My generation is always in the news: we are whiney, jobless complainers who don’t know how good we have it but tell everyone just how much we suffer.
That is definitely one side of the conversation. The other involves getting so screwed by large companies who get us to intern without pay and trying to get up the corporate ladder in such a short amount of time that our teeth start bleeding.
But I often feel very displaced between these two perspectives, mostly because I’m not a cartoon or a caricature. My subjectivities cross cultural, political and philosophical boundaries and they are valid, and they aren’t the only subjectivities out there.
Gen Y is often referred to as being technology-obsessed over-sharers. And yes, I have posted pictures on Facebook that could have used a little more forethought, but my parents have also sent handwritten love notes that they wish they could take back (and then burn in a fireplace and scatter the remnants in some far-away wood lot). These sort of confidence blunders are part of the process of aging, not a characteristic of a vague group of people born around the same few decades.
And yes, social networking, online environments, and iTechnology in any form are native aspects of life for me. I still remember my mother sitting up till 4am in our tiny bedroom in Russia to play Tetris on D-OS. But this doesn’t mean that I champion technology in every way, and it doesn’t prescribe my lifestyle.
If you read many 20-something sites and blogs, you would get many trite, cookie-cutter representations of “what being a young person is like” these days. And I say trite because it’s already a cliché: the young, hopeful midwestern/small town girls and boys who escape to the big city of their choice to frolic in the fields of sexual camaraderie and work in PR, or another career that sucks your entire life up and spits out another line on your ingeniously designed resumé.
But we are more than the lines our resumes.
In my group of friends, most of whom are either first or second generation immigrants, there is an overwhelming desire to live our lives fully. This desire is spoken out loud and often sighed over when those of us who travel or publish or get promoted achieve something worth noting. And although when we were kids, we never planned on introducing ourselves by the titles on our business cards, we catch ourselves doing just that more often than we’d like to admit.
We brand ourselves almost unconsciously these days, on our Twitter profiles, our blogs, our Facebook pages. Courses in entrepreneurial management, while helpful in some technical areas, seem common sense to those of use who spend most of our time on .coms. Of course you need to have an identity easily summarized in 2, 30, and 140 words. It needs to be minimalistic, to the point, and easily marketable. You need to fit your personality peg into a business-need hole and hope they pay top dollar.
All this being said, the idea of introducing yourself by your job is pretty preposterous.
Mainly because I am not just a job; I am a person. And even though the economic situation is such that many people, once they decide to form families, are both forced into work, we don’t necessarily want to make work our whole lives. We’d rather work to live than live solely for the love of work.
Of course, there isn’t anything wrong with live to work, and I’m not saying any of this out of judgement. I see how it reflects many North American cultural values, but I just can’t quite convince myself to follow through with it. It’s why I always say “No” when people ask if I want to be a journalist. “I’m a writer,” I say. IMHO, journalism and academia and PR all seem to take over your life in a very 24/7 way. And I want to be incredibly fantastic at what I do and will continue to do, whatever that may be, but I’m not willing to give up the rest of my life for it. It’s the never-ending superwoman mystique. Literally, the desire to “be all” of women’s dreams.
And of course, writing is a huge part of my life and a lot of what I’ve struggled to accomplish over the past 5 years, and probably will struggle with for the rest of my life. But it’s not the only thing about me that affects my self-worth or self-actualization. My family, my relationships, my interests and the amount I give back to others, think about others, care for others; all of this plays into my sense of identity.
This is why I prefer to work to live, and why I’m nervously accepting that my dad was right in telling me to study a skill that’s in-demand. I’m wishing I knew how to design websites and illustrate everything, because now, writing is a job. It’s a job that I do for money.
And outside of work, I want a life. I have a significant other who is hilarious and inquisitive and deserves my time. I want kids, and have wanted kids since I was a 16-year-old (although accidentally stumbling on videos of birth from the doctor’s POV has severely stalled my mental plans for this), and what’s more is that I want to raise them in the country. Any country, preferably one with a good, socialist health care system, but near fresh air and weird crawly things and streams and adventures.
I see my sister growing up with our iPads and Netflix, and I don’t wish to replicate that with my future kids because some of my most formidable memories from childhood come from spending summers at my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ cottages. Making stews from dirt and apple bark and different leaves. Creating playgrounds for snails and frogs in a bucket with neighbourhood friends. Napping in the afternoon on a hammock with my great-uncle while he whispered ridiculous stories into my ear that would make me wake up giggling.
I want that. And I’m thankful for technology and the liberalization and modernization of our cultures. Thankful is an understatement. I’m not looking to slow down evolution or creativity, but I also want balance. In an article in the Toronto Star, Peter Gorrie writes, “The pressure to accept growth is just too great to resist.”
As far as I’m concerned,
we don’t need to always grow, always consume, always and forever earn more money, because after a certain point, none of those things will make us happier than having more time with the things we love.
If technology will help me live a location-independent life with my writing, take better care of my health and have more social support, I will be over the moon. But I don’t want everything newnewnew and modernmodernmodern all the time. There is a difference between innovation and saturation, I think, though the two often get confused. Where innovation can be seen as the initial tablet/handheld computer, and saturation is iPad, 2, 3, 4, and 5, along with 1,700 other brands. I don’t want my life saturated in technology. I want to pick what will improve my life and have the inner strength to leave the rest.
I am definitely not afraid to work hard, but know that I will be working hard for balance. Whether this represents anyone else, I can’t say; but I have an inkling that these computers and iPhones are not all that we want, nor are they all that will satisfy us.