Some of you may know this already, but I’m a book nerd. I spent most of my college years studying publishing and went on to get my Masters in Library and Information Sciences at St. John’s in Queens.
I’ve always been enamored by YA fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi. Recently I’ve decided to read more graphic novels and self-help books, which is a strange pair when you come to think of it. But the self-help books are a more recent discovery, thanks to my friend and roommate, Dan. He spends most of his reading time diving into books that question the way we think, act, and understand ourselves. At first I thought a lot of ‘those’ books are written by people who thought they were better than me (irrational…I know!) and that I didn’t ‘need’ those books, because who needs help? Am I right? I’m wrong guys. We all need help sometimes!
Anyway, I had just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and I was far from impressed. Her writing doesn’t resonate well with me and after that I thought this genre of literature was a loss to my interest, but I was wrong. Shortly thereafter I spoke with a close friend who told me about a Tedtalk done by Meg Jay. So obviously, I looked it up, watched it, and became immediately intrigued. And if you want to take a listen, check it out here!
I highly recommend watching the Ted talk to get a better idea of where Jay is coming from and what to expect if you plan on reading the book. But before I dive into my thoughts, opinions, and feelings I have surrounding this book there is a bit of information ya’ll should have before we get started.
The book is sectioned in three different areas: Work, Love, and The Brain and The Body.
These sections are very important to understand for any twenty something out there, but I felt that the last two sections (Love and The Brain and The Body) geared more towards single, flighty, and non-committal individuals. Mind you, it did really help verify and clarify a few things in my romantic life and the relationships I maintain, but overall I wasn’t moved or felt as thought provoked as I did in the first section.
So in reality this is really 1/3 of a book review because I’ll mainly be talking about: WORK. (insert that Rihanna song that gets stuck in your head)
Work happened later, marriage happened later, and death happened later, so why rush, twentysomethings had nothing but time! ß this was pretty much the gist of the Ted talk by Jay and this statement resonated well with me. I’m 25 years old and am the most confused I have ever been in my entire life. Since I could remember I’ve had some sort of direction, whether that be with school, or part-time jobs, or traveling, but ever since I finished my graduate program I’ve been at a total loss as to how to proceed. It became less about ‘just’ saving money and working a lame job and more about working a fulfilling job with purpose and satisfaction and making enough money to be a responsible young adult. Doing both of those things with one career is very hard to do, especially in the Bay Area where my boyfriend and I decided to move to from NJ.
Jay talks about the idea of identity capital, which is a collection of personal assets that we acquire over time. They aren’t necessarily physical objects or bullet points on a resume, but more tangible experiences that shape our perception of the outside world. It’s how we speak, how we solve problems, and how we look. But in order to get more identity capital you need to invest in yourself. The things we do well enough, or long enough become part of who we are, apart of our identity capital.
This was a huge deal to me after I read this section! We are not only at an age where we are confused, but more confused at what direction to take. Do I get the coffee shop job so I can support my passion project? Do I intern and struggle for an income all while learning from the best? Some of us are amped with a ton of educational experience and some of us aren’t, but either way we are all at an age where we lack enough tangible experiences to get us the career we really strive for.
Another fantastic topic that I’d love to hear your thoughts about is the Urban Tribe. Jay talks about this idea of an urban tribe, which I believe I’m apart of many, and how this sense of community is misleading.
The urban tribe is overrated. It helps us survive, it does not help us thrive. She states.
And I’m not sure I totally agree. I love not always knowing if I disagree with an author or not, it’s sort of like an informal debate. Anyways, I’ve never understood the idea of an urban tribe until I came out to San Francisco and I believe the biggest reason for so many urban tribes in this area is because so many of us are expats. Our families aren’t here, our networks are across the country, and we don’t tend to go ‘home’ too often.
Where I see Jay’s point that some tribes may spend too much time patting each other on the backs and less trying to push our peers I also see where urban tribes can benefit those without nearby family ties.
Another topic Jay describes is the “my life should look better on Facebook” conundrum. When I began reading this section of the book I was thrilled to know that I wasn’t totally alone in thinking that my life SHOULD in fact look better online. It shouldn’t, but it does. I spend so much time on social media for Rachel’s Bake Lab that I wonder less about what people think of me and more about what people think of my business and brand! Which in retrospect feels a lot better to me. I can control how people view my brand, but I can not control how people see my life. While so many of my friends are having babies and getting married and posting a bajillion photos of themselves at yoga or doing something cool I wallow in the mud that is self-questioning. Am I on the right path? Should I be doing something else? And I shouldn’t be. I’m doing everything I can to make this a business and run it the way I see fit.
Lastly, Jay mentions the radical idea of owning a customized life. It’s not really radical as we all want to be different, unique, and to stand out in a certain way, but the manner in which Jay describes the want and need to have everything in our life customized is new, especially for our generation. We don’t just want a bike to get around, we want a custom bike. We want customization in almost everything we do. But with understanding what we don’t want from the normal pack or the everyday person or experience, we need to make it clearer as to what we DO want. Jay states, ‘a braver form of self-definition dares to be affirmative…what are you for?’ And that statement also rang true for me. We live in a world where we say so often what we hate or dislike about something, but frankly, it’s best to understand what we are for in order to get to the root of what we want for our futures. Simply stating you don’t want to live in the city is fine, but where do you want to live? What kind of neighborhood? What kind of climate or country?
We don’t need all the answers now but : Life does not need to be linear, but it does need to make sense.
And making sense of life is hard, but making sense of ourselves really isn’t.
If you’re 19 or 33 or even 45 I’d give this book a read. It’s 200 pages of wonderful and you may not agree with everything, but you may find yourself asking those important questions that no one seemed to ask you yet.
Meg Jay is a wonderful writer and author and her ability to take fact and science and make it relatable is impeccable and applaudable.
In a time where I constantly feel overwhelmed about many things in my life and large judgemental statements seem to arise way too often, this book left me with a calm that there are parks of me I need to work on and other parts I simply don’t need to worry about at this moment.
I’d give this a 4 out of 5 !
Be sure to comment and discuss! I’d love to hear what YOU have to say!
Read on !