(Expectation v. Reality and Reality is the World Falling Apart)
I don’t know always know what to call it. I've heard it called anxiety, manic depression, chronic corniness. What I do know is that I liked it best when it was described as “having zero chill”. Whatever it is, I can describe it as the panic that sets in whenever I consider making the leap from generic millennial companionship to something that’s supposed to resemble a real, honest-to-god, adult relationship. After polling friends/coworkers/romantic casualties, it's a feeling that seems to be relatively common among us oft-maligned millennials. More and more, I see that we are content to choke off the flow of unfamiliar faces coming into our lives, avoid the chance encounters and stymie the swiping we in order to avoid the crippling fear that comes from opening ourselves up to someone new. I feel that we go about choosing the people in our lives the same way we go about choosing the shows we watch. Have I seen enough or is it just getting good? Do I go back to something I started or do I give this new thing a chance? Do I give up what I've already invested time in, even if I'm not happy? And as much as The Greatest Generation and our beloved Boomers enjoy reducing us to gif-sharing, meme-creating, politically-correct whiners, the very real, systematic problems millennials face has a direct effect on the relationships in both our personal relationships and our general outlook going forward.
While there may be a dearth of snow-covered two-way uphill inclines we have to battle (because climate change), there are severe impediments to our livelihoods and the sustainability of our world and it’s having a widespread negative effect on us as a generation. Tragedies in the era of basic cable that could be brushed under the rug are now streamed right to the phones that never leave our side. The new and the exciting is constantly being packaged with the terrifying and the deplorable. For every adorable pet gif or sexy Instagram personality there are a hundred brutal reminders of the cruelty and injustice in the world, causing my hopes for a personal happy ending to be erased by the blunt-force trauma of reality. Our carefully curated internet images are often our sole armor we have against a world that makes less and less sense. Stack a deeply personal setback and/or severe economic insecurity brought on by spiraling global inequality and wage stagnation and you might ask yourself why you should bother at all looking for that happy ending? Why not grab the next person that you don't want to kill after a weekend together and take on a Khaled-esque resolve to make no new friends? (Another one? No thanks.) But as we are not yet the robot batteries that our children are doomed to be, I believe millennials will continue to stubbornly hold on to a certain sense of idealism that comes with the world we inherited. Some of us are lucky enough to see big chunks of what this world has to offer. Ultimately, we don't define our lives by our tragedies. The unreasonable amount of love and adoration I've had in my life leaves me helpless to the hope that I’m not only meant for great things but that there is someone who will be there to share it all with me.
The price to dreaming is high. You dream despite unemployment. You dream despite “unexpected levels of anxiety and depression”. You dream despite rising sea levels, strengthening storms and global pandemics. In a world where unprecedented opportunity goes head-to-head against unprecedented difficulty. What is the right choice when your expectations are a rock and reality is a dream-mashing, world-ending hard place? How long are we willing to stick this out? For many of us, to save our dreams we're taking our chance with that rock. As a healthy person with a stable income, I can roughly divide my life into uneven groupings of what I’m proud of, what I’m ashamed of, what I’ve done, and what I hope to one day do. With that, I do worry if I’ve peaked, if this is me at my best, if it’s proverbially all downhill from here. That brings on the anxiety, panic, and the aforementioned lack of chill that often leaves me in social situations where I feel like an alien masquerading as a person. But my millennial idealism leaves me unable to be anything but a reluctant optimist. At my core, I'm just hoping to be appreciated for what I am, not what I'm trying and failing to be. But I also know what it’s like for someone to look into my eyes, see me for who I am, and decide to pass. But I am fundamentally a person who doesn't just want to settle for not having made the world a worse place but thinks they could ultimately leave it a better one. And to do that, you have to be the kind of person who will always believe that what’s coming could still end up being the best part.