Oh, sure. We’re pretty fond of each other, but the truth is you all are our favorite contributors to The Man Repeller. Really! We’ve formalized that fact with “Let’s Talk About It.” This weekly column is a forum for conversation, communication, and complete distraction from the jobs you’re supposed to be doing right now. So get involved. We promise we won’t tell your bosses.
This week, the Huffington Post shared a little secret with its mass of twenty-something-year-old readers. And spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty.
In a piece self-explanatorily titled, “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy,” the brains behind WaitButWhy.com attempted to pinpoint why exactly my solipsistic peers and I seem to find our present lives so existentially dissatisfying.
The conclusion? After walking us—and a slew of illustrative stick figures—through a bit of socioeconomic history, the article blames what it diagnoses as my generation’s vague despondency on a combination of “wild” ambition, utter delusion, and our, yawn, overactive Twitter feeds. To sum it up in 140 characters: we suffer from professional, personal, and nothing-short-of metaphysical disappointment because we all secretly believe we’re Lena Dunham but only one of us actually is.
As we are ourselves tend to do, the author blames our parents for this sorry condition. You see, Mom and Popsicle mistakenly taught us that we could be whatever we wanted to be. Astronauts! Backup dancers! Scowling, Céline-toting deejays! The world, they claimed, was our oyster. And what’s more? They also effectively communicated that each of us is somehow uniquely, cosmically, fabulously special.
“Everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling careers,” we have been thus encouraged to tell ourselves. “But I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.” In other words, according to HuffPo, mere personal gratification is not enough. We crave distinction and recognition. We feel we’ve fallen behind even when we’re exactly where we should be. We don’t have five-year plans. We have—to invoke Andy Warhol—fifteen-minute ones.
As you probably know, The Huffington Post is hardly the first publication to doom you and me for our grave misapprehensions. The New York Post wonders whether we are, in fact, “the worst generation.” (See? I told you we were special!) Forbes wants to know if we are “unemployed—or just lazy”. And CNN suspects we may be too demanding at work.
And here’s the real heresy. Although I hate to admit it, some small part of me agrees with the critics. My generation may be spirited and ferocious. We may be enterprising and brilliant and able to count the inventor of Uber as one of our own, but for all of our ingenuity and fire, I worry about us. I worry that we lack our grandparents’ capacity for austerity or our parents’ passion for civic reform. I worry that we don’t know how to actualize our vision for the world or even how to vote for someone who does. Newsflash: I know that we can’t all be Lena Dunham.
But the question, then, is how are we meant to become our best selves? Should we deactivate our Facebook pages? Pursue PhDs and doctorates and more meaningful relationships? More tantalizingly, should we dismiss our detractors? Are they just jealous of our youthful good looks and sunny dispositions? Do they too wish they had the courage to become scowling, Céline-toting deejays? Is there, perhaps, nothing wrong with us after all?
And, on an unrelated note, do we even want to get into the fact that the aforementioned article’s archetypally insufferable twenty something is depicted as a ponytailed girl named Lucy? Duh. I think we do.
So, let’s talk about it.
P.S. Did you read something you’re just itching to share with the class? Send it my way via Twitter. (That’s @mattiekahn, to you.)