It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more I listen to (read: dance to) Katy B’s “Louder,” the more it seeps into my day-to-day life. The more it seeps into life, the more the underlying philosophy guides the days, weeks, and months. Where I’ve previously described the angst of the ‘quarter-life crisis,’ it’s not the memories of my youth that I mourn, but quite the opposite: that instead it was wasted.
Listen for yourself:
(It doesn’t help that I looked like that at 16.)
It was a handful of weeks ago that I was driving to work, thinking to myself “is this what being grown-up is?” The constant nagging feeling that I don’t really have any answers to the same questions that plagued me years ago, just a a few glimmers of insight. I feel exactly as I did at 16, but with a few additional responsibilities and a whole lot more freedom. I still drown out my thoughts with loud music; I still drive fast; I still escape situations where I’m awkwardly uncomfortable; I still coach (and play) soccer; I still adore the same things I did then (though the list has expanded some over the years). And while I appreciate the present tense moments, I’ve never given in or been seduced by them, at least long-term (momentary weakness: yes; reckless addictions and compulsions: no.) Which leads to an quirky question: did I miss out on an undefinable something called youth? And worse yet: is that why I still feel 16?
I think this is a good thing, albeit odd. Going through photos of friends, a handful of them have grown up – they’re married, some with kids, they have houses and mortgages, and have piled on the responsibility and sacrificed (some) freedom. And they’re happy, happier than our parents were. Yet it’s not about the rite of passage-style events anymore – it’s all about whether they’re still in touch, moving and shaking in some way. It’s been made much easier to move toward and from the edge, in constant, dynamic flux with the use of social technologies. ‘The man,’ as previous generations have declared, will get you, bogeyman-style, when you lose your cultural edge. Now, there’s no excuse.
My millennial generation has grown up in a period of unraveling and fragmentation in the cultural sphere, yet we’ve always been cared for and protected through this instability. It’s said that we were the generation who elected Obama; it’s said that we can’t function alone, but only in teams. We’re coming of age, not necessarily into adulthood, but into a larger role as we become the dominant power in this sphere. And given our predilection for optimism and energy, we’ll be the generation to redefine, fight, and expand our cultural power.
Certainly I’m part of that.
I’ve been working on a couple proposals for two serious – and high-minded – projects that can and will change the face of education, utilizing technology and the social space. These projects address the continued fragmentation of education and the crisis of insurmountable debt (and the uneven impact to show for it). I’ll be the first to say that my undergraduate education gave me the skills and abilities I needed – and the network to back it up. My graduate education gave me the clout and discipline of responsibility. I use none of my degrees in their narrow fields; it was never my intention to do so as none of them are vocational-level degrees. I want to share this freedom with the world; I want the world to have the same opportunities I do and to be able to take these opportunities at any point in life. Friedman and his disciples call this principle “flattening” – I call this necessity for a world soon (if not already) in the midst of cultural crisis. Education isn’t a magic bullet, yet it is a stepping stone in the right direction. The ability to think, to read, to write, to create, to analyze – these skills are priceless as the foundations of any existence. A government is only as effective as its citizens; a culture only as pervasive as its citizens; an economic system is only as strong as its citizens.
And I have the heroic impulse (and 16 year-old indefatigable, youthful optimism) to take on the challenge.
My voice is getting louder.