Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, PhD~★★★★1/2

Author: Meg Jay, PhD
Title: The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher: Twelve
Genre: Non-fiction

Book Jacket: "Drawing from more than ten years of work with hundreds of twentysomething clients and students, Dr. Jay weaves the latest science of the twentysomething years with compelling, behind-the-doors stories from twentysomethings themselves. She shares what psychologists, sociologists, neurologists, reproductive specialists, human resources executives, and economists know about the unique power of the twentysomething years and how they change our lives. 
The result is a provocative and sometimes poignant book that shows how common wisdom about the twentysomething years is often wrong:
-Why it's the people we hardly know, and not our closest friends, who will change our twentysomething lives for the better
-Why living together may not be the best way to test a relationship
-How the twentysomething brain gives us our best chance to change who we are and who we will be
-Why 'Who am I?' is a question best answered not with a protracted identity crisis, but with one or two good pieces of something called identity capital
-How joining the world of work makes us feel better, not worse
-How our personalities shift more during our twenties than at any time before or after
-How we do pick our families and not just our friends
With authority, compassion, and a keen eye on the future, The Defining Decade shows us why our twenties do matter. Our twenties are a time when the things we do--and the things we don't do--will have an enormous effect across years and even generations to come." 

Taryn's Review: This book was a great eye-opener for me. Firstly, it was comforting to know how normal I am in regard my worries and fears as a twentysomething. Dr. Jay introduced people she had counseled (names changed, of course) to give the reader examples of real world people dealing with real world issues. Secondly, Dr. Jay truly did give great advice, even for someone like me in my late twenties. I am going to do my best to apply Dr. Jay's guidance to my own life because I really loved what she had to say.

The book was broken down into three sections: Work, Love, and The Brain and the Body. The section on work was very useful. She had great insight and offered fresh perspectives on the advice our friends and loved ones have given us regarding our twenties and work. She also explained how we can get in ruts and feel inadequate, and how we can conquer those thoughts, even if we don't feel like we know what we're doing (this was also expanded upon in the brain section). She offered her knowledge on how to make the most of our twenties while gaining identity capital and how the strength of weak ties can help us exponentially. The section on love is probably most useful to those who are in their twenties and single, although those who are questioning their relationships would benefit from reading this part, too. Try not to scoff when you read how couples who live together before marriage tend to divorce at a higher rate than those who don't (this statistic has been proven via multiple studies); her explanation of why that is made a lot of sense and it was not as drastic as you might think. The final section covered the twentysomething brain and body, and it was very interesting to read the scientific data on how twentysomething brains are so different from brains at any other stage in our lives, except for the newborn/baby/toddler years. Twentysomethings are learning and, in fact, defining themselves for the future. In this stage of life, we see twentysomethings able to absorb, retain, and demonstrate new material at a faster rate than they will exhibit in their lives again.

Why not 5 stars, then? Because while I agree with Dr. Jay that women and men should understand their bodies, particularly when it comes to fertility on both sides, I find it much harder to apply the mathematical understanding of fertility to real world women. I'm fully aware that my fertile years are not unlimited, yet I'm also not willing to bring a baby into the world with any random person simply because age 35 crept up on me. Science says there is a higher change that I, and other women, might not be able to conceive if we wait too long and find ourselves in the years of "advance maternal age." Dr. Jay had her own children at ages 35 and 37 and counted herself as lucky for being able to conceive so late in the game, yet real women who haven't met someone before age 35 aren't necessarily doomed. How do we, as women, rectify not finding a partner and the desire to procreate? I didn't feel she addressed this, but instead she made it clear that fertile years have an expiration date for women. I can have the timetable laid out in front of me, but I'm not going to fret if I haven't procreated by 35. I could have issues in the future, but I could have issues now, too, and just not know because the opportunity wasn't there to find out. The story she used to illustrate this example was quite sad, but the limited information provided also didn't make it known if the woman's fertility struggles were because of her age or if they were due to other issues that had been present, just unknown. She was correct in noting that if a woman has dreams for work, she should consider making that happen before her fertile years end (as in, don't plan to start graduate school at age 35 and plan to get pregnant in the same year...go to graduate school now, while you don't have the pressures of fertility expiration hovering over you).

Even with my disagreement, this book was still phenomenal. I really hope twentysomethings do pick up this book and consider Dr. Jay's advice. Naturally, all parts of the book might not apply to every aspect of a twentysomething's life. Happily coupled? The Work and The Brain and the Body section might be of interest to you. Found a great career but struggling in your love life? The Love section could appeal to you. The book was well-written and Dr. Jay is a strong writer in her ability to deliver complex theories in a reader-friendly fashion. This is one I would definitely recommend to my twentysomething friends.

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