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!

4 Tips For Winning The Battle Against Your Post-Grad Blues

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Post-grad blues are no joke. While everyone is not affected by these feelings of sadness once they walk across that stage, many people do. I know when I graduated I got my degree and said “now what?” while I waited to go back to school. In today’s post I’m suggesting some things that helped me get through the trying times of  battling with post-grad blues with at least a little bit of my sanity left. These tips can also help anyone who may just find themselves feeling down. Whether you are unemployed or not, these tips will certainly change your life.

Wake-Up and Say Those Affirmations!

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The post-grad blues period after graduating can definitely get you down (they don’t call it post-grad blues for nothin’). One way I battled this overwhelming sense of emptiness and lack of purpose was through repeating affirmations to myself every morning when I woke up. While each person has to determine what they want out of life to come up with their own, I think the ones I used during this rough time are definitely a good place to start. Here are a few of the many affirmations I told myself during my time being unemployed. Some of these I still use now! I found these at this article here.

  1. My body is healthy, my mind is brilliant, my soul is tranquil.
  2. I am at peace with all that has happened, is happening, and will happen.
  3. I deserve to be employed and paid well for my time, efforts, and ideas. Each day, I am closer to finding the perfect job for me.

Start with these and even tweak them to your style if you want. All that matters is you remind yourself that you are deserving and destined for greatness!

Journal About Your Feelings Towards Being Graduated (and your feelings in general)

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For people like myself, it is easy to start feeling down when you are trying to find employment or have too much free time on your hands after graduating. One thing I have made more of a consistent habit is journaling. I try* process all my feelings by journaling at least 3 times a week. When I was unemployed I wrote about how being unemployed made me feel (leave out nothing…even the feelings of worthlessness and sadness). I’ve vented my frustrations and promised myself that I will never take being employed for granted again. While it is usual to complain about one’s job (unless it’s your dream job, which mine is being an attorney so I’m a long ways off), to be ungrateful for one’s job is not good for the soul. In cases where your boss is a jerk it’s different but at the same time, I have always hated being unemployed more than having a job I hate (blame my materialistic desires and FOMO). I hope to look back on my unemployment entries of journal should I ever start hating my jobs (hopefully I won’t).

Find a New Hobby or Invest Time in an Old One

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Whether you’ve always loved painting but college got in the way, or you want to learn how to dance salsa, or anything in between you have plenty of time to do it in your down time on the post-grad job search. One thing I started doing again while I was unemployed is reading. One of my goals this year is to read two books a month and it hasn’t been hard thus far considering I didn’t have really anything better to do. Another hobby I dedicated more time to while I was unemployed was blogging. It felt good to be doing things I wanted to do in undergrad that I simply didn’t have the time to do.

Get Off Your Ass and Get Active

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Seriously! This one is a good morale booster. Whether I was dancing, working out, going for a walk, jog, or run, dedicating time to working out wasn’t something I did until towards the end of my unemployment and I wish I had a started sooner. Not only do you have time to figure out what kind of workouts you love, you can find a purpose in setting non-work related goals. One of my goals when I was employed was to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. This doesn’t sound like a lot but there would be days when I was unemployed where I sat around ALL day and barely clocked in 2,000 steps, YIKES! If you’re currently unemployed it doesn’t mean you have to sit around all day and become a sloth (I was guilty of this for a while).

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The post-grad “Damn I don’t have a job” depression is real and it can take over your mind, body, and spirit if you let it. Even if you are employed, being out of school after being in school your whole life is a rough transition for me. I have suffered from the deepest of post-grad blues and it is not pretty. Even if you are employed there are times where you can find yourself missing being in undergrad and carefree. The key to surviving this turbulent transition in life is to happen to it instead of allowing it to happen to you. If you already have a job it can be even easier to get caught up in the motions and find yourself still battling those post-grad blues. Find balance between keeping yourself busy and doing things you love. When you’re unemployed, finding things to occupy your time during your job search (and make sure you are ACTIVELY searching) will make the time in between graduation and being unemployed fly by.  You may even walk away from it being more enlightened, educated, and experienced person than the day you got your degree. If you don’t have a job or haven’t taken steps towards career yet, don’t beat yourself up about it. These things take time and there is always a lesson in the struggle! ALWAYS.

(Author’s Note: If you think you suffer from depression or any other mental illness, contact a professional for help. These tips will not cure depression.)