The 20-somethings are on schedule to become the next “Greatest Generation.”
That’s right. According to some publications, the current generation of 20-somethings, known by some as Generation Y or the Millennials (those born roughly between 1982 and 1999), known by others for their penchant towards sitting on couches and living in their parents’ basements, will soon be running the world.
Let me tell you a little bit about our future overlords.
I found myself in a bar consoling my friend—a chef—about his troubles. As we sat on the outdoor terrace, a 20-something woman sitting nearby called my friend by name and asked if he wished to collaborate with her on some dinner venture of her proposal. “I’m a good chef,” she insisted earnestly, responding to a criticism neither of us had given.
Her arms were not only crossed defensively, but rotated inwardly in such a way that shielded herself against more than the chill of winter. She had been hurt, though no doctor could help her. I never gathered what it was, but something had hit her ego, and it hit hard.
I saw something of myself in this young woman. I saw the passion with which she cited her education, the pride with which she felt her years of toil had been vindicated—marked by a degree or certificate which she paid for (and probably still is paying for). I understood the joy and hope she shared with her teachers and peers. I was that person. To a degree, I still am.
I am a 20-something.
In today’s world, it’s difficult to not know, have heard of, or be a 20-something. While not everyone currently living in their 20s is a 20-something, we do have some general criteria to go by. A 20-something:
- >> may have an arts degree or be working on one.
- >> may live with their parents (the stigma is usually that basements are our preferred lodging).
- >> may be un- or underemployed.
- >> may be “searching for themselves,” though they may or may not know what that means.
- >> may be talented, educated and passionate, and only wish to make the rest of the world recognize them as such.
The trouble is that a 20-something generally may not be very experienced. Having spent the better part of 20 years being educated, the only thing at the end of the day we can truly say with confidence that we are…is students. It’s what we’ve been for most of our lives.
20-Somethings and the Pursuit of Happiness.
I’m right there with the rest of 20-somethings. I have a degree in a career with a 99 percent unemployment rate at any one given time. I know what it’s like to be at the top of my game and still find myself without a job. I even left a more financially lucrative job because I would be damned before I read on my own tombstone, “Here lies Kevin. He paid the bills.”
Were you to see him in the street or at work, one of the last things you would suspect about my friend is that he’s among the greatest chefs in the city. He neither owns nor operates a restaurant; actually, he’s on a rather unremarkable catering team. He’s not interested in running a restaurant, either. He just loves cooking for people. And to make that happen, he’ll work in catering and do his own gig on weekends.
There are people dear to me who work two, three, even upwards of five jobs and still find time to do the thing that they love—usually the thing I’ve come to know of them by. The woman who sold me my last beer just released a CD album with her band. The yoga teacher who ran me through my first Primary Series runs a theater company. Her friend and company member is the voice actress on a children’s TV show, and she teaches yoga as well.
I used to believe that all I needed to feel good doing the thing I wanted to feel good doing was to get paid. But here were these two chefs: one did these weekend dinners and catered to make money and loved it, and the other worked at a fine restaurant and was miserable. I don’t know when it happened, but America is no longer a nation of people with one job that defines what they do—at least, not in the 20-something crowd.
To Be an Artist.
I met an artist in Vancouver who worked in a studio on the edge of Chinatown. He opened his doors in the morning and worked as people walked in and out of the studio, stopping often to talk about his art and offering markers to people so they could write their name on some of his projects. Though he did sell his art from time to time, for this open-door policy, he was paid not a single dime. “I’ll have to close the studio soon,” he admitted, “probably in a few months. That’s how long I can afford to rent it.”
I had a degree saying I was good enough at what I do to do it for money; I woke up in the morning and played video games. Here was a man who was giving everything he had, knowing he would fail; he had a studio and was actually doing what he loved to do.
A person can be the best actor, chef, yogi or teacher in the world, with all of the best attitudes and intentions, but today, a good intention coupled with inaction serves very few. In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, “To work alone you have the right, but never claim its results. Let not the results of actions be your motive, nor be attached to inaction” (II.47).
Only by doing what the thing we wish to be does can we be that thing and call ourselves by that name. No degree, no card nor no certificate has that power.
It is said that for those who wish to lose weight, it is sometimes better to set a goal of becoming a person who eats healthy and exercises more rather than giving oneself a number to be reached and a date to reach it by. Krishna adds in the following verses:
“Established in Yoga, O Dhananjaya (Arjuna), perform actions, giving up attachment, and unconcerned as to success or failure; (this) equanimity is called Yoga. / Far inferior is work (prompted by desire) to work done through wisdom, O Dhananjaya. Take refuge in wisdom; those who are impelled by results are miserable” (II.48-49).
This isn’t to say that we should abandon all of our goals. A swimmer without a destination must still wind up somewhere, so he might as well pick a point towards which to travel. But when we see that man, we do not call him a shore-bound person. We call him a swimmer—one who swims.
Be an amateur.
The word “amateur” comes from the same root word in Latin as the word that means “to love.” An amateur is one who does for love. So, 20-somethings, don’t judge yourself by the money you’re paid or not paid for doing the thing you love to do. Just do what you love to do! If you want to be a chef, invite friends over and cook! If you want to be an actor, get together with people and act! If you want to be a swimmer, go out and swim!
This is your chance. Every day do the thing that makes you be the thing you want to be, and if you have to do something else to put food on the table, that does not make you a failure at the thing you love to do. On the contrary, it means you’re willing to sacrifice a part of your time and your self to go about doing what it is you love to do!
My friend the chef had to do all kinds of work that he didn’t set out to do. He had to invite people. He had to call, to organize and to ask for help—all while working other jobs. But in the end, he had a dinner. He had guests. Two years later, his dinner guests include both high end corporate executives, tattoo artists, and intern actresses from down the street—at the same table! He was a chef.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention—he’s still in his 20s.
I have been blessed to have been touched by so many of my friends who are out there doing things—things they love to do. I know people who have released CDs, who run theater companies, write plays and make art. They’re the same people who work front desks in giant towers, sell coffee, beer and wine, take your tickets at the theater and drive people from place to place.
They’re people like you.
They’re people like me.
They were all once 20-somethings.
And they’re going to run the world someday.
Kevin Macku is a 20-something fledgeling yogi with a love of words. He is a trained actor who occasionally appears in local movies and on stage. His preferred methods of expression are based in movement: Suzuki’s Training for the Classical Actor, Viewpoints and Butoh to name a few, all of which benefit from the practice of yoga. In the midst of a rigorous physical practice, he discovered he was undergoing a spiritual transformation, and began to document the experience. These entries can be found at http://doafy.posterous.com/. Kevin himself can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ed: Brianna B.