So, this is my life.

And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.

Friday, May 27, 2011

never grow up

an interesting article on the Forbes blog reminded me of my own thoughts about our generation and our struggle with growing up -- a struggle of which, as i near 30 yet remain unsure about the major decisions regarding my future, i'm constantly aware.

several years ago, here, i theorized that our generation was a Peter Pan generation, though at the time i called us the "Neverland Generation."  the Forbes blogger takes issue with the name that i implied and, unwittingly, along with many others, have labeled our generation:

Another name given to us is the Peter Pan Generation. It is not a particularly flattering sobriquet, meant to reflect the perception that we are having trouble “growing up” in a traditional sense. Some say that this definition is based purely on the economic realities of our time, i.e. the recession has made it hard for this generation to enter the working world with the relative ease of previous generations and has sent us back to our parents’ houses, delaying our transition into adulthood. Some take a more sociological approach, explaining the increasing age at which the rites of adulthood are performed as a reaction to the mistakes of the previous generation, e.g. we marry later because so many of us are children of divorce.

There is some merit in both these explanations of how this generation has picked up the Peter Pan label, but they don’t mitigate the condescension remaining in the word choice. Embedded is the perception that my generation does not want to grow up, and therefore is childish, churlish, and shirking our responsibility–Peter Pan did not remain attached to his childhood because he had trouble picking up work or because his parents lived in separate houses. Rather, he chose to remain a child, and symbolizes both the idealization of our youth and our fear of adulthood.

 a few of my own thoughts on the topic, in case you're of the Peter Pan Generation and are too lazy/impatient to just click on my link, above: 

whereas patrick thinks this phenomenon is exacerbated by urban living, i think it's a cultural shift. on one hand, he's right that city-dwellers who are chasing financial success have a different focus, a different way of viewing the world. but all across the country there are 30-somethings wasting their evenings playing video games (case in point: my older brother) and partying like they're still 21.

we're the generation that will contribute $300 to a pair of jeans before we'll contribute it to our 401K. we're the yuppies who work hard and play hard, rather than just working hard and resting, like our forefathers dreamed of. at the end of the day, i think we're innately different from those fat, old lawyers we see on the street.

the Forbes blog, which i encourage you to read (click that link above), places great importance on the role of 9/11 and on numerous scandals that our generation has, in the midst of our formative years, observed and internalized.  i don't necessarily agree that the qualities that have given us the "Peter Pan" label have anything to do with those phenomena.  i genuinely believe it when i tell people, "30 is the new 20," which might sound silly but which makes sense when you consider the events in the life of a 30-year-old of previous generations and those in the lives of those in our generation.  my theory is that we don't want to grow up because we don't think that we have to grow up yet.  we will live longer than previous generations, we are waiting longer to do what previous generations did, and we have longer to enjoy our youth and great skin.  thank god.  

i did appreciate the end of the aforementioned blog, though: 

Please, do not judge my generation too harshly. We live in a post-ironic environment and are struggling to create meaning when there is precious little about which to feel sure. 

Every generation is diverse, complicated and has their own obstacles to overcome. In this regard, The Lost Generation is the same as all that have come before us. History, not misplaced optimism, suggests that we will get by, and will welcome adulthood on our own terms. We grew up with loose ends, loose labels and high expectations. I think we are doing just fine.

1 comment:

*t said...

I finally got to read all of the articles (the Huffington Post one AND the Forbes one)...

I'm not sure if it was mentioned anywhere, but curiously enough today in an exhibit at work I learned that Gertrude Stein was the one who coined the term "The Lost Generation." It defined those expats who lived in Paris right after WWI.

Technically, I'm a Gen Y-er, and not of the Lost Generation, but I think we're all doing all right. "Time is not universal--it's personal."