Unlike most people, January is not my preferred time for resolutions. Since January is my birthday month, I generally spend it indulging, reserving the New Year diets and detoxes for the rest of the world. For me, September is the month of motivation. Maybe it’s the Back-to-School organizers and calendars prominently featured in store windows, perhaps it’s the rapidly cooling weather inspiring me to get outside before it’s too late—whatever the actual cause, it’s always been one of my favorite months for getting back on track after a fun summer filled with food, friends, and family.
This fall, in an effort to get my life organized, I turned to two books: UVA professor and psychiatrist Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now and A Buddha Walks Into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation. Both of these books are perfect if—like me—you are currently enjoying a fun and fulfilling life, but are open to improving it even further. I wouldn’t categorize either of these as “self-help” books—they neither coddle nor preach to the reader—instead the authors simply present a series of facts, provide their point of view, and allow you to do with the information what you will. As someone generally averse to any book that is not a psychological thriller or intense contemporary fiction novel, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed both books.
Many millennials might be surprised by the advice put forward in Jay’s Defining Decade—which is exactly why it’s worth reading. I’m going to resist the urge to give too many of her arguments away, as I do believe everyone in my age group should give this a read, but I will say that Jay turns the new mindset of “I want to be successful before I settle down—I don’t need to worry about that until later” mindset on it’s head, without sounding old-fashioned or archaic—in fact, another majorly surprising tenet of her philosophy presented in the book is just the opposite. I refuse to tell you what she actually says…if you’re in your twenties, I implore you to read it (to the only two 20+ year-old readers of this blog, LB and PB, I’ll tell you what she says in person).
The second book, A Buddha Walks Into a Bar, had been on my list for a long time, but every time I happened upon it in the bookstore, I ended up opting for something else instead. So, one day, when I at my family’s apartment uptown after a particularly stressful day at work and saw a copy sitting on my sister’s dresser, I knew it was finally meant to be. I had a phase a few years back where I was into Gabby Bernstein books, and I sort of expected this to be a similar, ‘hip’ and new-age meditation guide, with some great advice and a healthy dose of eye-roll inducing ‘wisdom.’ Instead, it was an informative teaching on the Buddhist tradition and tips for making it as easy as possible to incorporate the principles into your life. Written by Lodro Rinzler, ‘Chief Spiritual Officer’ at the East Village’s popular meditation studio MNDFL, the book is divided into chapters outlining different Buddhist principles, and then grouped into categories such as “Your 9 to 5,” “Going Out,” “Your Home/Family”, “Your Money” and “Your Relationship” with explanations on how to connect to the teaching in all areas of your life. This is the first meditation/spirituality-centric book I’ve read that doesn’t require you to change anything about your life in order to embrace its principles. There is no abstaining from anything—the author himself admits to regularly going out and leading a fun, normal life—but also gives advice on how to approach fun situations (for example: getting drunk at a bar) with a spiritual mindset. It’s a truly unique book worth a read regardless of your interest in Buddhist principles or meditation—I found I was able to use plenty of Rinzler’s tips on staying calm during high-pressure situations throughout my workdays while reading it—and recommend anyone looking to chill out a bit does the same.
September is over & you’ve got the literary tools: time to get your shit together.