The Source Of All Your Problems
Photography by the incredibly talented Shannon Shier.
The source of all your problems? You were born into the “this is it” generation. My college education drove home an understanding that at one point in history Hollywood, the media, and corporations all over the world decided that they would like to unapologetically manipulate the masses to their liking. It’s happening now- this is it. Perhaps you remember a time that the internet wasn’t really something you used, phones flipped, and people decided what was cool based on real-life interactions. Well, unfortunately, nostalgia is anxiety’s third cousin and has nothing to do with living in the present moment. All that matters to modern-day philosophers and the authors of New York Times best-selling self-help books is the present moment. That is the issue at hand- and THIS is it?
There is so much wrong with the world in this present moment and it is more apparent now than ever. How am I helping? How can I help? How should I help? I sign petitions, repost provocative images and speak with friends on how much better things could be- how much better things should be. What do I do? I go out! I revolt! I try to keep things weird because that might just have an effect! And so, it feels ok that I don’t protest with picket signs like I once did with my grandma when Bush was elected and began to slip up- that was then, before all of this. When Obama was president, politics felt almost unimportant because there was a perceived sense of trust between me and the man in the White House. In college, I learned that there were drone strikes and nauseating corruption even when he was in office. Even he succumbed to the madness. Naturally, we deserve Trump and whatever hell is going to be sent to us next because this is just it for us. The decision-makers of yesterday decided today’s reality- and this is it.
What’s worst is that it goes far beyond politics. The disarray plaguing my existence- the this found in this is it– has worked its way into every imaginable facet of my life. My 2019 was spent following a depressing cause and effect rational-
“You just don’t meet people in a big city so I’m not going to ask someone on a date.”
“I checked and there are no worthwhile job openings so I’m not going to waste my time applying.”
“New York is too expensive and everywhere else is too far so why even consider moving.”
“Traveling is just out of the question- I have so much I need to do that it would distract me from getting work done.”
At times, it honestly felt like those decisions were big of me given the time we live in- they allowed for a false sense of maturity as if I was giving back to the world in remaining stagnant. I’ll gladly put myself down for now, wait for all of the good that I deserve to come to me, and then date and move and travel and live life to the fullest when I reach a point that it is appropriate or possible to do so. For the last year, that was it- patiently waiting for life to let me live it to the fullest.
For whatever reason, I’ve held on to the memory of a conversation with a close friend that I had my Freshman year in high school- “Dude, I can’t wait for the day that we can just ask a girl to grab a coffee because high school dances just aren’t my style. It will be so much danker when we can do that and I’ll be so much better at it than talking to immature girls at a dance.” Such intensive melancholy and resentment for the present likely ensued because I only freaked with two girls at the dance or backed out of slow dancing with a girl I liked- “pathetic!” Would it have been so odd to take a girl on a coffee date then?
In those moments of interpersonal conflict and malicious self-reflection when insults fly freely, “annoying,” “immature,” and “pathetic” have left scars on my ego. Nothing stings worse than pathetic- probably because of those blurred memories in which I fit nicely into my imagined image of what pathetic looks like. I don’t feel alone in this- it often feels that my generation been acting a bit pathetic as a whole. We claim to want so many things, we want to feel so many things, we want to feel someone or someone to feel us, we want to change or improve or find peace, and for the most part, we do absolutely nothing about it. We swallow feelings, swallow words, and make excuses that prevent us from getting what we really want- to not be where we currently are. Instead, we substitute our burning desires with a craving for pity- from those around us and when we need it most, from ourselves. If you can make yourself feel okay when you don’t feel ok, it almost is as if you are ok … when in reality, you are not. How did finding comfort in discomfort become such a widely accepted societal norm?
Who really deserves to say, “this is it?” The protestor who stood in front of a tank at Tiananmen Square knew THAT was it. I’m sure many of those who were drafted into the army knew THAT was it. There’s no tank coming at me or potential draft even as our country heads into war- so I sit comfortably in my discomfort. But hell- screens and likes and fewer likes by the day and the nauseating act of unfollowing someone because they unfollowed me stings even though I only met them once in person and I would never reach out to them but I laughed at their video they posted of their thanksgiving meal with a witty caption and now they mean nothing to me. That has an effect on my mental health! on my potential! on the present moment at hand!
A Shift In Perspective
While I’m still very much so a part of the “this is it” generation, I’ve grown to find moments when I indulge in self-pity to be repulsive and if I remember these moments occurring at 14 then what’s stopping them from continuing unless I actively change something. “This is it” must take on a whole new meaning that finds comfort in progress rather than the end goal or the impossibility of said end goal. Yes, “this is it” but the cause and effect rationale that follows is entirely up to me to control-
“I’m going on dates, with strangers and friends alike, because that’s how you meet a side someone that doesn’t exist elsewhere.”
“I’m taking on any opportunity that presents itself while creating my own!”
“Being drawn to move is a reason to save money and take advantage of every day I have in my current home!”
“Traveling, even to a new city or scene with my city, is something that I must do so that I can refine my perspective on life and thus work better.”
Life and all that comes with it can feel like a tank coming at you, causing the future to feel as if you had been drafted into your own personal war of sort. That is understandable- for brief moments, it is even excusable to feel this way. What isn’t understandable or excusable is accepting this darkness as your reality and thus letting life get in the way of life. A moment or opportunity that escapes you because you’re embarrassed or actively feeding your subconscious with a list of reasons that now is not the time to act is utterly ridiculous- the present is all you’ve got. While I have moments of relapse, I find solace in actively avoiding those excuses or claims that framed the “this” of “this is it” in a negative light. Fighting what is true of the current moment we live in, whatever this is, is useless. Accepting it and declaring that it better be good, that it is up to me to decide if it is good, and that I will actively work to make it good is all I’ve got. So, this is it!