out most of the time because you’re not making this the best decade of your life. Also who knows what life will bring and what moments will be the most defining?

2. The author has a lot of valuable experience and testimonies; however, not everyone has the same privilege and opportunities. It’s a privilege to go to college. It’s a privilege to go to the therapy. The author references networking and taking advantage of social capital, but this automatically puts a divide between people who have capital and those who do not. We live in a world full of injustice and inequality, and there are undoubtedly people in their 20’s who don’t have the “right connections” and would be viewed as wasting their 20’s or achieving success.

3. Success looks incredibly different for different people. It should not be defined by your relationship status, size of your family, level of education, or career choice. People find success in life through doing what brings them joy and creating a life they are proud of. There is no cookie cutter definition.

As someone currently living in the middle of my “defining decade” and in the middle of a period of unemployment, I find this book to be unhelpful and a bit stressful. I hope this book serves some people well, but I also hope that no one feels bad about their choices or life plan because of one woman’s experience (PhD or not).
Profile Image for Kaiti Yoo.
41 reviews1,390 followers
January 7, 2023
I am glad I read this book as it is a nice wake-up call that we don’t have all the time in the world to live out our goals. We need to work on them now. And just as prepping for college is regimented and smart, we must now take charge to make sure kids, marriage, career are also well prepared for for the most optimal and happy outcomes. Why should the system suddenly fall away? In this way, it was an eye-opener.

Her mindset is a little restrictive and outdated, it was written almost 10 years ago so makes sense. But it is brutally realistic, and I guess sometimes that is also a hard pill to swallow.

The sections about fertility, marriage, being healthy enough for your kids were the biggest “oh, i never thought about that” reminders. I did enjoy that jolt.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tim Harrison.
31 reviews1 follower
May 12, 2013
Some interesting thoughts w/r/t relationships and shaping your personality as your frontal lobe finishes development, but fails to take into account the current employment atmosphere for the work section. It looks like much of her research and most of the examples given were prior to the recession, when it was possible for her to talk with her clients with such ease about "getting the apprenticeship in DC" or one of the other incredibly difficult suggestions she gives for avoiding "hiding" in unemployment.

No one I know is "HIDING" in unemployment or underemployment. My friends going through this are constantly searching out better opportunities, but are unable to find them. In my own case, I'm in a great job now purely because of sheer, 100% luck.

When I graduated from college, I moved to the bay with my partner to be closer to her parents, and for a change of pace from the place we went to school. It was a tough job market (and still is) but was dramatically better than where we were coming from. I struggled for months trying to find any kind of work. I was turned down from interesting jobs because I didn't have the experience, and turned down from crappy jobs because I was overqualified. My unemployment was mercifully brief, but left a serious impact on me. I will do ANYTHING to avoid being unemployed again.

Out of the blue I got a call from a recruiter who got me a contract at a major tech company and put me on the path I am on now. He happened to see my resume on Monster, and that was that. This was after weeks and months of working my "weak ties" as Dr. Jay advocates in her book, scanning craigslist/monster/whatever daily to find the freshest postings, and wondering around town looking for help wanted signs without success.

This books desperately needs to be reappraised in light of the current economic conditions facing "twentysomethings." The unemployment rate (to say nothing of underemployment) for those 20-24 is 13%, versus 7% for everyone over 20. Jay makes it seem far too easy to find the kind of jobs that build up the "identity capital" she indicates (rightfully) as being important to future prospects, and sections about what to do when you can't just call on a contact to get you a job, or magically find your way into a dream job would make this book more applicable and relevant to those who are coming to this book to look for guidance.
Profile Image for James Scholz.
52 reviews2,025 followers
February 28, 2022
As a twentysomething who hasn’t had counseling, this book didn’t feel demeaning (a common criticism of the book). rather, it felt like a well informed guide to raise important questions that people my age typically forego asking themselves. the writing style and anecdotes the author uses are approachable and relatable. at times her advice felt infeasible for lower income twentysomethings. I still overall enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading Meg Jay’s other stuff
Profile Image for Nick.
690 reviews183 followers
July 21, 2016
I read this one at the behest of my parents mind you. My dad won it from a radio station under mysterious circumstances. HA! Its really short though so no biggie…

The book forwarded a surprisingly intelligent view given my low expectations. It constitutes a defense and justification for living a relatively focused, disciplined, and "conservative" life during your 20s rather than treating them like throw away years in which underemployment and meaningless relationships should be pursued. Instead, establishing yourself on a fulfilling career track as efficiently as possible, and scouting for prospective marriage partners should be on your brain. The idea is that being active and focused in these regards during your 20s both makes you happier in the present, and sets you up for a happier and more autonomous 30s-40s-90s. Its pretty obvious. So obvious in fact that I don't understand why or if anyone truly thinks differently. It is odd though, I do know a lot of people who behave similarly to the ones she describes. Aka highly unmotivated people who aren't going to school, pursuing jobs, pursuing independent creative pursuits which can go on resumes, or doing anything much at all, and somehow think its all going to work out in the long run. Then again I also know a lot of people in the opposite camp as well so who knows how big of a problem this actually is, eh?

There are problems with the book. Mainly the genre. Didn't feel like a real psychology book, probably because its also in that kind of self help genre which inevitably seems seems trite and preachy after a while. The romance chapter was true, but less intuitively obvious so that was a plus. However, I do think she overstates the importance of marrying early. The main reason she cites for this is so that you have a better chance of having a baby. But having a baby which is biologically related to me seems of very little importance to my overall happiness in life, and is certainly not worth sacrificing money, career advancement, or leisure time to achieve.

Basically this is the book you throw this book at prostrate 26 year old stoners while shouting "GET A JOB, YA DAMN BUM".
Profile Image for Cristal.
7 reviews
September 6, 2013
While this book definitely caters to a certain, privileged demographic (trustafarians or trust fund babies; college-educated twentysomethings who have the means to seek therapy about not having a decent job, relationship, etc.) I found it to be useful in that it inspired me to take myself seriously and think about the bigger life plan. For me, it was an immediate catalyst to get my apartment in order and check things off my to do list that have been sitting there for a long time. It made me realize how important it is for me to not just get by, but to thrive and live with more intention.

I appreciate Dr. Jay's credentials as a clinical psychologist, but this book doesn't quite speak to twentysomethings who, for whatever reason, have not gone through higher education. It also fails to consider the macro level issues (i.e. the recession) twentysomethings face. I know from experience that it is seriously hard to find employment for post graduates. So instead we find ourselves unemployed or underemployed because we have to survive.

I spoke to a friend about Dr. Jay work and I have to agree with her critique that the views in the book come from a westernized, privileged (white) perspective. She presents her findings in a very black and white way. Some people don't have any other choice, but to be underemployed. Maybe for some people it's exhausting to focus on our careers, leaving little room for dating. There are people out there who still live with their parents out of necessity, or who choose to because they want to pay it forward and support the people who supported them all their life. I didn't identify with any of the clients' stories. Frankly, most of them annoyed me.

Overall, I would still recommend reading it because there are some sobering facts she recounts. The mind/body section was especially interesting to read through. It's also a pretty quick read and you may be a better person in the long run for it. It was a game changer for me.
Profile Image for Silpa Soni.
74 reviews4 followers
December 29, 2020
I would definitely recommend my 20 something friends this book. This book makes you realise you are not alone in all the anxiety and uninformed decisions we seem to make. The lesson that stuck with me was - Your future relationships and career need commitment. There's a reason why it's commitment and not guarantee. None of us can guarantee that there's just one path you can take to succeed in your life. You can't think your way through life. Pick your best option now and work your way through.

"Hope is good for breakfast, but not for supper"

"Not making choices right now, is a choice in itself"

"30s is not the new 20s"
Profile Image for Sam.
19 reviews2 followers
November 8, 2013
This book was so bad, I made notes.
The writer's tone wavered so hard from trying to be 'your pal' to Hal9000- making it almost impossible to read ( this may be no shock as it is the author's profession to seem helpful but actually be distant).

I tried to read this with an open mind, in an attempt to try and capitalise on my relative youth before ageing and it being too fucking late. The stories included within are trite, unbearable- and , although I don't doubt her credibility as an academic ( as this was published )- some were actually unbelievable.

All in all the "lessons" this book has subscribed to don't really apply to anywhere, I wanted to just say they don't apply to a British reader, but that would be too naive - they do not apply to people of my generation as they simply don't help. The Americanised narrative, summed up a pretty basic, almost pastoral bleary eyed average joe american who wants a picket fence house and a few kids, in no way helped me.

This book, basically, is bullshit.
Profile Image for Angélica.
211 reviews77 followers
December 31, 2020
4.5 stars

Exactly what I needed to read while I'm in my post-grad ~feelings~. Definitely recommend if you're feeling lost or uncertain about what you're doing with your 20s. Note that the author centers a "traditional/western" path of going into higher education, developing a career, having children, etc. There's still a lot of great general advice, it just has to be taken with a grain of salt. I listened to the audiobook but plan to soon pick up a physical copy to refer back to.
Profile Image for Nicole.
506 reviews38 followers
February 21, 2020

I’ve had a terrible track record with therapists. Having been to about six different ones, I’ve come to distrust them. The last one I had seemed to be working out. She gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get my life back on track back in 2010-2011. She helped me find the courage to move to London. When I returned from London, I kept seeing her so we could deal with the inevitable depression of being back home. During our sessions, I found her to be impatient with me at times, and at others, I felt she wasn’t genuinely interested in what I had to say. Still, I kept going until I found out she discussed my sessions with one of my friends who was also seeing her. After that, I stopped going to her for good.

Because I live in a small country and everyone knows everyone, I get incredibly anxious just thinking about finding a new therapist. I became just as anxious when I started reading this book. The future scares the crap out of me. Planning scares me even more because it feels like I am setting myself up for disappointment. Yes, I can be quite the ray of sunshine.

Considering I am going through the longest quarter-life (nearly 30’s) crisis ever, I decided to read this book. It was therapy at my fingertips and my pace.

Jay is good at stating the facts and accompanying them with anecdotes of her patients. Most of the time, I found her no-nonsense attitude very refreshing. I enjoyed the chapter on work and the concept of identity capital. I also enjoyed the chapter on love how one must date thinking about the future, not thinking about hookups. The twenties are a supremely important decade that shouldn’t be considered inconsequential. Necessary experiences happen, plus your brain has one last bout of development at this crucial age.

Other times, like when I reached the fertility chapter, I felt Jay become extremely judgmental and one dimensional. It brought back memories of that gossipy therapist. It seems to me Jay doesn’t even contemplate that a life without children could be fulfilling or that not everyone is straight. While she says that most twenty something’s want children (52% of them according to a Pew Survey), there’s a good percentage (I count myself in that percentage) that don’t feel that inclination.

If I could distill this book into the work portion, perhaps even broaden it a bit, it would be an excellent book. Sadly, because of its narrow view after the halfway portion, I can't give it a higher score.
104 reviews101 followers
April 18, 2015
Meh. I enjoyed Meg Jay's original NYT op-ed on cohabitation and put this on my reading list, though putting it off to when I thought it would be more applicable and ended up coming away pretty disappointed,

This is a book in 3 parts – on work, love, and "the brain and the body". The career advice is mostly shallow and limited. While it's a good kick in the ass, it left a lot of the why unanswered. I think Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love is a far better book on navigating your career. I thought the section on navigating love was pretty good (despite being shockingly presumptuous and heteronormative). As a cognitive science student, the "brain" explanations in the last section were yawn-worthy to the level of condescension. I learned some useful things about women and fertility though.

It probably could have been a 10k word blog post, but here's a quick tl;dr: Lots of twentysomethings have identity crises and it's totally normal. Think about the "identity capital" you have and don't underestimate yourself (or put yourself in positions where you won't accumulate any). Your weak ties are way more important than your close friends because they're probably all similar to you [interjection: anecdotally, it seems like doubling down on your successful smart close friends isn't a bad idea at all]. Pay attention to your "unthought thoughts" (things you know about yourself but somehow forget). Remember – you can pick your family when you're older! You have more freedom with marriage now than ever. Cohabitation before marriage is actually pretty bad and the reasons for this are baffling (religion, education, politics, etc. don't account for it). The twentysomething brain is still kinda plastic but you'll never have quite the edge you do now. Use your neurons! Have some goals! Hit them! Goals are good and will make your more focused and happy. Also, pay attention to your age if you want to have kids because that gets way harder as time goes on.

Save yourself the time spent reading the book and buy my mother a cup of coffee. She'll explain all of it more lucidly. :)
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