What’s the Point of Your 20s? Ask the Patron Saint of Striving Youth.

When Dr. Jay was updating the book in 2020, she received dozens more reader emails. Some told her she felt like the pandemic had robbed them of a defining decade, robbing them of the motivation and opportunity to pursue what they wanted to do. Some said she was stuck at home and finally had time to read her books.

The anxiety that Dr. Jay has described over the past decade has been experienced by 20-somethings, and has been exacerbated by the coronavirus quarantine. One of her TikTok fans for “The Defining Decade,” Jarleen Dorne, 25, sat next to her high school cheerleader uniform and prom dress while chatting from her parents’ home to her LinkedIn account. I found myself applying for a job while scrolling through. Jasmine York, 30, who also posted about the book on TikTok, reread Dr. Jay’s book when she was 29 and reflected on the gap between where she wanted to be and where she landed in her fashion career. .

Dr. Jay responded to these readers with football coaches’ encouragement. “This is your Great Depression,” she said. “This is a recession. This is your generation’s adversity, and what did you do? How did you respond? ‘I read 50 books’ is a metaphor or example of how to deal with life when things get tough.”

Much of her advice may sound intimidating, but she’s not against offering hacks. “You’re asking about the equation,” Dr. Jay says over lunch, pointing out the difference between seeking joy now and working hard to lay the foundation for joy for years to come. After discussing balance, I said. “There is actually a very loose formula.”

Everyone at the table leaned forward.

“Happily successful people spend about half of their time thinking about the present, what they can do now to make them feel happy and successful, and the other half thinking about the future. I say,” continued Dr. Jay. “If someone asks me about the formula, how do I balance being happy in my 20s and being happy in my 20s and beyond, I’d probably say half and half. I will answer yes.”

Across the platter of French fries, Liddy and Flowers nodded wisely. This advice was more of a silver lining than a panacea. There was wisdom they could understand. There was land somewhere in the distance—at least in their thirties.

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