“Over time, wealth inequality became more pernicious to society than income inequality. The problem is not just that a chief executive at a big company makes 33 times what a surgeon makes, and a surgeon makes nine times what an elementary-school teacher makes, and an elementary-school teacher makes twice what a person working the checkout at a dollar store makes—though that is a problem. It is that the chief executive also owns all of the apartments the cashiers live in, and their suppressed wages and hefty student-loan payments mean they can barely afford to make rent. ‘The key element shaping inequality is no longer the employment relationship, but rather whether one is able to buy assets that appreciate at a faster rate than both inflation and wages,’ Adkins, Cooper, and Konings argue in their excellent treatise, The Asset Economy. ‘The millennial generation is the first to experience this reality in its full force.’”Annie Lowery, “The End of the Asset Economy,” The Atlantic.
A few months ago I wrote about all the challenges with “Being Twenty Right Now“. Fast forward to today, and I could add to the list.
Since writing that, I’ve heard lots of people talk about how miserable they were in their 20’s. So much so, it sounds as if people are writing off the decade. “If you can just hang on until 30,” their moto seems to be, “it gets much better.”
This idea is unfortunate. Life is way too short to write off any decade.
Being twenty something doesn’t have to be miserable. Why wait to make friends, do socially redeeming work, and build healthy habits?
Empathy for our young adult friends and children is in order. Imagine being them and trying to:
- cultivate a sense of purpose
- find a job that contributes to the common good, pays a livable wage, and comes with medical benefits
- find an affordable place of your own to live
- afford a car or other forms of reliable transportation
- get out of debt
- save some money each month
- develop the self discipline and knowledge to smartly invest for future expenses
- find a caring, loving, compatible partner with whom to be intimate
- decide whether to marry and have children
- decide whether to commit to a faith community, if so, finding a compelling one
- contend with friends and acquaintances inauthentic, curated selves on-line
- create a close circle of friends who aren’t so overwhelmed with all above that they have the energy and desire to spend time together
- worry about growing social inequities and the fate of the natural world
- cultivate the discipline to eat well, exercise, and maintain decent physical health
- manage your anxieties about all of the above and maintain good mental health
In the context of a global pandemic about which so much is unknown. How bad will it get? When will it end? How should we “reopen”? What exactly will the “new normal” be?
This pandemic presents unique challenges to many twenty somethings, whom for whatever reasons, already struggle with anxiety, depression, and related mental health challenges.
Extra patience and kindness with our young adult friends and children are in order.
“A majority (57 percent) of millennials agree that religious people are generally less tolerant of others, compared to only 37 percent of Baby Boomers.”
“Why does it matter if millennials’ rupture with religion turns out to be permanent? For one thing, religious involvement is associated with a wide variety of positive social outcomes like increased interpersonal trust and civic engagement that are hard to reproduce in other ways. And this trend has obvious political implications. As we wrote a few months ago, whether people are religious is increasingly tied to — and even driven by — their political identities. For years, the Christian conservative movement has warned about a tide of rising secularism, but research has suggested that the strong association between religion and the Republican Party may actually be fueling this divide. And if even more Democrats lose their faith, that will only exacerbate the acrimonious rift between secular liberals and religious conservatives.”
Millennial sightings at our church are kinda like the aurora borealis. Find yourself a dark, clear night from late August to early April and wait patiently. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll happen upon one. But unlike the aurora borealis, it’s probably best not to stare.
I’m only a third in, but my overwhelming thought so far is that it’s uneven. Some parts are clear, insightful and inspiring; others however, like Chapter Six, “Heart and Soul,” are so vapid I wonder if his editor is afraid of him. Brooks is like a batter that drills one pitch off the wall for a stand up double and then strikes out looking the next time up.
He argues Millennials are lost, which of course, is an exaggeration. Lost because nearly every American institution has declined in importance and young people are left with the admittedly inane advice to “do you” whatever you may be. He argues all people would benefit from living more committed lives to some combination of a vocation, marriage, philosophy and faith, or particular community.
He tells his story and stories of many others who prioritized their work lives and wealth and notoriety at the expense of deeper, more meaningful commitments based upon mutual vulnerability and selfless service. He’s best when he explains how these “Second Mountain” people lose themselves in listening and caring for others in ways that are mutually transforming.
The problem he slips into though is highlighting people whose transformations are so radical as to be nearly unrelatable. Like Kathy and David who extend dinner invitations to a hodgepodge of 40 struggling young people on a weekly basis. David left his job to create a nonprofit, All Our Kids, and gave his kidney to one of the young women when she needed a transplant.
Yeah, I’m sure I can high jump 10 feet if I just put my mind to it.
Or Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman in Holland during World War II, who maintained a supernatural inner peace and joy all the way up to the point that her parents, brother, and she were killed in Auschwitz.
I set Brooks down for awhile to watch the first episode of HBO’s Chernobyl which is as scary a story imaginable for anyone who has ever worried about exposure to radiation at the dentist and/or airport. After that harrowing experience, I sought refuge in The New Yorker instead of immediately jumping back into Brooks.
There I think I found a more subtle and nuanced way forward for mere mortals like me. In a very short story about Maggie Rogers’s rise, John Seabrook, who hangs with her in New York one afternoon, tells this story:
A fan recognized her. “Wow,” he said. “Biggest fan. Can I actually ask a question?”
“Dude, I have no idea what I’m doing,” Rogers said, laughing.
“That’s what your album is about, right?” the fan asked. He was her age.
“Exactly,” Rogers said. “I’ve just really been trying to stay present.”
How does one stay present? By giving off a particular vibe that communicates “Heck no I’m not too busy for you.” By maintaining meaningful eye contact. By thinking about what others are saying instead of what you want to say the second they pause. By asking clarifying questions. By empathizing instead of problem solving. By learning to appreciate what’s unique about others.
Much easier to write than do.
From inside the cover:
“Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.”
Two-thirds of the way through I texted Eldest who devoured it in one marathon session:
“Normal People. Past half way, but having a wee problem with the intensity of their feelings for one another and their proclivity to spurn one another. Doesn’t ring true to me.”
Eldest, at 26 years young, is in a much better position than me to assess the believability of two characters in their early 20’s and she respectfully pushed back, to which I wrote:
“Yes, but in my experience, that’s the diff between high school and college. In college you quit caring what your friends think of your bfriend/gfriend.”
That prompted the most Millennial of texts:
“Hahahahahahaha. I WISH!”
Sadly, it appears I’m losing touch with today’s young adults.
By the end, the story not only rang true, it left me immobilized in my reading chair, like a great film sometimes does. The last sentence of my favorite review of the book resonated most with me:
“It is a long time since I cared so much about two characters on a page.”
And to think she’s just getting started. Here’s hoping expectations don’t take a toll.
Derek Thompson’s Atlantic essay “The Religion of Workism is Making Americans Miserable” deserves widespread discussion around dinner tables; and in churches; synagogues; and heaven for bid, workplaces.
It’s hard to excerpt from because the whole thing deserves a close reading. In particular, the conclusion is strong:
“Workism offers a perilous trade-off. On the one hand, Americans’ high regard for hard work may be responsible for its special place in world history and its reputation as the global capital of start-up success. A culture that worships the pursuit of extreme success will likely produce some of it. But extreme success is a falsifiable god, which rejects the vast majority of its worshippers. Our jobs were never meant to shoulder the burdens of a faith, and they are buckling under the weight. A staggering 87 percent of employees are not engaged at their job, according to Gallup. That number is rising by the year.
One solution to this epidemic of disengagement would be to make work less awful. But maybe the better prescription is to make work less central.
This can start with public policy. There is new enthusiasm for universal policies—like universal basic income, parental leave, subsidized child care, and a child allowance—which would make long working hours less necessary for all Americans. These changes alone might not be enough to reduce Americans’ devotion to work for work’s sake, since it’s the rich who are most devoted. But they would spare the vast majority of the public from the pathological workaholism that grips today’s elites, and perhaps create a bottom-up movement to displace work as the centerpiece of the secular American identity.”
Insightful and important, but incomplete. Thompson misses the sociological nature of workism. He implies well compensated Americans are consciously choosing to work to the point of exhaustion, but the dynamic is far more complex. More of a sociological sensibility is needed to understand two things: 1) the subtle and nuanced way status anxiety contributes to conspicuous consumption, and 2) how a few workaholics can create workplace cultures that lead others to haphazardly conform until a critical mass of pathological workaholism takes over.
Simply put, in some workplaces, you are not truly free to choose whether to make work the centerpiece of your identity or not. Your co-workers make the decision for you.
1. Jordan Spieth laughs off “very British” haircut. Dude seems totally unaffected by his fame. Personable and grounded. Now if he can just get the flat stick heated up again.
3. No more free food for Facebook employees. Hope they are alright.
“Everyone made fun of me because I was sleeping on an air mattress and buying plants. But having living things to care for soothed me.”
“They don’t come in and buy $300 pots unless they are actors. They buy a lot of succulents, hanging plants and airplants.”
5. 1 Hen, 76 Ducklings. Call me old fashioned, but I think if you’re going to have a baby, you should take care of it yourself.
2. Attention drivers. Highway 1 is now open.
“After 17 months and more than $100 million replacing a damaged bridge and rebuilding the highway in two locations, drivers can once again skirt the western edge of the continent, forever burnished by wind, rain, waves and tide.”
Props to the much maligned public sector.
3. No PressingPauser would ever stereotype professional basketball players just because of their outward appearance, but just in case, there’s this.
4. If I ever suffer temporary insanity and pay $250 for a pair of running shoes, they damn well better make me (a lot) faster.
“Compared with typical training shoes, the Vaporflys are believed to wear out quickly: Some runners have said they lose their effectiveness after 100 miles or so.”
$2.50 per mile? As Millennials like to say, hahahahaha.
5. Forget a Fast Car, Creativity is the New Midlife Cure. Right on. I hope that means superficial, materialistic lowlifes like me can score a pre-owned Porsche for less.
Earlier this month, Marketwatch published an article stating that by 35 years old, a person should have twice their salary saved for retirement.
In my view, an imminently sensible goal, but the Millennial blowback on Twitter was fast, furious, and funny. You know what “they” say, goals should be achievable.
Cases in point:
- By age 35 you should have at least one fork in your cutlery drawer that you just don’t like, and actively frown at if you accidentally grab it.
- By age 35 you should have a huge box of cables but you can’t throw them out because you’re pretty sure you still need a couple of them but you’re not sure which ones.
- By age 35 you should have a kitchen cabinet dedicated entirely to plastic bags that contain other, smaller plastic bags.
- By age 35 you should have approximately 10 times the existential dread you had when you graduated high school.
- Listen. Meghan Markle wasn’t a duchess til age 36 so stop telling me what I should have by age 35.
- By age 35, you should have hoarded more books than any human could possibly read in three lifetimes.*
- By age 35, you should have a big bag of socks that have no matches that you are afraid to throw even one of them away because as soon as you do, you’ll run into its match.
- By age 35 you should stop paying attention to condescending life advice from strangers writing think pieces.
- By age 35 you should have a shitload of books. Some of them you have read and are too sentimental to give away. Others (you know in your heart) you will never read and yet you will keep these as well. All of these books have followed you through multiple moves.*
- By age 35 you should have one pair of jeans you like and a four shirt rotation.
- By age 35 you should be able to re-watch Bridget Jones and think ‘You’re only 30 and you manage to afford to live alone?’
- By age 35 you should have a list of documentaries you tell people you want to watch but you don’t watch them because you just never feel like you’re in the right mood.
Go ahead, give it a go, by age 35. . .