As Dr. Jay updated the book in 2020, she was receiving dozens of other emails from readers. Some people told him they felt as if the pandemic had robbed them of their breakthrough decade, robbing them of motivation and opportunities to pursue what they wanted. Others said that because they were cooped up at home, they finally had time to read her book.
Twenty-somethings were experiencing the restlessness that Dr. Jay had described for the past decade, but it was intensified by the Covid isolation. Jahleane Dolne, 25, a TikTok fan of “The Defining Decade,” found herself applying for jobs from her parents’ house, browsing LinkedIn while sitting next to her high school cheerleader uniform and prom gown. . Jasmine Yook, 30, who also posted on TikTok about the book, reread Dr. Jay’s book at 29 and reflected on the gaps between where she wanted to be in her fashion career and where she had landed.
Dr. Jay responded to these readers with football coaching spirit. “This is his Great Depression,” he said. “This is his recession. This is your generational adversity, and what did you do? How did you answer? Saying, ‘Well, I got nervous and started a podcast,’ or ‘I read 50 books I said I was going to read,’ is a metaphor or an example of how you respond when life gets tough.”
And while much of his advice may seem intimidating, he’s not against offering up tricks. “You’re asking about formulas,” Dr. Jay said, over lunch, after a discussion about the balance between seeking joy now and working hard to lay the foundation for joy in years to come. “Actually, there is a very vague formula.”
Everyone at the table leaned forward.
“Happy, successful people say they spend half their time thinking about the present, ‘What will make me feel happy and successful now,’ and the other half thinking about the future,” Dr. Jay continued. “If someone were to ask me about a formula, how do I balance being happy in my 20s and being happy beyond that, I’d say it’s probably half and half.”
On the other side of a bowl of fries, Mrs. Liddy and Mrs. Flowers nodded knowingly. The advice was not so much a panacea as a glimmer of hope. There was wisdom they could hold on to. Somewhere, in the distance, there was land, or at least, its 30 years.