“The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.”
– Morrie, Tuesdays with Morrie
Stop what you’re doing and actually, deeply read this and think about it:
Recall your childhood.
What did you believe in?
Did you believe in saving the world? Did you believe of prevention of animal abuse? Reform of immigration? Finding cures for sicknesses?
Recall the time in your life when you had to choose a career or a job because you were getting kind of old to be so dependent on somebody else.
Did you apply for a minimum wage and save while helping your providers pay the bills? Did you go to school? Did you look for a career without many requirements right then and there? What did you settle for?
Now think about where you are.
My adult readers, I think you’re flushing with nostalgia.
For my adolescent readers, I think this made you nervous.
For my young readers who haven’t begun the future train of thought, I bet you’re confused.
I constructed a life plan when I was a kid. I wanted to work part-time and help my parents pay the bills throughout high school. I wanted to go to a good East Coast school. I wanted to serve my country as a soldier. I wanted to serve my community as a teacher. I wanted to serve the future generations some knowledge and insight by dedicating myself to writing.
What happened? Reality hit. How could I balance both work and school? If I wanted to make more than twenty bucks a day, I’d have to work until 9pm or 10pm, when after school, I’d be too exhausted to do school work. If I messed up school, my shot at a good college was out the window, but what would I do after college or during college without any work experience? I could serve my country then serve my community, but who’s to say I won’t lose myself in battle and never be able to make use of a college degree? And how will I ever support a family on a public school teacher’s salary, especially in the district I’m from? Writers don’t make much, so I need a job, but who has the energy to put a book together when there are double shifts?
So where am I? I’m in the USA. The USA: where though it’s difficult to make someone of yourself, you can be absolutely whoever you want to be if you’re strong enough.
I could quit all my jobs and take a boat out to the middle of the ocean. I can speak my mind. I can be homeless and move around tirelessly to prove my point. I could resist this culture, but what do I do instead?
I wake up. I put on make-up, something I was totally against as a kid, but if it’ll get me hired at my thirteenth, fourteenth job interview, who’s it gonna hurt? The market for minimum wage jobs can also be a tough one. I get my student loans in order and prepare to spend my life working to pay it off. I intern at places to earn experience, but it takes all my time, money, and energy. I look for the safest job I can find because I absolutely need my money, my comfort. I need this comfortable culture.
The desire for this culture is the tightest pair of handcuffs I’ve worn.
I hope that one day I’ll have the strength to resist it.