Fifteen years ago the most frightening words you could think of were “bedtime” and “monsters.” Life has changed quite a bit since then and twenty-somethings as a whole have acquired fears about some very different words.
Here are my top five:
Now more than ever we have the ability to manufacture seemingly indestructible masks. On social media we control who sees what. We choose which filtered photos will represent our lives. Everything is about image. No one can get to the heart of who you are by reading an “about me” page.
With such a clean-cut virtual life, eventually real life starts starts seeming too messy. We are the generation of “awkward.” We have become so paranoid about life not working out the way it does on Facebook that we simply avoid. We don’t open up. We don’t connect with other humans. See your neighbor in the grocery store? If she starts a conversation then you might not know what to say and it will be awkward! Quick, whip out your phone and look absorbed!
This craziness has to stop. Beloved children’s author C.S. Lewis once wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” What then do we do with a generation that is losing the ability to be vulnerable? I’ll leave you to answer that for yourself.
We see our parents living out unhealthy marriages, your best friend has three sets of step-parents, and it seems the majority of Facebook pregnancy pictures are posted by single moms. It’s no wonder that so many are replacing marriage with the murky waters of living together without committing.
Hell, I can’t even commit to sitting through a ninety-minute movie without checking my phone, so don’t expect me to solve this problem! As far as relationships go, though, we need to stop buying into the Hollywood crap about relationships based on fluctuating emotions and start actually applying ourselves.
If you can help your best friend through a breakup even though the last time you talked you had a huge fight then why can’t the same “through thick and thin” apply to other relationships? Maybe there’s hope after all!
We are the generation raised on gems like “Everyone’s special” (and they all get participation awards to prove it) and “Baby, you’re a fiiiiiiirework!” Is it any wonder, then, that we assume our worth is nil if our five-year-plans aren’t working out? Am I making you nervous just talking about it? Don’t worry – there’s good news.
For one thing, we were conditioned to think this way. It is not your fault that your parents and teachers (well-meaning though they were) raised you as a wanna-be CEO. Accept the fact that it’s not natural to equate your worth and success with your cubicle size, and then get back to reading this article.
Second, the things that our society considers failing are, quite bluntly, not failing. That’s right: When you move back home after grad school because you have forty thousand dollars worth of debt and three hundred dollars in your savings account, that’s not failing. That’s called a learning experience (and a sucky economy). That’s called humility. That’s called being a fighter who’s prudent enough to save money even though her friends think she’s a loser for living with her parents until she can get both feet on the ground.
It’s not that we’re trying to shirk our duties, nor is it responsibility itself that terrifies us – it’s the idea of responsibility. It’s the abstract: The visions of “PAST DUE” that dance in our heads, the vague future that might involve being responsible for a tiny new life that you created, it’s the vast unknown that occurs right after a cap and gown ceremony.
The good news is also the bad news here: This feeling never goes away. Yea, that’s a pretty daunting thought, but it’s comforting to know that you’re not feeling this way because you’re doing it wrong. You’re just growing up!
Wrinkles. Single. What if you still don’t feel like an adult but everyone expects you to act like one? Aging: The fears are endless.
But hang on a second – remember when you were ten and you’d daydream about being the grand, glamorous age of… twenty? What changed? We started to believe the media. The constant attacks from Photoshopped magazines began to penetrate our brains. Visions of what you’re “supposed to” be like were thrown at you from picture-perfect scenes on the CW.
There’s a dissonance between what our hearts want and what we’re told to want. As we grow older those fears become more pronounced because we fear that we’ll never be enough. Don’t buy a word of it. Who said this was an L.A. script writer’s life?! This is your life. Your dream. Do your own thing at your own pace. And those wrinkles? You’ll have earned them.
What do you think? Which of these words do you identify with? What would you add to the list?