I took a few pictures while we were down in Tennessee so I guess I’ll be posting them throughout the week. Brace yourself if you don’t like Hipstamatic, because I sure as hell do.
This has been one of those weeks (months?) where it is perfectly acceptable to do nothing. And I don’t really feel that bad about it. In fact, I am incredibly happy and hope the days stop going by so quickly. I can’t believe that for all intents and purposes, I am a college senior. It doesn’t feel like it, but at the same time, other people are looking younger and my thoughts are very different than they have been in the past. Sometimes I worry that I’m not doing enough.
There’s been a bit of “millennial guilt/shame” in the news lately. It started, perhaps, with David McCullough’s nice but pretty uncontroversial commencement speech. (Note: I haven’t watched the video because I’ve had my fill of commencement speeches for easily the next twenty years. But if you’ve read Dear Coquette/hell, just momentarily suffered some sort of depression, you probably get what he’s talking about.) I read this article on how spoiled American children are today, and then a friend posted a link to this post on how maybe it isn’t all our fault.
I’m going to take the lazy route (when have I not?) and say that pretty much everyone here is right. In some ways, I am a bit luckier than the students receiving McCullough’s speech; much of my depression and low self-esteem in my early teens was tied to realizing how fundamentally unexceptional I am. My family’s rapid descent into poverty only reiterated this. Then I started reading Emerson, Nietzsche, and Dear Coke Talk, and realized that it was actually kind of liberating. Of course, I still get frustrated by the privilege and entitlement of my peers. I will never not get frustrated by the privilege and entitlement of my peers. But I am at the point where I can acknowledge that my priorities are just different from theirs, and my priorities are probably different from the generation before me. At the same time, “the generation before me”, as well as my own, is not exclusively consumed with money, self-advancement, and power (alternatively, stupidity and hedonism).
I often worry if I do not give enough fucks. Maybe I should be toiling away at an internship or job I don’t particularly care for, trying to figure out how to make ends meet and navigate the world of adulthood I know I am not quite ready for yet. Maybe I should put myself out there more, doing spec work and populating the Internet with shitty tutorials. But I think it’s ultimately more important for me to listen to myself and know what I’m ready for, and what I want. I mean, God, I have to be hooked up to a machine to get me to eat. I think we can agree that I’m not entirely self-sufficient yet. And in reality, I think that both the media-makers and millennials have an unrealistic attitude regarding self-sufficiency. We deal too much in extremes. It’s okay to rely on other people, and it’s okay for our priorities to change.
Like I mentioned above, one of the benefits of experiencing depression is knowing that I’m not special and it’s not my job to save the world. The world still has a place for me and I can make it better by not being a selfish asshole, but I don’t have to enter the STEM field or cure cancer to do it. One of the other benefits that came out of depression (and later, my eating disorder) is all the therapy and self-examination I’ve had to do. I might know very little about astrophysics or how airplanes work, but I know myself and what I want. I’m satisfied with that. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, but I will.
McCullough tells the graduates at the end of his speech to be selfless, but I would argue that in some cases, we’re not being selfish enough. Do what’s right for you. It’s okay to be lazy–it’s better than hating yourself or your surroundings. (Then again, maybe I’m just telling myself that.) It’s also okay to be busy. And our definition of either is highly subjective.
What about you? What do you think about our “feeling special” epidemic? Do you think this privileges upper middle class kids over other people? Is it okay to “feel special?” Do we go about it the wrong way?