CLARE: ok, you know what i always think about when i think of our generation? i read the david brooks book, “the social animal” and while it was only mediocre, he had this one really great bit that really stuck with me—the Greek ideal of “thumos”, which is the lust not for money or success (in the conventional sense) but the lust for glory
we want glory through our ideas-we want to know we matter
Clare has us pegged pretty well: We are self-centered and convinced of our specialness and unaccustomed to being denied. “I am sad, jaded, disillusioned, frustrated, and worried,” said one girl I talked to who feels “stuck” in a finance job she took as a stepping-stone to more-fulfilling work she now cannot find.
In the second experiment, which was a reaction to their own distant moms and dads, our parents tried to see how much self-confidence they could pack into us, like so many overstuffed microfiber love seats, and accordingly we were awarded clip-art Certificates of Participation just for showing up.
Our generation is the product of two long-term social experiments conducted by our parents. The first sought to create little hyperachievers encouraged to explore our interests and talents, so long as that could be spun for maximum effect on a college application.
Then there is my friend Sam (not his real name, because he felt that if I used his real name, he’d truly be unemployable).
One thing about being the boomers’ heirs growing up in boom times was that it used to be okay to take a life-enriching sabbatical. There was no reason to think you wouldn’t eventually be able to get back on track.
He is rather earnestly worried that he might end up on the street.
Layne told me, in an e-mail of ambiguous sincerity, that the main advice he would give a recent graduate was to own only what would fit in a backpack and keep a current passport always on hand.
Helplessness Blues, an album by Fleet Foxes
“I was raised up believing / I was somehow unique / Like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes / Unique in each way you can see,” it begins. “But, now, after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be / A functioning cog in some great machinery / Serving something beyond me.”
who beneath her surface armor is hamstrung by faltering self-confidence
In the early days of the recession, I was secretly a little jealous of friends who’d lost their jobs. When you’re young enough, from the outside a layoff can look confusingly like liberation. It seemed like an opportunity to do more of the semi-sanctioned and semi-scripted fucking around that goes with this decade of life. But it stops feeling like a fun, sexy choice when it’s not, in fact, a choice, and what income you’re fortunate to have is highly nondisposable. It’s hard to fully enjoy avoiding maturity if you’re worried that it’s more like maturity is escaping you.
…inflated expectations of the lifestyle you need to have attained…
But she’s leaning toward studying to be a pharmacist, a field for which hiring prospects remain bright. “I have a slight interest in it,” she says.
And since we are, as a generation, more addicted to positive reinforcement than any before us, and because we have learned firsthand the futility of finding that affirmation through our employers, we have returned to our stuff-making ways, via pursuits easily mocked: the modern-day pickling, the obsessive Etsying, the flower-arranging classes, the knitting resurgence, the Kickstarter funds for art projects of no potential commercial value. The millions upon millions who upload footage of themselves singing or dancing or talking about the news to YouTube.
But the thumbs-up isn’t a substitution for anything. It is just a tiny kindness, a sweet pat on the back, and the profligacy with which we give them out is just a function of a generation’s giving out compliments in the volume in which we received them growing up.
the merits of constrained circumstances
“Getting better at enjoying life” is something he describes very seriously as a goal. This is not something that requires a big salary, and he doesn’t think his mind-set will change much with age.
We are less interested in stuff, but still very interested in self.
Life is just getting easier.
Essentially, it’s a measure of whether you think your destiny is controlled by you or outside forces.
Why the Current Crop of Twentysomethings Are Going to Be Okay