'The Defining Decade' By Meg Jay Is A Must-Read For Every 20-Something

by | April 15, 2022, 11:42 IST

self help book

We’ve all heard our parents and grandparents draw comparisons between their generation and ours, claiming they were more hard-working, responsible, and devoted when they were younger. As much as we roll our eyes at their constant fault-finding, some of those things are undeniably true – like our decisiveness in our twenties. In the generations gone by, most people got married in their early 20s and had kids soon after. Look at your own family history and you will see the pattern. But then came along the millennials, who brought about a paradigm shift.

Then and now

Instead of settling down in their twenties, this new generation of youngsters started devoting this time of their lives to ‘figuring things out’ - to develop new hobbies, meet different people, travel to various places, and jump jobs. The 20s suddenly became a trial run at life, where mistakes didn’t count and consequences could conveniently be brushed under the carpet. This lifestyle looked glamorous in the movies and glitzy on our social media feeds, but the truth was very different. Dr. Meg Jay, a psychologist in the US, saw an unusually high inpouring of 20-something patients in her clinic, reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression while appearing to lead aspirational lives on the outside.

The root cause

Getting to the root of the issue, Meg realized that what these youngsters thought was ‘freedom’ was, in fact, fickleness, and due to no fault of theirs, they couldn’t tell the difference between the two. How will they, when the media and entertainment industry is constantly injecting in them the belief that they deserve better – better parents, a better house, a better career, a better partner – and that what they currently have is simply not good enough? Choosing better wasn’t the problem, but the fact that no matter what they chose, there was always something better. In the pursuit of making better choices, many refrained from making choices at all. They whiled away their time imagining unrealistic dreams with no action plan to back them up, and then dreading reality for falling short of their expectations. This made them sink into a rabbit hole of self-pity, and spiral down into a state of loneliness and frustration.

The solution

Meg then made her 20-something patients take charge of their lives. Some of them resisted her suggestions, whereas others resented them. Nonetheless, here’s what happened: They had to forgive their parents for past mistakes and spend more time with them; send out applications to universities within their means and take up entry level jobs in a career that enticed them; turn down plans which they felt obliged to attend and save their hard-earned money instead; sign up on dating apps and commit to a decent person, rather than a perfect one. As uncomfortable as these steps were, her 20-something patients finally had a sense of direction in life and came back to thank her in their 30s. Meg rolled these conversations into a book titled The Defining Decade which is a must-read for every 20-something feeling lost and confused. Mind you, this is not your usual self-help book. It’s full of uncomfortable truths and can even make you palpitate in places. Having said that, it contains honest and highly consequential advice nobody gives you in today’s ‘let’s pretend everything is hunky-dory' world.

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