“sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread… ” that’s what Bilbo Baggins said to Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring, and I must admit, that is how I find I feel now that I am really entering the realm of adult life.
It has occurred to me recently that growing up in the western world has drastically changed since entering into the 21st century. My parents tell me stories of how they moved out, got jobs, went to school, made choices, got married (and divorced), had many jobs and eventually found each other.
When I compare this to how I am as a person and what has gone into my development into adult life, I can’t help but try to draw parallels, to see how things are similar and how they are different. Now, I am not deluded enough to think that I had it harder than my parents, in the traditional sense, but I have come to realize with astonishment, that there is a challenge that I face that my parents may never have, at least not to this extent: the freedom to choose.
This may sound twisted and odd to you, but please, let me try to explain. It has come to my attention that as a generation the western children of the 90’s were brought up believing one fundamental truth: that we could be anything we wanted and that is an insurmountable pressure that many of us are now finding themselves crushed beneath. Being told by our parents that we shouldn’t let anyone else’s expectations dictate our lives and that we can do and be and think and feel what ever we want. Of course this came from a deep place of love and support, and their dream for us to have a better future; to have the choices they were not given. However, I find that this may have left some of us, with a lack of purpose; no sense of direction.
Let me backpedal a bit, to try to make some more sense. If the tales I have been told so repeatedly are true, 30 years ago, you got a set of suitcases for your 18th birthday, which you used, along with the money you had been earning at your part time job, to get out and grow up. This meant immediately being plunged into the rough reality of adult life; responsibilities such as needing to find and keep a home, pay the bills, feed the cat and occasionally yourself (as well as realizing that toilet paper doesn’t magically appear in the bathroom). But it also meant the independence of figuring out your own schedule, your own pleasures and leisures and learning, that as long as you did your best, you were supposed to be okay.
For many people, this was tough love. It meant working what ever job you could get and being thankful for it, having little to no schooling, and for those who did go to post secondary it meant severe expectations – what are you going to do with your life? Studying the arts, or anything that wouldn’t lead to a solid career, was not encouraged or openly endorsed and heaven forbid you took classes your parents didn’t support, or if you failed the ones they did pay for, because you’d be making fools out of them – not just yourself, but them too.
This pressure, to conform, adapt and meet everyone else’s expectations has led to a generation of parents who wanted their children to feel supported and adored; precious no matter what their choices.
From my observation of others and realizations within myself, this has lead us to a point where we, as this new generation, are often floating though our early 20’s without a goal or real sense of self. We were not kicked out at 18, 20 or 22, and when we didn’t know what we wanted to be when we grew up, that was okay, because we didn’t have to figure it out just yet. I am 24 years old, married and have a solid job, pay rent in our shared family home, but there are days where I still feel like an aimless child.
I guess the fact that geek culture is widely prevalent, accepted and even normal these days, greatly plays into this next part, but where married couples 30 year ago would go out to pubs, movies, theatre & ballets and throw dinner parties with their peers, my husband and I sit at home, content in our PJ’s, playing video games, table top card games and arranging our collectible comic book and Disney figurines. We are overgrown children. Most days, this is just part of who we are, and it adds joy and delight to our daily routine, but on other days, it makes me feel like I epically failed at growing up. Shouldn’t I be more mature by now?
That is not to say that I have not had amazing experiences, and that I do not enjoy my life, on the contrary I love life, but… there are days like today where I don’t know what I am doing; where I am going or why I am doing what I am doing. I think of all the could have beens…. I could have been an actress, but I didn’t pursue it (for many reasons)… I could have been a singer, but I was too scared of rejection… I could have gone to school abroad, and gotten a degree, but I didn’t. I could have been a linguist…
I could have been …. I could have seen … I could have experienced…. and the problem that I, and we as a generation, face is that we have no one else to blame but ourselves.
Our parents did not want to pressure us, for their own very good reasons; we were allowed to figure things out as we went along. We could study, or not study; work or not work; love or not love, marry or not marry (and usually we can even get married in the most untraditional of ways [ask my folks about that one]) and no one would pressure us either way. The downside is though, that for those of us without direction, with too much fear, too much doubt, or too little self confidence or motivation; this greatest gift has become our greatest trap. We have become docile. Trapped between the responsibilities of growing up and fitting into this world where we have to learn to fend for ourselves, find any job that will take us, knowing that the fate of the world (the environmental crisis, all of these wars, the loss of natural resources and corrupt political systems) lies on our very shoulders. They are our problems, influenced by our decisions, for our tomorrow and for the future of the next generation that we have already started to create. I know that when I look at my godchildren and yet, sometimes, it’s just easier to pop on a movie, catch the latest TV hit series or rearrange our collectibles.
We have to handle fitting into this world, a world that is not as kind, patient or accepting as our parents, being what ever we are right now, great or plain, super or not…. all of this while knowing, that we could have done anything. Made a real difference in this world. We could have been anything we wanted to be: singers, songwriters, photographers, journalists, scientists, teachers- anything – even astronauts. And if we had failed the NASA entrance exam, we would have seen the stars anyway, because our parents would have personally carried us to the moon and back, but we couldn’t make up our minds, so we blog about it instead.
Thanks for reading. xoxo