Posts tagged ‘i can’t believe it’s not butter’...
Sep 21, 2011 @ 5:18 PM
September has been a supremely busy month, but I’m back, and I couldn’t be more delighted to introduce what I hope will become a regular feature here at thecryout. When I started this blog back in July, I did so with the vision that it would be not only a place for me to rant, but also a forum to entertain the thoughts and feelings of some of my contemporaries. If this project has taught me anything, it’s that putting your opinions out there for all to see is difficult, and yet it must be done if we expect to move forward. As the members of our generation struggle to forge adult lives in 2011 and beyond, we face many unique challenges, and we do so not as a disjointed collection of individuals but as a cohesive entity. The more that is expressed about these challenges and the ways in which they shape all of our lives, the better.
Which is why I am so excited to roll out the Cool People series, and to open it with one of my personal favorites — my dear friend Meera Lee Patel. As articulate as she is lovely, Meera has authored a piece that I think bears relevance to all Millennials, regardless of where we might live or what we might do. Her message, appropriately stern at points, is ultimately optimistic and represents the kind of mantra that each one of us could stand to adopt more often. I celebrate Meera for having the courage to expose her creativity and sincerely thank her for taking time to contribute to thecryout.
And now, without further ado, I leave you to Ms. Patel and her excellent writing.
Happiness Is a Fish That You Can Catch
I should have brought headphones.
In the middle of an early September monsoon, I abandoned the familiar distractions of my home in order to find a quiet place to settle down with my thoughts. I ended up inside a Starbucks in central New Jersey, fully equipped with any and every gadget that enables another human to contact me.
I sigh as the two men sitting next to me argue with broken English and erratic hand gestures. One of them has a sizable cardboard box containing an assortment of extra-strength plastic bags, some with 2-ply construction for “uniform side-wall strength.” I’m slightly impressed but mostly nervous. I think about border security and dead bodies.
I’m 24. In this wretch of an economy, I consider myself lucky to have held down a job doing something I loathe since the summer right after college. The work is mind-numbingly tedious and makes me feel like the least worthwhile person alive. Although I’m borderline blind from staring at a computer screen for ten hours a day, I receive a steady paycheck every two weeks. Like many others, I still live at home; a decision that can be considered emotionally heroic. I save my income and what’s left of my sanity, channeling both toward the distant hope of a secure future. Every parent, economist, newspaper and television network in America has banded together to make me so afraid of debt and financial insolvency that I am living a life I despise for a future I no longer desire. Is this what happiness is?
In a country wracked with consumption, we have successfully blurred the line between want and need, further crippling ourselves with a single desire: more. Our generation faces an interesting predicament where life has become more about the finish line rather than the series of events leading up to it, and in a country battered by a perfect storm of government ineptitude, financial crises and an unraveling healthcare system — to cite just a few — the finish line feels an awful lot like going nowhere.
It’s become very clear to me that the disheartening nature of our time tells us two things. First, that we must forge our own futures. This new future may not be what our dreams are made of — it will be unexpected, challenging and tiresome — but it will be special. It will be ours. Second, that happiness is a choice. Many of the social and political issues surrounding us feel uncontrollable, but our attitudes and perceptions are not.
It’s important to remember that emotions are circulating patterns. Negativity, like the virus of your choice, is infectious. In a time where we have the power and means to spread positivity like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, many are choosing to dwell in resentment and anger instead.
It’s easy to believe that life is a series of disappointments, and it’s easier still to find five others who feel the same way you do. Instead of collectively basking in your bitterness, why not make a joint effort to change? Decide to feel differently. To all of the people who spend their spare moments lamenting failed relationships and missed chances, who troll the Internet reposting images with spiteful messages, I ask this: What are you contributing to this world that makes you feel as though you deserve anything at all?
The theory that people get what they deserve is incorrect. We live in a time where hardworking individuals barely float by and Casey Anthony will get a six-figure book deal. This doesn’t mean that we should wring our hands and wallow in our misfortunes — it means that despite the shortcomings of our society, we all still have a shot at real, unbelievable happiness.
More than any other, our generation is apathetic, indifferent and easily discouraged. We don’t know where we want to go, but we know we aren’t there, and we balk at any voyage whose destination isn’t readily apparent. We send out a few resumes, go on one or two interviews and take advantage of unemployment. We spend our mornings sobbing in the shower. Does this sound like you?
It’s time to get creative. Take advantage of the fact that your part-time job allows you to see daylight, and go on long walks. Surround yourself with elements that make you feel alive. Spend time reading, writing, creating art. Go to museums. Learn an instrument. Volunteer. If your full-time job has exhausted your will to live, start perfecting your true passion. Pour yourself into it, take a chance and make it your day job. Live a bit more frugally. Remember that happiness isn’t a place or object, but a feeling that can be discovered in the most unlikely of places, nestled in the center of a life you haven’t even imagined yet.
There are many things that seem impossible, or at least a million years away, but as I often tell myself (while watching exceptionally violent episodes of SVU), life could be a lot worse. So while you navigate the country lanes, autobahns and dead ends of your journey, remember that you are the most important variable in your own happiness. Choose to choose, and revel in the wild chaos that surrounds you.
Meera Lee Patel is an illustrator and designer from New Jersey. She enjoys magic, mythology and nature. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.