Afterthoughts: The Defining Decade by Megan Jay

Presence is far more intricate and reward an art than productivity

The enviable life of a public intellectual

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Prior to reading The Defining Decade, I never thought of myself as one of those folks that Megan Jay describes as possessing the 30 is the new 20 mindset. I never had been explicitly exposed to this ideal, at least in not in any impressionable way that I recall. But I have come to realise that in fact, I have been fooling myself: my behaviours are consistent with someone who believes 30 is the new 20. This books is the kick up the butt that I needed.

Ideas aside, what I like most about this book is how seriously Jay treats this issue. These sorts of ideas might not be new, but it is the first time I have consumed them without also feeling patronised.

Identity capital is how we build ourselves––bit by bit, over time. Most important, identity capital is what we bring to the adult marketplace. It is the currency we use to metaphorically purchase jobs and relationships and other things we want.

Do something, doing anything is not wasted effort. This is a belief I have held for the longest time, but I never quite found the right words to express what I wanted to … or so was the case until I came across the idea of identity capital.

What I can’t figure out, and what I feel like I am grieving a little, is why I spent so many years on nothing. SO many years doing things and hanging out with people that don’t even rate a memory. For what? I had a good time in my twenties, but did I need to do all that for eight years? Lying there in the MRI, it was like I traded five years of partying or hanging out in coffee shops for five more years I could have had with my son if I’d grown up sooner. Why didn’t someone drop the manners and tell me I was wasting my life?

I know that if I treat my personal life more like a business, as Megan Jay suggests, I will benefit. It’s one of those things that I wish they had taught in school or university, alongside how to do your taxes.

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 backward from there. This is how you have your own multigenerational epic with a happy ending. This is how you live your life in real time.


Highly Recommended. It took me some time away from the book to really ask myself whether or not I was falling into the traps Megan Jay explores when it came to work, relationships, and life. I don’t like to say that any book is essential reading, but this is for anyone in their 20s.

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