Dec 29, 2009
Instead of traveling, writing and trying to figure out what we want, should we be marrying and having babies?
When a contemporary 25-year-old’s parents were 25, they weren’t concerned with keeping their options open: they were purposefully buying houses, making babies and making partner. Now, who we are and what we do is up to us, unbound to existing communities, families and class structures that offer leisure and self-determination to just a few. Boomer and post-boom parents with more money and autonomy than their predecessors has resulted in benignly self-indulgent children who were sold on their own uniqueness, place in the world and right to fulfillment in a way no previous generation has felt entitled to, and an increasingly entrepreneurial, self-driven creation myth based on personal branding, social networking and untethered lifestyle spending is now responsible for our identities.
There is something about all of these critiques of quarterlife crises that kind of bother me. That quarterlife crises are almost wholly the province of middle to upper-middle class kids with an education and with a whole lot more opportunity for, to put it in nice terms, fucking about rather than working goes without saying. While I get tired of the "it's just a bunch of whiny rich kids," I can see where the argument comes from. But it's this look back over the shoulder to "a better time" that gets me.
"When I was your age, I was getting married and having children, not any of this nonsense about seeing the world or figuring out what I wanted."
Really? Is that the preferable path? That people once accepted the status quo, got jobs they didn't particularly care for, married and had children even if that wasn't particularly what they wanted, bought homes in neatly planned little subdivisions in the 'burbs, and then at 40 or so had the same kind of crises many of us are having in our 20s--self-doubt, self-worth, where is purpose and meaning, etc.--just with 20 less years to change paths?
I think one of the reasons why kids today have quarterlife crises is because we've seen how little happiness the myth that a house in the suburb with 2.5 kids and a dog and a "comfortable" job has afforded our parents and maybe even also our grandparents. We have the self-awareness to realize that just because this is the ideal that has been sold for 60+ years, that doesn't make it the right lifestyle for everyone, that it may not be the right lifestyle for us. At the same time, though, there is little opportunity to have a different kind of life. At every turn, people try to push you back into the mainstream. Get that 9-to-5 job. Buy that house. Snag that husband. Have those babies. Don't forget the dog!
There is also, of course, a fear that if we do something different, we'll end up in a place that we like even less, that we're even less suited for. Obviously, this is a phenomenon only for those who have the certain degree of economic privilege to make this sort of choice possible to begin with, and for that reason a lot of people treat considering making different choices as frivolous. At the same time, some of the questions that underscore the quarterlife crises so many experience are important. They challenge the idea that the status quo is the right choice, that it should be the only choice and the choice toward which all people should strive. A person having a quarterlife crisis asks: is this lifestyle really all it's cracked up to be?
I think overwhelmingly the answer is no. You're looking at a generation of kids who were raised in this "perfect" environment that has been touted as the paramount of personal achievement for most Americans at least for over half of a century, and they are rejecting "perfection" in large enough numbers that it is notable. You can argue that these youth are taking their privilege for granted or that kids these days don't appreciate what they have, but maybe what they are really saying is that all of the material things and material privilege don't bring significant meaning and value to life. Maybe what they are saying is that maybe we should value different choices, different lifestyles, because those choices might bring something better, both to individuals and to society at large.
The fact that young people are so harshly ridiculed for questioning the life they were born into ("you're spoiled," "you're entitled," etc.) is sort of confusing to me. Yes, these are essentially a bunch of (comparatively) wealthy kids who have privilege that many others don't, including the privilege to question the wealth and status quo they were brought up in and which gave them access to wealth and privilege to begin with. But is questioning whether the very wealth and privilege they were born into are valuable or if that status quo is worth perpetuating really a bad thing?
I don't know. For me personally, the answer is no. I've got a lot of questions. I may not know the exact direction I want to go in life. But I think the fact that I'm not just accepting the life handed me, the fact that I want something more--for myself, for those around me--is a good thing. Yes, I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity to question whether or not the status quo is a smart choice, but who better to question the status quo than those most likely to perpetuate it?
Dec 16, 2009
The Oughties pretty much encompassed all of my late teens and early 20s, a pretty crazy period where you start doing all of that cliched "finding yourself" and making pretty epically dumb mistakes. All the same, it was so much fun. I thought I'd share my last decade with you guys.
Check it out, guys. This is in the spring of 2000. I'm posing here in my overalls with two of my equally styling classmates for a yearbook picture. Check out those tall socks. Oh, yeah. The epitome of cool.
This is the facial expression I wore pretty much all the time between the age of 13 and about 19. I'm wearing surprisingly little eyeliner here, considering that most of the time, I looked like a raccoon. Eyeliner = angst. The more eyeliner you wear, the more angsty you are.
My junior year I went to a youth leadership conference in Washington, DC. We were there the week following the 2000 election, which, if you will recall, was when we couldn't figure out who had been elected president. Looking back on it, being in DC at a conference that taught you about how government works during this "historic time" was pretty Forrest Gump-esque.
At the FCCLA (the name was changed from Future Homemakers of America the year before) banquet, waiting for officer initiation. Girls had to wear all white for initiation. I have no idea what boys would have worn, because we never had any boys as officers, or even as members, even after they changed the name to something less archaic.
You remember this. The white background and white props for senior pictures. I know in most places this trend went out with the 90s, but in the backwoods, they were still rocking this well into the middle of the next decade.
Prom blew. I wasn't a huge fan of my date. To begin with, he was someone I knew, which when I was 17 pretty much automatically put you on my HATE list. But also, as we were riding to prom in his pick-up truck, he told me I would never make it through college and would be back home within a year. I think I made it through that first year at college just to spite him.
High school graduation. Happiest day of my life up to that point. It meant sweet escape.
Midway through my freshman year of college, I got my first boyfriend ever (much to everyone's surprise) and joined a sorority (much to everyone's surprise.) This is us after my sorority's formal. Please note, I'm still wearing the heavy eyeliner.
Little known fact: I was the main character in the Orientation Advisors' musical skit "Burnt Orange Beauty" in UT's talent show, Texas Revue. It was really awesome.
Hanging out with some OAs on our trip to New Orleans. This was such a fun summer. I loved, loved, loved the OAs.
Bid Day during formal recruitment my sophomore year. This is the last photo I have of me with my sorority sisters, I think. This is the year I got super involved in Res Life, and pretty much was unable to attend any of my sorority functions for the next two years.
The URHA banquet at the end of my sophomore year with my BFF. SO CHATE!
Giving a speech about my dad at my sorority's Dad's Day my senior year. I'm really only showing this picture because, holy shit, look at all that hair. This was the beginning of my two-year streak of having BIG HAIR and BIG EARRINGS.
My 21st birthday at the famous Trudy's. This is probably the first birthday I celebrated with people other than my parents since I was about 12. A ton of people showed up, and I was blown away that people actually liked me enough to come to, well, any party that I threw actually. (Although in retrospect, they were probably just there to see me get drunk and make a fool of myself.) I had also just moved into a brand new apartment and was starting grad school in a couple of weeks. I was so unbelievably happy that night. The stuff of memories. (Kellen was there, too. <3)
Erica's 21st birthday! Another great night.
I don't think there was any particular occasion for this outing, but on this particular night, a group of us went out and got completely (please remember I was only 21!) trashed. It was so much fun. The next morning I woke up with one of the glands in my neck swollen to the size of a tennis ball (no exaggeration.) I had mono. How I still have a liver is beyond me.
This was the summer I lived with Kim and Elyse in a house in East Austin. That summer had such a distinctive feel. I can close my eyes and still remember it perfectly.
Texas football! Colt McCoy's first season. I wasn't impressed then, and I'm not impressed now. (Sorry. I know that makes me a traitor, but it's just the truth.)
My last year in Austin was the year of the theme party. Starting with my Pirates vs. Ninja birthday and ending with Shivangi's hat party. Shortly after this, people began leaving the city and moving on. :(
My 23rd birthday. I was only in Austin for another week after five years of so much awesomeness.
Posing with my roommies at flight attendant graduation! Only a few short hours from getting my wings and flying off to...Oregon. To see Kellen. :)
Then I got an office job and moved to Oregon permanently. Grown up life begins.
Then we got Pippin...
And then we got engaged!
I wonder what the next 10 years will be like. How much we will change. How much the world around us will change. I wonder what I'll be doing. When I was 15, I had so many plans, so many goals. I've accomplished a lot of them by now. Some of the others are things I still want, but seem to be impossible. Others I have abandoned completely and can laugh at now. At 25, though, I don't have nearly as much ambition. I have no goals, not even a particularly strong direction to head off in.
A lot of people are probably coming up with resolutions now for the new year. Maybe even some are thinking about where they'll be in 10 years and starting to set long-term goals. I don't know. Not only do I not know where I want to go, in a lot of ways, I'm not really worried about it. If there's anything I've learned in the last 10 years it's that life doesn't always take you where you want to go, you won't do the things you expect to do, and you won't become the things you think you'll become. I guess I just feel like putting a lot of my pressure to become something or to achieve something specific won't necessarily get me to a place where I want to be.
So for a while, I'm just going to take things as they come. Things always work out in the end.
Dec 8, 2009
Which means, no more Crown Vic.
Thankfully, we still have the van that Kellen and Max bought to take to Burning Man--they were supposed to sell it as soon as they got back, so I guess sometimes procrastination is a good thing--so Kellen at least has transportation. We were also planning on getting him a new car in a couple of months anyhow. His new job starts next Monday, and his income will (hallelujah!) be doubling.
So it's not as if this is the worst thing ever. It just means we probably won't make as much money as we expected from selling his car. I can deal with that.
Kellen said sometime in the last couple of weeks that I don't seem to be worrying as much as I usually do. Think back, if you will, to February, when my old car was totaled and I was completely freaked out at the prospect of having to take on a car payment and the higher insurance that accompanies a new vehicle. My reaction to what is a very similar situation (loss of vehicle and taking on new expenses) is completely different. Kellen having a job I think is the biggest relief I can think of. We are now in a position where we can absorb those sorts of big, unexpected expenses.
Not super excited about the bill that is going to come from the body shop, still, BUT... It is nice that this whole thing happened NOW and not, say, a year ago, or even six months ago. It's nice to be able to take a bad situation and go, "Okay, not a super big deal, we can handle this."