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  • Writer's pictureJagriti Luitel

Book Reflection: The Defining Decade

I have a confession.

I worry a lot.

This is my default setting. With this default setting comes a lot of pain and suffering. However, with it also comes advantages like risk detection making me a keen forward planner.

My reading of this book is more than likely an attempt to scope out what will come in front of me as I move through my 20s. Perhaps it is also an attempt at self-validation of some of the choices I intend to make in the next decade of my life.

This book was a very interesting read. It took me through a journey ranging from the self-validation I mentioned above to bouts of absolute panic. However, I am grateful for both. The book attempts to challenge the contemporary notion that our 20s don't matter. That it is mostly a time for partying, making mistakes, and having a sense of non-consequence. Instead, the author argues that although those can sometimes be a fun way to relax, the decade should be defined by another paradigm. One of self-responsibility.

I read this book at the age of 21. However, this is one of those books that I could read every few years and gain something totally different from. I can see how I would highlight different sections of the book based on my early 20s versus my late 20s. A lot of the advice doesn't apply to me yet. However, I do have a much clearer scope of the land that I will be navigating in the three aspects of life she touches upon. Work, Love, and Body. Each of these aspects is represented by a comprehensive analysis based on scientific research and data.

For me, this book indirectly highlights the difference in the pursuit of our 20s based on the socioeconomic background of a person. How having access to the information in and of itself is a privilege. But for the people, who do have the opportunity to more easily shape their lives into prosperous ones on all dimensions, they should adopt even more responsibility. So, I as a privileged person want to adopt more responsibility.

This book is also filled with paradoxical themes and makes it clear that young adults have to navigate the tension between two opposing forces. Freedom versus responsibility. Prioritizing the present versus the future. How to deal with everything, everywhere all at once. One topic that stands out, in particular, is the notion of having a child and the additional layer of complexity that women face due to their biological clocks. The career clock seems to be at odds with the biological clock. I definitely want to explore this theme further in my future blogs. It seems to be one with a high degree of complexity. The panic that I mentioned at the beginning emerged when I got to this section of the book.

Next, here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. … Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that's an investment in who you might want to be next.”
“The future isn’t written in the stars. There are no guarantees. So claim your adulthood. Be intentional. Get to work. Pick your family. Do the math. Make your own certainty. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You are deciding your life right now.”
“Being confused about choices is nothing more than hoping that maybe there is a way to get through life without taking charge.”

To conclude, it is clear too much freedom can lead to chaos. And too much chaos can be its own prison. Therefore, Dr. Meg Jay proposes "order". To provide structure and intention so that we can be our most free selves in our twenties. She argues that turning 30 is actually not the end of life, it is often the time when the fruits of our labor in our 20s come to fruition. But this is only possible if we practice our free will and choices wisely.

The distinction she makes is clear:

Our 20s are not just about Momento Mori(remember you must die) but also Momento Vivere (Remember to live).

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When I first read the epic of Gilgamesh and his quest for immortality, it sowed a seed of curiosity in me. Is it really possible to be immortal? Turns out, it is. 

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