On this day of my birth I feel ashamed of being depressed and anxious, of being, what my manfriend so eloquently calls it, “a birthday brat”. And he is right, in a sense. Having lived in Chicago two years, the reflection of my situation is nothing but bright. I have observed at a pioneering non-profit, worked for a chef creating some of the more uniquely inspired, outstandingly-executed dishes in the nation and written for a forward-thinking software startup that brought me into the kitchens of some of the best restaurants of the city. Even now I have the extraordinary opportunity to influence food production and policy in an industry that is ripe for growth, working for a person whom I respect and admire, a leader who is both a visionary and a down-to-earth seeker and provider of community and meaning. Meanwhile, I am surrounded by folks who, despite knowing me for less than a fraction of their lives, have invited me into their fold. Employees at the local coffee shop, pie shop and yoga studio know my name, my origins and my favorite miniature mug size, pie preference and knee troubles. The bike shop nearby has donated time and bike parts to my own transportation needs, while former employers feed me with backyard eggs and lend me 500$ high heels.
And yet, I am restless.
Is it the city? My age? My friends?
What is driving my perpetually unsatisfied mind?
These days I often wonder whether education ruined me, specifically an education in critically thinking about people and meaning. I frequently feel as if I’m chasing the dragon, as if I got a taste of some mind-blowing high, access to the TRUE and the REAL – the implied asset of higher education. But as I come down, settling into this third decade of life, it feels more like I’m finally getting a close look at some great wildlands that turn out to be a Six Flags Safari with geriatric elephants and consumptive monkeys.
I’m forever considering whether I am unhappy because my environmental needs cannot be met by a large city like Chicago, with asphalt as far as the eye can see and citizens showing little to no intentions of being active, outdoors or connected with the earth in any way. Or is it because my cerebrum, once fed to me on the daily by a professor, my colleagues and the university atmosphere, is withering into the shrunken head so iconically referred to by cultural anthropologists?
And moreover, is the guilt, the incredible weight I feel that it is I who should be fully capable of crafting the world that I desire. I have been given the tools to research, understand, and build the life that I might imagine and what am I doing with it? I can run in the nearby park; I can volunteer at the community garden; I can join a book club, attend a lecture series, take a course. This knowledge and decision paralysis depresses me most (missing activation energy perhaps).
And yet, I also know that some of my friends feel it too. Many of you are with me no? I’ve spoken to you recently about how disillusioned we are, approaching, arriving or living in our 30s, asking ourselves “is this it?” and “what now?” We idly chat about how we wish we were near to each other but those damn “circumstances” and those predecessor expectations of what we should be doing. Sure, we want to be the dude who decided to go ahead and build his very own planned community, collecting rainwater in barrels that irrigate our hugelkulture gardens. Why didn’t we just open that bar, start that brewery or develop that community garden? They all seem to happy, so satisfied with their busy lives and intermittent media attention.
But we just can’t. We know too much, and too little all at once. We ruined it for ourselves. We have responsibilities and debt and fucking rationality and logic that keeps us thinking, ” there’s no time not enough money and it just isn’t practical”. We don’t write or talk or plan trips together. We just don’t know what to say or how to make it happen anymore, all spread out and sensibly trying to make heads and tails of a life that is not to be made heads and tails of. Besides, talking only makes it feel worse. It makes us remember that hope we once had. Before we were jaded.
And that’s where I feel like I am. And I think, and shamefully hope, that a lot of you feel it too.
So what do we do? I once would have considered us the most inspired people of our generation, and now we are the most perplexed and depressed, leaving our hope in the hands of a generation that I feel is so far removed from our own I don’t ever know that I’ll ever speak their same language. In many ways, I truly think we are the last, or rather, stranded between the last and the next – the half digital-half analog generation of lost souls. Like the ugly stepchild, what will we turn into? Too old and washed up to be Cindarella or John Snow…here I am drinking coffee, eating pie and doing yoga into an infinity of white, middle-class, urbanity that’s just making me sick. And I did it, am doing it to myself.
P.S. Does everyone register with Vaselka’s Zazen like this?