United We Stand

11 Sep

Foreward: The following post reflects solely the thoughts and experiences of the author (namely, myself). I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who have served and who continue to serve and protect this country and all that it stands for (shout outs to Arianna (just graduated boot camp!), Joz (currently rocking it out at West Point), Stephen (recently left for the Navy), and Cody (currently serving in the Marines)). September 11th is presumably the greatest tragedy of my lifetime, and the scars it has caused will take more than a lifetime to heal. American the Beautiful and all that you stand for, I salute you.

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Ten years ago today, the sky fell. Out of the piecing blue came two planes and two seemingly indestructible steel towers. Out of the morning fell papers and bodies and our sense of security. Out from the ash and the fumes rose a newfound sense of vulnerability and fear. As the smoke plumed and billowed in the sky, patriotism and unity rained down across the nation. United We Stand.

The years in which I have been raised have been decreed as the post-9/11 era, where everything is different. All anyone’s ever talked about is how different things are. But for things to be different, for the ways things are now to be the “new” normal, there had to have been an “old” normal. A previous way of living. And as tempting as it is for me to attribute my next statement to the majority (read: in general, those outside of the New York metropolitan area, a category in which I am not included (reppin’ New Jersey, THE BEST STATE!)) of my generation, I can really only speak to myself. Having been 9 years old at the start of the post-9/11 era, I really don’t remember what “normal” was. I don’t remember ever having gone to an airport without taking off my shoes and putting my computer in a separate bin. I don’t remember what the news used to talk about before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t remember being allowed into the NYSE. I don’t remember the skyline.

I am fortunate not to have lost any loved ones on 9/11, and so I cannot claim to have lost very much that day. It didn’t change my day-to-day life; despite my proximity to New York City (40 minutes by car, an hour by train), it was very much Over There- as, I tend to believe, it was for most (but by no means all) 9-year-olds outside of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts. From coast to coast, empathy and rescue efforts were sent to the victims and their families; everyone wanted (wants, really) to do something to let the metropolitan area and DC know they were not to bear this burden alone.

We are a nation that stands and falls United, my favorite of our country’s credos, and the idea that a few people half a world away could upend 50 states-worth of strength was scary. Is scary. Could it happen again? Which city is next? And yet for we children who didn’t really know- who didn’t lose our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends- did it change us?

Maybe not yet, but it will. Speaking of the direct aftermath, however, I’m tempted to say no- until I remember all of the kids in my class who, for weeks, would come in groggy from nightmares of the terrorists coming and blowing up the school, the mall, the homes, the highways. Until it stopped. And nothing had changed. At 9, 10, 11 years old, the main focus was recess games, wall ball tournaments, slumber parties, and the “it” bags and clothes- as it should be. No matter how many kids watched the news on the day of and the days directly proceeding the attacks, I would be willing to bet good money that within a week it was more Nickelodeon than ABC. 9/11 became something we read about in a history book; it was rarely spoken of, and discussed in detail even less than that. Towards the end of middle school, sparks would fly over who was “for” or “against” the war, but that, too, was Over There in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even now, no amount of War on Terror statistics helps me to really understand what war is like. No amount of war features on NBC or photos in the New York Times or stories in Newsweek gives me the feeling some people live with every day, constantly worrying about their brothers and sisters and friends and family. My generation hasn’t yet had any direct contact with war- I have never lived through a draft, nor has there ever been a (serious) Cold War-type threat of nuclear destruction. In 20 years when people my age are filling seats in Congress and the White House, it will be interesting to see how this removal affects war policy decisions of the future.

Naturally, everyone’s experiences surrounding September 11, 2001 are different. A good friend of mine’s father wears a turban, and over the past 10 years he has been assaulted, his car vandalized, his race profiled- and he’s not even Muslim. He’s Sikh. So while she didn’t have close ties to any of the victims, her world turned upside down just because of a hair piece. It’s only the past few years, probably since my junior year of high school, that the impact of September 11th has really hit home. I initially intended to write this piece about my early experiences with 9/11, but I couldn’t do that honestly. I don’t remember my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings, my premonition (or lack thereof) of how different things were about to become. I remember wanting to watch the news and being annoyed that I couldn’t, but that’s really all. I didn’t get it. Today, I feel I’m that much closer. I cried, I reflected, I remembered. And yet, tomorrow will be another day. And for such a large percentage of the country, myself included, it will be a return to normal. It will, unfortunately, be like today never happened. And the search for the normal of decades past will resume, a clinical unrest with the present because of this nagging feeling that something isn’t right.

Emile Durkheim says that “the man who has always pinned all of his hopes on the future and lived with his eyes fixed upon it, has nothing in the past as a comfort against the present’s afflictions…now he is stopped in his tracks; from now on nothing remains behind or ahead of him to fix his gaze upon. …For he cannot in the end escape the futility of an endless pursuit.” While he was writing on causes of suicide, and not so much how to move past a national tragedy, Durkheim has a point. Until we’ve determined what lessons we would like to learn from this breach on our freedoms, and decided what we want to do about it, we will forever be swimming in discontent.

I post this with the full understanding that it may upset some people, particularly those who, like me, may not have known anybody, but unlike me, felt not just scared but vulnerable and violated, even at such a tender age as nine. Maybe I, not them, am the anomaly, and maybe I was (am) too detached. Maybe I just don’t understand. Because I can’t (nor, as any widow(er) or parent-less child will tell me, do I want to). The tragic events of 9/11 are a national tragedy, one that deserves every tear and dollar and iota of energy spent on it. It will be interesting to see how coming of age in an era of precaution and potential terror, of technology and insurmountable debt, of perpetual war and holes in southern Manhattan, shapes us as adults. Shapes, not changes- experiences aside, we were hardly whole people at 9 years old. This summer I was a camp counselor for a group of 9-year-olds, and my coworkers and I dismissed so much of what they did as childish antics- and not necessarily in a bad way.But who’s to say we were any different? Change implies that there was something concrete there to begin with. There can be no difference if there was nothing there before.

We will never find the current “normal” to be “normal,” for we will be too busy looking toward the day when things will once again resemble the “old normal.” While New York City without 9/11 is clearly the ideal, that New York City will never again exist. Instead, I implore you all to call those who matter to you and tell them so (Facebook-ing is not good enough!). To make sure all 2,753 victims whose lives were lost that day did not die in vain. To make the city our children will inhabit better than the one now deceased- educate, volunteer, rally, do something, say something. It may be cliché, but Ghandi had it right when he commanded us to “Be the change [we] wish to see in the world.” We can be the people we’ve been waiting for. We are the people we’ve been waiting for.

And a person should celebrate everything passing by

2 Aug

As of tomorrow, it will have been three months since I’ve last posted- where on earth has the summer gone?! I can hardly believe time has slipped away from me so quickly. I hope you’ve all been enjoying the summer as much I have, and thanks to everyone who’s kept checking back here to inevitably disappointing results.

For the first month or two of summer, I really wanted to post. I had this vision that instead of posting once or twice a month, once summer hit I’d post once or twice a week. At my busiest, I felt like I had a lot to say but no time to write it down. Naturally, though, after finals I turned into a couch potato, devouring two seasons of Cougar Town (shameless Cougar Town plug- WATCH IT! Literally the funniest show on TV), a few seasons of Will & Grace, and countless documentaries and memoirs (take note: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Jesus Camp, Nursery University, Inside Job, Bossy Pants, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother– all worth watching/reading!) in about a two week period. After I came out of my multimedia coma, I felt revitalized and rejuvenated, ready to write. And yet I couldn’t.

I tried- I have about four half-baked posts in my dashboard at the moment- but I couldn’t seem to capture the societal unrest that fueled  my other posts. I just didn’t care. I wanted to care, but wanting to care only got me so far. It was only then that I discovered the oxymoron of the tortured artists: for the most part, people want to become artists because creating makes them happy… and yet they can only create when they’re in the midst of some sort of personal crisis/depression/unhappiness. How does that make sense? I love writing this blog, and I love sharing my opinions, but I can’t seem to have my cake and eat it too: I can’t both love my life (like this girl! Watch and love, people) and express coherent analysis on… well, anything.

I just tried to write a really ~deep post about the tortured artist oxymoron, but I just had to stop and delete it because it sucked. The long and short of it is, I haven’t written because I’m happy. Happiness makes us complacent, because it just seems logical not to question the good things (anyone catch the  Studio 60 reference that I (kind of) side-stepped?); if we keep doing whatever we’re doing, nothing will change, and therefore we’ll be happy forever. Moreover, past experiences have proven that a further investigation into practically anything good oftentimes reveals things that corrodes its gilded surface.

So I’m not going to investigate. For now, I choose to unplug. I’m not sure why I have to be mildly unsatisfied with my life to write, but that’s okay. I think that’s what I’ve taken away from this summer- sometimes, it’s better not to have all the answers. Sometimes it’s better not to even try. Sometimes, it’s better just to sit back and enjoy the ride, and bask in the warm summer sun. (I’m curious, though- why do YOU all think artists need to be unhappy to create their best work?)

And so, I am forced to admit that I am the tortured artist I try so hard not to be- it’s hard for me to come up with well-thought out, intelligent, cohesive opinions when I’m too busy being happy. The energy for these blog posts comes not necessarily from passion, as I’d like to believe, but unrest with The System. The camp I’m working at ends on Friday, and with it goes a large source of my happiness (as those of you who know me know, literally nothing makes me happier than summer camp). I like to think I’ll be able to combat the summer lethargy to crank out a few more of these before I head back to school, but who knows? The next best thing might be right around the corner.

PS: Worry not, readers, for I’ll be back in full force in 3 weeks or so. I’d love for you to be here when I return.

PPS: 10 points to whomever can tell me what show/song this post title is from (without Google’s help)!

Happy summer, everyone!

Osama bin Laden is Dead

2 May

About three hours ago, the world was informed that Osama bin Laden, founder of Al Qaida and head honcho of 9/11 efforts, was killed by American special forces earlier today.

As I sat in my floor’s TV lounge with about a quarter of my floor mates, I listened to Brian Williams and his affiliates at NBC News, and eventually President Obama in his Presidential Address, talk about justice. “Today,” they said, “justice has been served.” And I asked myself: has it been served?

As we sat, speechless, listening to the released particulars surrounding today’s events, I heard whoops in the Quad. I saw pictures of people chanting, cheering, waving American flags outside of the White House. I saw about a bazillion Facebook statuses with some variation of ‘Ding, Dong, the witch is dead.’

Then there are the outliers. The people who aren’t happy he’s dead. The people who are instead holding onto how many lives “our side” has lost, rather than this (monumental) one we took. Was it worth it?, they ask. All of the debt– both economic and mortal– and all of the destruction? Was it worth it to know he’s dead?

And yet, my first thought (okay, let’s be honest. My second thought. My first thought was about what would be going on in Studio 60 right now, if it was still on the air, as one of the plot lines that overtook the last four episodes of the show centered around Tom Jeter’s brother, a soldier, who had been taken hostage in Afghanistan) persisted: was justice served?

On the one hand, it’s nice to think so. I would give a hell of a lot to be able to trek it down to Ground Zero right now with lots of people from my school and just be a part of a Moment. Right or wrong, this is a Moment. Where were you when 9/11 happened (sitting in my basement watching Peppermint Patty on TV, bouncing on my mom’s blue exercise ball), where were you when Obama was inaugurated (Ms. Roeser’s room with Allyson and Ryan/Ms. Folliard’s room with my French class), where were you when Osama bin Laden was killed (Sulz/Reid 3 TV lounge). Or maybe not. But right now, it seems like a Moment. He killed us, now we killed him. Fair is fair, don’t fuck with the US (bitch).

But on the other hand, why does this one death, of this one man, count for so much? Justice is defined as maintaining what is morally right and fair, but is an eye for an eye just? Do we want it to be just?

My gut instinct is not that of overwhelming happiness, but it is the uncommon stirring in me that I am part of something larger than this school, in this city, in this state. I am an American. It’s funny, because all semester in my sociology class I talked about how I most identified with a cultural identity when I was the only one — i.e. I feel most Jewish in a room full of Catholics — but today I feel so American because everyone else does. It’s like I’ve been subconsciously gunning for this to happen. Not this specifically, just… a sign that it isn’t all in vain.

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s just. Justice would be an explanation, an apology, a resurrection for all those who lost loved ones in the past ten years. Justice would be a time table to go back and tell everyone we love to stay far away from the Financial District, the Pentagon, and any and all airports that sunny September day. However, given the impossibility of these scenarios, does it suffice to know that bin Laden can never scheme again? I suppose so. As a token.

It seems that today there’s such a focus on being Right. Doing the Right thing. Thinking the Right thoughts. Having a moral compass consistently pointed North, and articulating your thoughts in a politically correct fashion. In that school of thought, bin Laden’s death should be met with the same response as would the death of any other political leader: a few seconds of sadness, followed by a change of subject. It’s not the same, though. Because we have put into Osama bin Laden everything we hate about terrorism, presumably because he was the unreachable. As long as bin Laden was still out there, we had a reason to keep fighting. To avenge our name.

But sometimes, I think it’s important to take a step back and just soak it in. One man’s death will never bring back the lives of all who have been lost in the War on Terror– 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, and everything associated–nor should we be celebrating the death of a person. But this is the Moment– the Moment where we have told all those who have lost loved ones that we have not forgotten them. The Moment where we remember. The Moment where we are united, not out of the joy of having killed someone, but out of the symbolic nature of what has happened. I’m not sure what it is, really, but I do know that it’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than two wars; it’s bigger than one trillion dollars and the Patriot Act. It will take months, years to determine to significance of this death. This one death, of this one man. But it will come. I am sure of that.

A friend of mine made an excellent point lamenting how we shouldn’t celebrate, as he was someone’s Commander in Chief, so to speak, but I feel I must refute: we cannot bear the grief of bin Laden’s supporters; we as a nation or a person cannot bear the hearts of the world on our shoulders. This is a Moment in America, in which we have accomplished something that will yet again shape the course of history on our terms.

And so, I am at a stand still. I am neither thrilled nor disgusted, nor excited nor empowered. I am consumed. I can feel the wind shifting, I can feel the earth turning. I still have another 800 words or so to write of my Opera paper, and I still have to go to two classes and then work tomorrow. And when the sun rises in about 5 hours or so, a new day will dawn and this will be but a Moment to be written about in the history books. There’s plenty of time to be Right tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. But for now, I will absorb the Moment. I am proud to be an American.

New Tiger in Town

23 Apr

For any of you interested in the Tiger Mom saga, here’s an update:

Older daughter Sophia has started a blog! She’s refutes any misconceptions about her deprived childhood with candor and wit; in a January 17 letter to her mother in the New York Post she writes:

One problem is that some people don’t get your humor. They think you’re serious about all this, and they assume Lulu and I are oppressed by our evil mother. That is so not true. Every other Thursday, you take off our chains and let us play math games in the basement.

So check her out! The few posts she’s made have been interesting enough for me to bookmark it.

Also, another legitimate blog post coming after I finish my Opera reading- sorry! It’s almost finals times here at Overachiever U, so I have to find my inner overachiever and hop to it, at least for the next two weeks.

Coming to terms with Rebecca Black

3 Apr

If you’ve had enough willpower to stay off any and all social networking sites (or any website, really) recently, you’ve probably missed  all the chaos surrounding thirteen-year-old Rebecca Black’s music video ‘Friday.’ It hit the web February 10th, but didn’t go viral until March 11th, when Comedy Central’s TOSH.0 blog featured it in a post entitled, “Songwriting isn’t for everyone.” That weekend alone, the video received 2.2 million hits, and in the 10 days after, the total skyrocketed to a record-breaking 39.4 million– it essentially received 3.1 million views per day.

As is wont to happen when you post something on the Internet, the video attracted its fair share of haters- just click the music video link above and read through a page or two. A week after the video went viral, Rebecca admitted on Good Morning America that some of the comments did make her cry, specifically one that said “I hope you cut yourself and die.” To that commenter and to all the others, I have to ask: why do you care? Why does a 13-year-old putting a (seriously auto-tuned) music video on the Internet bother you so much?

Don’t get me wrong, by posting this video on the Internet, Rebecca Black opened the doors for fans and haters alike to revel in her song’s… well, whatever it is. But at the same time, it’d be kind of like if someone took your angst-ridden posts on the Whatever University Class of 2014 group and posted them on a blog. You posted it on the Internet to be viewed, not abused. And in 5 years, I’m sure you and Rebecca Black alike will be wishing it hadn’t gone up in the first place.

What I hate the most, though, is the comparisons to music from the 70s (or really music from any decade prior to the 2000s), as apparent in this popular Tumblr image, which has been reblogged roughly 45,000 times as of yet:

This sort of comparison bothers me for several reasons:
1. Led Zeppelin is arguably one of the best bands to come out of the 70s. Even spell check knows what ‘Zeppelin’ is! Edit: I have recently been informed that that is because a ‘zeppelin’ is also a type of airship, making its existence in my spell check dictionary much less remarkable. Alas, I digress. It’s hard to compare a legend to an ephemeral YouTube sensation. I’m sure there were a million and one Rebecca Blacks of the 70s, but we wouldn’t know about them, because they lost momentum. People listen to them, laugh at them, and then they go away. They have no staying power. Zeppelin has staying power. We wouldn’t know about them if they weren’t the best of the best. If, in 40 years, Rebecca Black is still being listened to, then you can tell me the 70s had better lyrics than we did.

2. Rebecca Black came into existence less than a month ago. As a member of the Today generation, I do not feel Rebecca Black is representative of the entirety of Today.

3. Not everything exists to be award-winning. Like many musical outlets (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: the Musical; “Lip Gloss” by Li’l Mama; “Girls of Summer” by LFO; hell, even the majority of ‘Hair’ lyrics), some songs exist just to be fun. Not every song is poetry; not every song should be or needs to be poetry. I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in the past, let’s say, 6ish years, we developed a fixation on things that are deep. At least where I’m from, there was a heightened interest in books like ‘Go Ask Alice’ and ‘Speak’ (if I had a quarter for every book report on ‘Speak’ I had to listen to over the years…); in songs involving the lyrics “I tear my heart open/I sew myself shut/My weakness is/I care too much/and the scars remind us/the past is real/I tear myself open/Just to feel,” and emo blog (predominantly Tumblr as of late) posts and images about how our lives are so difficult and we just want to be loved. We’ve started to judge things that aren’t Brilliant, and then complain about how no one’s happy and nothing’s fun anymore.

4. To that end, as a friend of mine astutely noted:

“I find it interesting that the population of young people who are attacking Rebecca Black and her innocent attempt at a music career is the same population that openly and willingly embraces other piece of shit songs like the ever-popular “Shots” by LMFAO ft. Lil Jon. That song, for example, boasts not only meaningless, but degrading lyrics such as,

The ladies love us

when we pour shots

they need an excuse
to suck our cocks “

Why is simplicity more of a crime than crudeness?

5. Her target audience is tweens ranging in age from about 11-14. No one exerting an opinion on the matter- that I have spoken to- is in that age range. That’s why no one likes Miley Cyrus, or Ashley Tisdale, or Selena Gomez, or any other tweeny bopper star- we’re not their audience! We’re not supposed to like them! You don’t see anyone attacking The Wiggles for ‘Hot Potato, Hot Potato,’ do you?

6. That being said, her lyrics may not be super clever, but they are age appropriate for her desired audience. I’d rather have my hypothetical pre-teen listening to Rebecca Black than, say, Rihanna or LMFAO or Eminem (who are all talented musicians, but not exactly ideal for tweens to be listening to, content wise).

7. As much shit as she has been getting, her song is *still* on the Top 100 on iTunes. Regardless of its artistic quality, people are buying.

8. Everyone who hated it and thought it was the stupidest thing ever continuously reposted it on Facebook for their friends to view and gawk at. It’s counter-intuitive. If you were really so disgusted by it, why encourage others to help her raise her view count? The quickest way to send someone into oblivion is to not care. It almost seems like people secretly wanted her to succeed by creating a bigger buzz and a bigger audience.

It’s been a good three weeks since the video’s explosion, and a recent Google search yields nothing written after March 23 (save anything in reference to Stephen Colbert’s cover). What once yielded a visceral reaction from the public seems already to be on its way out- the view count, though, has climbed to over 80 million, coming out to just under 4 million views PER DAY since it appeared on the Comedy Central blog. Like it or not, it’s a hit.

More than that, though, the bottom line is that if “we” don’t want this type of music- and I’m not just talking about Rebecca Black here, I’m talking about all of the new-age hits that we complain about (“music was so much better in the 70s/80s/90s/every decade before now!”)- we should change it. We, as consumers, decide what music gets produced. If you don’t like it, stop endorsing it. Stop requesting it on the radio; stop buying it on iTunes; stop listening to it on YouTube. And don’t even THINK about scapegoating “society” on this one, because society is not an omnipotent, omnipresent being! WE ARE SOCIETY! The only way any mass following begins is by a single person (well, more realistically, a small group of people, but that’s neither here nor there) taking a stand. So if you don’t like it, change it. Period.

And so, while I would not file Rebecca Black under “Next Great American Artist,” I don’t understand why people are bothered by her. She’s a 13-year-old who recorded a song. She didn’t deem it Grammy-worthy. She didn’t declare herself the next Adele or Katy Perry. It’s catchy. It’s fun. It’s youthful. She’s donating a portion of her proceeds to Japan and her school. Lady Gaga likes her. And she does have a point… as I sit here writing this on a Sunday night (Monday morning), I’m already “lookin’ forward to the weekend.”

Where Work is a Religion, Work Burnout is its Crisis of Faith

18 Mar

Where Work is a Religion, Work Burnout is its Crisis of Faith

NOTE: This is potentially my favorite article, ever. I just find it so fascinating. It’s certainly my for-the-moment-favorite, but DEFINITELY in the Top 5 all-time favorites. At any rate.

Almost 5 years ago, New York Magazine published an article about burnout: the feeling that you’re “a dry teapot over a high flame, a drained battery that can no longer hold its charge.” The feeling that you physically cannot continue doing what you’re doing for a moment longer.

It’s difficult to determine whether one has fallen victim to burnout, in that, like depression, it’s hard to tell when your feelings have passed the point of “normal” and can no longer be restored by playing hooky for a day. Earlier this semester, around Valentine’s Day (correlation is not causation, folks!), I was feeling so exhausted, so unmotivated, that I was sincerely thinking of taking the following semester off  (what I would’ve done I do not know). I just didn’t care about the papers I had to write, or the readings I was supposed to do. I didn’t want to go to class, and I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone. I couldn’t see the point- you learn the material in order to write the papers, you retain it enough to take the final (let’s be real here, you cram enough to take the final), and then you forget everything and it’s like it never happened. What’s the use in wasting my time? I was just done.

Tell me you know a student who hasn’t felt that way, though, and I’ll tell you you’re a liar. What was different about this time was that I couldn’t make myself do the work. I tried going to the library, I tried turning off the Internet, I tried reading in the laundry room, but I couldn’t stop myself from staring blankly at the pages I was supposed to be reading. I was stuck.

That Monday, as luck would have it, my morning class was cancelled. I took it as a sign and skipped my afternoon class, too, and instead waited in line for three hours for $10 tickets to the first preview of ‘Anything Goes.” And you know what? It cured me (well, that and a reorganization of my sleep schedule. NOTHING seems important when you’re tired). Has it been a battle to get through pages of Rousseau and dance readings? Sure it has. But I’ve regained my ability to power through. While I don’t always see the point, I’m once again able to make myself do what I need to do.

So how is burnout different from boredom? And is it like “emerging adulthood,” a disease of the privileged, communicable only to those with the funds to abruptly end their careers in favor of seminary school or cab driving?

I guess both questions kind of answer themselves at once. To me, burnout can only occur when one enters a job with expectations. Generally speaking, if you’re a cashier, or a retail associate, or a waitress, you’re not going into that job with expectations of reward or enjoyment. You’re taking the job because you need a job. Thus, those jobs produce boredom. Burnout, on the other hand, is reserved for jobs entered with an expectation- you become a banker because you want to make money, you become a doctor because you want to save lives, you become a teacher because you want to save the world, you do all these things because you think it will give you happiness. No job is ever fun 24/7, so when you’re in a lull, your expectations of the end satisfaction become your fuel to push through it. When the lull never ends, you begin to run out of expectations, and then you end up stranded on the highway to nowhere without a gas station or AAA person in sight.

So it’s not necessarily that burnout is only contracted by those who have the money to explore other options, it’s just that those with jobs requiring little to no energy input won’t ever reach that level of unbalance. It’s tough to be disappointed when you have no expectations.

Inevitably, as the article states, this ends up creating a “poor little rich girl” scenario: yes, let’s all feel badly for the wealthy bankers- or as the joke cited by the magazine states: “wouldn’t it be nicer if they were terminal?” What’s funny, as the article concludes, is that highly unbalanced expectation/reality equations results in bankers, lawyers, and other high-powered professionals entering the professions that were defined by burnout in the first place- teachers, nurses, social workers. It’s cyclical. Helping people doesn’t make me feel better, so maybe money will; the money isn’t working, so maybe being a humanitarian will.

What does this all mean exactly? I’m not quite sure. What I can gather, however, is that ‘work,’ like ‘childhood,’ has taken on a new meaning since my grandparents got their first jobs. As my grandfather always told me, “It’s okay if you don’t like your job. That’s why it’s called work. If you were supposed to enjoy it, they’d call it fun.” He wasn’t saying that we should all do things we hate, but basically his point was that work doesn’t need to be what’s making us want to get up in the morning. Somewhere along the line, though, that’s the definition it took on. Work stopped being simply a job, it became your calling. We now all strive to find our passions, not just something that enables us to make enough money to support these passions as hobbies. I’m not saying we should all hate what we do, but I think it’s wildly important to separate our work life from our home life. I’d be amazed if you could find me a group of surgeons who love Grey’s Anatomy, or a team of cops who hang out every Wednesday night to watch Law and Order. Inaccuracies aside, I think it’d just be too much to spend all day in a hospital and then go home and watch one on TV. More than liking it, I’d think we’d want our job to have a purpose- I can’t help but keep thinking of the part of the article where they talk about the insurance agents who burn out the least frequently are those whose homes caught on fire or cars crashed as a kid, so as mundane as their work may be, they know it’s important.

I’m curious as to at what point in time work became a religion. I mean, clearly this is much more of a problem on the coasts, where the major cities are, but still. I wish more in-depth studies had been done on burnout in the past, because I’d love to investigate trends on burnout over generations: is Generation Z going to burnout more quickly than GenX and GenY simply because we’ve (they’ve? I’m not really sure where I land in this one, because Wikipedia cites GenY as going from 1982-200ish and GenZ as going from  the 1990s-present) been raised on expectations? Follow your dreams, shoot for the moon, the whole nine yards- it”s great to encourage children, but is it ultimately doing them a disservice in the long run?

This commentary has been very cyclical, but that’s kind of like burnout. You work until you can’t and then you chance jobs and work until you can’t and so it goes. This article raises so many questions and thoughts that I’m not qualified enough to adequately comment on. Ultimately, burnout is a loss in one’s ability to do what he needs to do. This loss can be accredited to poor treatment, an inability to meet expectations, or a lack of purpose. It’s a feeling of knowing things could be better- in order for us to know that, things must have been better for us at some point- and wanting to stop at nothing to reach the Better Place where we Most Fit. So maybe the solution is making adolescence and college less about what we want to do and more about what we have to do. Sensory adaptation- the longer you’re around a bad smell, the less you’ll smell it. The more we have to do things because it’s what we have to do, the less often we’ll lack the willpower on grounds that “there should be more.” Perhaps just this one time, ignorance is bliss. But for most, it’s far too late for that. We’ve already been raised to shoot for the moon and do what makes us happy. Maybe it’s for the best, though. If we are, indeed, so determined to have both money and a calling, maybe we’ll be the first to learn how to balance everything , so convinced are we that we can do it all. If work is a religion, maybe we could begin the re-separation of church and state.

Breaking the rules

9 Mar

When I started this blog, I promised myself it would exist for the sole purpose of critiquing articles. However, everyone breaks the rules sometimes (and if you don’t, you probably should). So here, a vignette:

At a summer camp in June 2007, two counselors met and began dating; she was from one continent, he from another. Since then, they have stayed together, seeing each other as often as possible. They survived several many-month (perhaps a year at most; I really don’t know the specifics for sure) blocks of separation, relying on Skype, email, and phone calls to make up for the distance. She’s been in his country for a while now, presumably to stay. And finally, after four years of transcontinental dating, they are engaged.

This anectdotal-type post is uncharacteristic and will probably never happen again (at least not on this blog), but I just felt it was special enough to deserve a mention. There’s so much cynicism surrounding love, and I can’t say it’s unwarranted, but still. It’s nice to remember that sometimes, it’s worth it. Sometimes, it’s real.

And when those sometimes happen, even if you’re on a third, separate continent from where all the happy is taking place, it’s enough to make your day.

🙂