I am, for all the definitions floating around, a Millennial. No, I don’t remember anything about the Y2K freakout other than the four 5-gallon jugs of water my dad stashed in the basement “just in case,” but I do remember where I was on 9/11.
Being a Millennial comes with a few unwritten stipulations: In exchange for a lifelong access to the totality of information and a world of instant gratification, we get ever looming existential dread and a hearty sense of self-loathing. No? Just me? Can’t be just me – Reddit exists, so I know my sentiments are the majority.
I haven’t had a carefree day of self-love with an enthusiasm for tomorrow since August 1999. That sounds so dramatic (and it is), but I counted back the days, and it’s about right. The day I started 3rd grade, the day my life began its decline. Life took a sharp downhill tumble from 2000-2002, but it eventually rose to a manageable “a’ight” from 2002-2005. 2006 was another trip down that lasted about two years.
I swear to you, the best year of my life was 2009-2010, my senior year of high school in which I genuinely felt I had potential, worth, foundation, a self-respect that mirrored from my peers. I wasn’t stressed by the every day school things because I’d been accepted by a good college, and was looking forward to a new challenge.
Unfortunately, that high was quickly and effectively squashed by four years of college. College ripped and beat every piece of pride out of me. So that turned out to be fun and well worth the debt. 2014 I found myself in the nadir of my existence, contemplating suicide. Instead, I opted for a few competing methods of self-harm.
“Oh yeah, they say life goes on / Long after the thrill of living is gone.”
For some unconscious reason, somewhere inside me I could not give away the last iota of myself. Ironically, I still harbored a sense of… hope? An expectation that things could get better? Whatever it was, it was a feeling I often masked with the line, “My life is stupid, so let’s see what stupid ass thing happens next.” And I just… kept living. Not for my parents, not for my brother, not even for myself, but for the story of it all.
It baffles me how I can be simultaneous unfeeling and detached from my lived experience yet have so much expression and passion in real time.
Nowadays, I have a better handle on myself with an actualized independence. Life is still stressful (and stupid), but it’s not always overwhelming. Now, it’s more logical. I don’t want it all gone, I just wish XYZ would stop. Sometimes, I have the power to change XYZ, keeps me living.
I still can’t get past the reality I’m not doing anything meaningful with my life, though. That part is sometimes overwhelming. I have not found the balance to combat the adulthood divergence:
- Either the job creates purpose and fulfills the individual, who invests in that purpose or
- The job is a job an the individual finds a purpose in their private life and invests there
I’ve yet to find anything or anyone worthy of investment in the private sphere, and my job’s sole purpose is to profit someone else. The crippling factor is the realization I have a lot of (if not total) power to change this XYZ, but I don’t currently have the emotional capacity to do so.
When I was young, and I mean kindergarten age, I decided I would go to Harvard Law because I liked the name and I liked how everyone lit up when they heard it. I would become a judge because the world was dumb and my great-grandfather saw merit in the position enough to be a county judge himself. For 18 years, that was the plan and I ensured my grades and extra-curriculars could afford me a shot at the entrance interview.
I cannot express in words the sheer disappointment emanating from my father when Junior year of college I announced I wanted to work in academics and decided to be a high school teacher. My first pet, a kitten named Patches, was struck by a car after only 6 months of ownership. My 7 year old heart wasn’t nearly as broken as my father with that announcement. As Obama couldn’t run for a third term, I don’t think America’s collective sigh burned as stark as my father’s silence that day.
One Wednesday night just after Family Dinner, Paul said to no one in particular, “Remember when Mallory wanted to be a judge?” The only sound in the entire house came from the tv, excitedly affirming the new low, low prices on mattresses.
“Yep,” my father responded without inflection, without emotion, and without looking away from the screen.
Casual disappointment is my life’s calling card.