Wednesday, October 19, 2005

the cult of adulthood.

last night or maybe the night before, i did partake of a little tiny bit of television via a barely working set of rabbit ears. one thing i could sort of make out was the new sitcom "How I Met Your Mother". as i watched, i thought to myself, finally a sitcom that's reflecting my reality. i guess i've made the choice demographic at last. the people i saw in sitcoms up until now always seemed older than me with concerns not quite my own. i can't describe what made me see something vaguely familiar in these people. maybe it was the post-college shock written all over their faces. as in,wow, what the hell happened, and that wasn't anything at all like i expected, and what the hell do i do now.

it's only natural that the current generation of young people compare themselves to the one that came before; the one that makes the most sense in the comparison is their parents' generation. and so i find myself doing the same thing from time to time, with my parents. if i was to follow their schedule, i would have already been married for two years, bought a house a year ago, and would've been had my first child (me, incidentially) within a year and a half. all of these things, these supposed mile markers of a supposed maturity, are completely and utterly unthinkable for me right now. and for many other people my age. almost no one in my wide and varying circle of friends is married, nobody has kids (or any real inclination to have them anytime soon), and no one certainly has enough money to even think about putting a down payment on a house. we're too busy tangling with low-paying jobs and student loans.

and so the baby boomers look down upon us and proclaim "slackers". what's wrong with us, we are 25, 27, 30, 32, with no house, no spouse, no patter of little feet. we are directionless and floating. sociologists are dispatched to study us and give us annoying hybrid appellations like "twixter". the older generation wrings their hands and wonder, where did we go wrong. why are our children moving back home? why did junior take six years to finish that bachelor's degree?

it was a hysterical point of view i almost bought until last week.

i was talking to one of the other artists-in-residence here at the Center. he's roughly my parents' age, and one day out of the blue he said to me, you know, your generation is so lucky, you have so many opportunities. when people my age got out of college, we found a job, we got married, bought a house and started having kids. it was just what we were expected to do, and so we did. there was no time to really explore what we wanted to do or who we were, because we were too busy doing what was expected of us. i guess i'm lucky in a way, he concluded, that i was laid off and allowed the chance to start over and do what i really want to do, to make art. and i just started at him, and it was like


i never thought of it like that.

the eternal optimist that he is, where me and most people saw slackers and a lack of direction, he saw opportunity and a chance for personal development. and it was like a thunderbolt out of the blue that i realized that it's futile to try to hold the previous generation as a comparison for us. times are different. finances are different. people are different. EVERYTHING is different.

the friends that, a generation ago, would have gotten married and started a family are putting it off to travel the world. to go to graduate school. to work at the dream job that needs their full attention. we have student loans weighing on us, so there's no way to buy a house now, maybe ever. there are no $30,000 little ranch homes like the one my parents bought in 1978. the only person i can even think of that bought a house is this one girl i went to Tyler with, and that was made possible only through a sizeable inheritance from her father.

there is a part of me that worries about these things, and there is a part that doesn't. there is part of me that wonders why the hell i can't meet anyone, and there's the part of me that doesn't want to because being in a serious relationship would greatly complicate the plans i have for myself over the next five years, i.e., moving hither and thither, going to graduate school, hopefully traveling a lot, maybe eventually finding a good teaching job. i couldn't afford to have that baggage, not right now. there's a part of me, a very loud part of me, that wants a house, a permanent place, RIGHT NOW, even though i know that isn't practical, and that it's a desire born mostly out of being utterly sick of moving constantly. and there's a very very small part that might want to procreate, but c'mon. are you kidding? i can't even cook for myself.

but i guess all this strum und drang is just the way things are. every generation worries about the state of the next, and there is a collective mutter of "those damn kids". i'm sure the baby boomers can understand this more than anyone. once upon a time they were all pot-smoking hippies with seemingly little direction. their parents looked on in despair, just as they do now. don't worry. we're going to figure it out, just doing it our way.


J-9 said...

I can't tell you how this topic really hit home for me. The past three years of mine have been filled with a pressure. A pressure to be like them. A pressure to procreate before it's too late. I'm the last female in my family (of child-bearing age) to be childless. Although I do not want this in my life right now because of financial reasons and I want to finish school, the pressure is still somehow there. Probably unsaid guilt from somewhere.
Thank you for this entry. It makes me feel better and gives me hope that I, too, will figure it out and it'll all work out in the wash, or however the saying goes.

8:01 PM  
John said...

I think every generation (or at least vocal parts of it) frets about "these damn kids today." And it's certainly true that things are different now than they were for your parents. But it's also true that generations are far from monolithic. I'm your parents' age (as you know) and I didn't get married and buy a house and have kids right out of college, and neither did any of my friends. We tended much more toward being broke, making art, traveling, etc.

Damn, maybe we were ahead of our time. :-)

Oh, and to respond to J-9, you can put off procreation for quite some time. My mother was married for 20 years before she had me.

4:09 AM  
alexis said...

i can't imagine having kids right now. first of all, i live in a closet. well, it's not, but it might as well be. and i am not ready to stop being selfish and i refuse to be one of those parents that resents their children for cutting those selfish years short. i have a friend like this. it is unbearable.

12:59 PM  
CMB said...

It's funny....I can remember those words "those damn kids" coming out of the mouth of someone i used to work with. She resented the use of slang by youngsters who had no idea where the slang came from or what it really referred to. "Who do they think they are?" might have come out of her mouth, albeit with a smile or a smirk.
It's probably just a survival technique to group people and to then generalize about them but every time we find ourselves doing it we should just stop and reflect on the real people we know and how different (and yet similar) we all are.
Everyone has trouble letting go of the illusory control we think we have over life. But sometimes you just gotta let go......

8:52 PM  
Bethany said...

you're such an ass. ;)

9:18 AM  

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