Book Review: The Defining Decade

There are fewer things as of late that make me happier than chilling in my bed with a book and reading right before I go to sleep. As I mentioned in  a previous post, one of my goals this year was to read one book a month, every month. While I can’t say I’ve managed to do that…I am pretty close to having read 7 books so far this year. I decided instead of just reading these books, taking notes, and going on the next book, I wanted to start sharing the books I really liked with my readers by starting a new series dedicated to reviewing books I’ve read. My main focus will be books I believe twenty-somethings should read. That being said, it is more than fitting my first book review is on one of my favorite reads this year “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter—and how to make the most of them now” by Meg Jay, PhD.

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The thing I enjoyed about this book was how much applicable advice it has for twentysomethings going through the post-grad struggle. From finding a job, to relationships and marriage, and even family planning, this book touches on topics that many of us like to put off as some abstract thing in the distant future when really…the future will be here before we even have time to blink. Okay, I’m being dramatic but that’s only because the author does such a great job of making the reader come to the realization that future is not as far off as we believe (or try to convince ourselves) it to be. Now is the time for us to not get caught up in going with the flow but to  actually make plans and lay the foundation for the rest of our lives while we have the least amount of strings (read: life partners, spouses, children) attached, according to Jay. She is a therapist and discusses her various twentysomething year old clients, their struggles, and solutions to the common twentysomething year old’s problems. I like this book because for once, there is a book talking to twentysomethings instead of about us. In this review I will share my three favorite quotes, two criticisms, and one overall review of the book and who I think should read the book.

1. “Shoulds can masquerade as high standards or lofty goals, but they are not the same. Goals direct us from the inside, but shoulds are paralyzing judgments from the outside. Goals feel like authentic dreams while shoulds feel like oppressive obligations.” pg. 47

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I particularly enjoy this quote because in the social media age everyone is guilty of comparing ourselves to our peers based on what they are uploading on their profiles, the new job they just got, their engagement announcement, etc. However, as Jay reminds us, thinking we should have these things based on what we see on social media (in the book she is actually talking about Facebook but I think it can apply to all social media we use) is detrimental to our well-being. I really enjoyed the chapter this quote is from.

2. “More and more twentysomethings are careful not to rush into marriage at a young age, yet many do not know what else to consider.” pg. 73

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When talking about twentysomethings and relationships (or meaningless hookups) Jay holds no punches. She gets really real about random hookups, cohabitation (living with a partner before being married), and actual marriage. I enjoyed this section because even now I am still guilty of putting off marriage in hopes that it will make for a better marriage but that is not realistic. The chapter on love was a good gut check for me and I’m sure it will be for any twentysomething “living in the moment” when it comes to love and relationships. It also offers suggestions of traits/values that partners should have similarities on before deciding to take the next step, and other stats (which she provides citations for) in regards to loving together before marriage, a list of other things that come up in relationships.

3. “Most twentysomethings can’t write the last sentence of their lives, but when pressed, they usually can identify things they want in their thirties or forties or sixties—or things they don’t want—and work backwards from there.” pg 198 (last page before the epilogue)

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I think this was a great quote to end on before the epilogue. Many times the idea of the future can be daunting and overwhelming. However, the beautiful things about our twenties is that we can get really honest with ourselves and decide what it is we truly want our lives to look like and make the changes/take the steps towards doing those things and stop our behaviors that are getting in the way of that. We may not know what our twenties have in store but with some deep reflection and introspection I’m sure we can decide what we at least want our lives to look like when it’s all said and done and Jay reminds us of that.

Criticisms of the book:

Although I honestly love this book very much and it has been one of my favorite reads of 2018, that’s not to say the book doesn’t have some flaws. I will be discussing two of them.

1. This book is aimed towards a very specific type of twentysomething: non-married college grads with no kids.

While non-college grads twentysomethings who may or may not have kids could probably take the meat of what is written in Jay’s novel, the novel does work around the fact that our twenties are the best time for us to do x, y, and z because we don’t have children (yet) or aren’t married (yet) and thus doing certain things to advance our careers and lives, etc are easier. I don’t think much of the advice would be as relatable to me if I wasn’t a college grad or at least in college right now. However, the overall theme of the book would be: the twenties set the foundation for the rest of your life. Because let’s face it, they do.

2. This book assumes that every twentysomething wants a (heteronormative) monogamous relationship with children to come soon after marriage.

The times are changing and I know many people, especially women who don’t want children, ever. Even for those who may struggle with fertility, the section on getting older and fertility doesn’t even suggest adoption or anything of the sort, only being mindful of not putting off having children when you are too old. Either way, there is a specific lifestyle in mind when Jay is writing which I think is fine, people should stick to lakes and rivers they’re used to but for those who may not adhere to these things, especially the desire to have children, a good section of the book might be useless. That’s not to say the rest of the book is useless. I’m sure all twentysomethings can find a piece of advice in this book that is relatable, but a only a certain type of twentysomething will be able to relate to all of it.

Overall Rating: 8.5

I really enjoyed this book but as I have mentioned, I very much fall into the intended audience demographic. For those who find themselves in the post-grad struggle, unsure about their current non-career related job, love and relationships, and exactly when they should entertain the idea of children this book is a MUST READ! I do think ALL twentysomethings could stand to read it and learn a thing or two that relates to the uncertainty that comes with our twenties and “making the best” out of them.

Do you think you will be giving “The Defining Decade” a read? What do you think is a good book for twentysomethings to read? Let me know in the comments!

5 Things I Learned From Traveling to the Dominican Republic (Punta Cana)

Hey everybody! I know it’s been a while since the last time I posted on here but life has been throwing me some twists and turns, that’s for sure. I feel like I’m at a place in life where as soon as I get used to a routine, something shifts and I have to adjust to a NEW routine. I’m a big routine person so this has made keeping my intended posting schedule a little difficult. However, now that I’ve explained myself…I will get to the point of why you sat down to read, my trip to the DR. Now just some background information, I haven’t traveled outside of the US (excluding a handful of drunken nights in Tijuana during my undergrad years) since I was 18 and I went on a Eurotrip. When we landed in Punta Cana it was probably 9:30pm and by the time we got our luggage and went through customs, it was 10:30ish. That being said, we couldn’t really see outside of the van that picked us up to go to our resort because it was late and dark. There were only a few times we left the resort so this will not be some blog post on the all the cultural richness the DR has to offer because I unfortunately did not get to see that (this time). With all of that out of the way, I will be sharing 5 things I learned from traveling to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

1. How Important it is to Know More Than One Language

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely could have gotten along fine at the resort without speaking Spanish but watching how comfortable people got around my sorority sister Lizeth when she spoke to them in their language made me wish I had actually practiced SPEAKING the five-ish years I studied Spanish in high school and in college. I’m just all about communicating with people and I think I would have probably enjoyed my trip a little more if I was able to speak more than one or two sentences. I think this applies to anywhere I want to travel in the future as well. I want to be able to communicate with the locals and really at least have a little bit of conversation with them. I actually could pass for Afro-Latina (specifically Dominican) if I spoke Spanish. When I got to the DR and I spoke the little bit of Spanish I did know, many of the locals thought I was Dominican as well. One of the guys selling rum and mamajuana said I looked like his sister. Honestly I have never heard anything like this except one time when I went to New York and lost my ID and had to report it to the police station (don’t ask).

2. Dancing is an Universal Language

Regardless of what language you speak, we can all be connected through dancing. There are many things I’m not good at but dancing is not one of them. I’ve always loved to dance ever since I was a child and even took jazz, ballet, and hip-hop when I was wayyy younger. The thing I loved about the Dominican Republic is my knowledge on how to dance to various Latin and Caribbean genres really made me feel like I had something in common with people from a different country than me. When the music came on and the entertainment team (locals who performed in the dance shows at night, pool parties, and whatever else at the resort) saw Lizeth and me dancing, they gravitated towards us and even complimented us on our dancing. It was fun to just dance with them. Even if you don’t speak a language, learning dances from other cultures and countries is another great way to feel comfortable and share commonality with people no matter what country you find yourself in. Also, most other countries play American music in their spaces so just get down!

3. To Start a Random Vacation Fund

I didn’t decide I wanted to go to the DR until after I got into law school back in March. Then my grandmother passed away in April and I had to take 2 weeks off of work to be in Ohio, which made me miss out on a little over $1,000. While I obviously was still able to pull of my trip, my life would have been way less stressful if I had a “random vacation fund” to dip into for my trip. I’ve decided that I’m going to put away a certain amount of money every payday for the rest of my life strictly dedicated to traveling. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this sooner. If you haven’t thought of it yet either, do it! Even if you only put aside $35 a paycheck (biweekly pay) that’s almost $1,000 dollars by the end of the year. I’m sure there is somewhere you could getaway to with that.

4. Leaving The Resort is a Major Key

While earlier I mentioned we didn’t really leave the resort too much, we did leave it once or twice and those were a lot more fun for me than the resort life. While I loved the all-inclusive resort and becoming friends with the bartenders, I’m someone who gets bored of too much of the same stuff. We were there for 8 days and our excursion to Isle Saona saved me from going crazy of being in the pool majority of our trip. If I could re-do one thing, I would have ventured off the resort maybe few other times. I had really wanted to go to Santo Domingo. My tip is to book two excursions BEFORE you get to Punta Cana that way you have to follow through with them. I recommend doing one in the beginning and one towards the end of your stay for the best experience. That’s what I’ll be doing next time.

5. How Much Privilege I Have as an American:

I try not to write too much about my politics on my blog just because I consider a space where I can just…write about my life without any other bullshit out of my control that may influence it. One thing I will say is that different groups of people have certain privileges in this country compared to others (for example: I have privileges as a cisgendered woman compared to a transwoman). Well in the DR, I was introduced to a different privilege that I have, the privilege of just being born in America. While as an African-American woman, shit ain’t always sweet, I have the privilege of pretty much going anywhere I want to in the world (to an extent). I remember I fell in love with Punta Cana and the people and my friend and I declared “we are going to move here for a year in a few years!” and the bartender looked at us like we were crazy. The thing is though, I could probably save up enough to be comfortable in the DR for a year way easier than I could save up to live comfortably in America (well anywhere I would want to live). That’s a privilege of sorts: me deciding that I can just move wherever I please for a year or so. Most people on countries like the DR wouldn’t even think of something like that in regards to moving to America. Also, the workers at the resort worked soooo hard sometimes having 12 hour days only to be paid what converts to $25 a day. Even factoring in different costs of living that’s wild to me. So yeah, I realized how privileged I am to have just been born here. That’s not to say there aren’t people who struggle here as well, but you get what I’m saying.

All in all, my trip to Punta Cana was amazing. I really have never felt like I belonged somewhere as much as I did there. I had this rule about not going to the same place out of the country twice until I go everywhere I want to go but I know the Dominican Republic has changed my mind. I can’t wait to go back! I will be posting a general post about my overall trip later this month so keep an eye out for that. If you can afford to, travel the world. It’s really the best way to see things from a different perspective.

Is there anywhere you want to travel to soon? Let me know in the comments.