[I read this and decided that I wanted to figure out what being young means]
To be young is to mess up. A lot. It’s an unavoidable part of your existence, and it only gets more pronounced as you grow older. If you’re smart, you’ll learn things from the failed relationships, the hangovers, the unemployment, the debt, and the confusion. You’ll learn about yourself, the way you react to change, and you’ll learn to pick yourself up off of the ground, dust yourself off, and jump out towards new opportunities and new mistakes. You’ll never be perfect, but you will be better.
To be young is to feel unmoored. You’re on your own, floating in your twenties, hunting for a purpose or a mate or a job. You will feel alone. There’s no guidebook on how to get through it. If you can’t throw an anchor down, at least tether yourself to other boats. Find communities of supportive people that make you want to be better. Stick with your friends; they will help you weather the storm (spoiler alert: they feel the same way you do). You’re without a schedule for the first time in your life. Appreciate it, and use the time to figure out who you want to be in 2 days, in 2 months, and in 2 years. Start doing things that get you closer to being the person you want to be.
To be young is to regret. You’ll wish you had taken the other fork in the road, or handled a situation differently, or said something instead of staying silent. Regret is going to be part of your life. Take a deep breath and realize that there’s only one direction from here, and it ain’t backwards. Learn something from your regrets and move on.
To be young is to be selfish, and unkind, and just plain mean to each other sometimes. We’re hard-wired to compete and to survive. That brings out the animal in us, and we’ll lash out at others as a defense mechanism. We’ll all say things we wish we hadn’t, and then we’ll have to apologize and hope that we haven’t caused irreparable damage to a relationship, be it personal or professional or both. You have to learn to let the tiger out of the cage only at the right time.
To be young is to take everything and nothing for granted. It’s easy to move through life quickly, to never stop to smell the roses or appreciate a sunset from a cabin up north. It’s easy to push off a phone call with your parents, or a chance to catch up with an old friend over a beer, because we think there’s time for that later. We’re young, and we have all the time in the world. But growing up these days we are out on our own for the first time, often without a fulfilling job, mounds of debt, and no safety net or schedule to save us. We learn to appreciate happy hour 2-for-1s our group of friends that much more because of it.
To be young is to do stupid things. How many of us have stayed up too late watching Netflix because you just need to know what happens on the next episode of Breaking Bad? How many of us go out drinking or to bar trivia or to a comedy club on a Monday or Thursday, even though work tomorrow is going to suck because of it? How many of us have spent too much money on shit you don’t need, at a bar or at Target or online? I’m guilty of all of that, and I assume you are too. Your twenties are good for that kind of stupid, forgiving exploration. Once you anchor yourself down with a wife or a mortgage or a few youngsters, everything is less forgiving. Use this time wisely, for it is a gift that dwindles away as you become less young.
To be young is to endure confusion, pleasure, invulnerability, vulnerability, fear, excitement, love, and regret all together. It’s feeling wise but knowing you are dumb, feeling old but knowing you’re young, and feeling like a failure yet learning to win. It’s a moving contradiction and a truth we all subconsciously know: “We are scared and tired and often bored, but we’ll get through it, and you can’t wait to see what we can do.”
To be young is wonderful and awful at the same time. Enjoy it while you can.
I was in Jackson, Mississippi over the weekend for work. I went to a crawdad boil with friends of a friend. After a few beers and a few hours of laughing with these people I’ve never met before, I had a thought:
There is so much fun to be had in odd places with new people. We forget that. We go through our lives doing the same thing, seeing the same people, and going to the same bars even though there’s so much out there. So, so much.
You’re never too old or young to take giant leaps of faith, but your twenties are designed for it. We graduated college, and may have jobs or leases or significant others, but that’s it. Many of us are unmoored, untethered to a particular place or person or position. That drifting feeling is obviously a little disorienting and can be confusing, but it’s a positive thing too. It’s a chance for a course correction. It’s time to explore. We’re lucky because we have all this time in the great divide between who we are and who we will be. There is no better age to try new things, to travel, to screw up, to change and move and run from routine. It’s a gamble worth taking.
Complacency is simple. “Just happy enough” is a plague-ridden safety blanket we cling to for fear of something worse. We need to keep jumping at new experiences and putting ourselves out there to fail because that enemy known as “routine” is always nipping at our heels. Routine is the voice in the back of your head saying “you might fail” and “but you don’t have any idea what will happen next.” It’s telling you that “it’s gonna be awkward” and “it’ll never work out.”
You’ll feel lost sometimes. You’ll feel alone and disoriented and maybe a little afraid. That’s OK. There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. There’s an intriguing weirdness about this country we live in and the people that exist in these new places. There’s a lot to learn from these people, and we could all benefit from seeing a little bit of that Weird America firsthand. It’s good to feel out of place, out of your element, without a safety net. That’s how you grow.
New is your ally. Different is your partner-in-crime. Strange is your bedfellow. We need to start telling ourselves to fail. To be unsure. To put yourself out there. Feel fear. Get dirty. Fuck up. Change gears. Move forward.
Maybe all it takes is a Mississippi Crawdad Boil with two strangers you’ll probably never see again to jolt you awake. Maybe, just maybe, that’s a life-altering moment waiting to happen. You never know until you give it a shot.
“I’m pretty sure you’re two different people,” said a friend and coworker as I stared inside a glass of whiskey at a downtown bar. She was referring to the person I was at work and who I am on the weekends. One is an overworked, professional, dedicated employee who goes to bed by 10, exercises, and eats well. The other comes out on Fridays and Saturdays and still thinks he’s more or less in college. It’s not exactly a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind. I’m not sure which one is supposed to be the monster.
That distance between professional and personal lives never truly goes away, but I don’t think it’s ever larger than when you’re a twenty-something in a hard-partying college town with a lot of disposable income, very little stability and an allergic reaction to boredom. We’re bored and unmoored.
I’m quick to melodramatically tell everyone what a wreck my personal life is and like to make jokes about how many shambles my life is in, but I’m pretty sure that’s a common feeling for those in my demographic. You’re confused. You feel a bit lost at sea without an anchor. You don’t know how you’re expected to act. The fragments of who you were keep bubbling up to the surface, and the person you’re supposed to become hasn’t arrived yet. We’re all just passing time until the train gets to the station. There isn’t really anything else to do, so we go out to bars, order one too many, and traipse around the city like kids in an ever-expanding, endless candy store. We make friends through drinking games, random hookups and laughter. We are young and wild and that is, to an extent, how we like it.
I think the confusion comes from the idea that I want both poles at the same time. I want the unexpected confusion and randomness of the night, but some nights I just want to watch a shitty movie on Netflix with a girlfriend. I want to be unaccountable and free, but also reliable, loyal and professional. I want the shirt-and-tie nine-to-five, but also the rock-and-roll lifestyle. Those two sides fight each other for my attention.
I keep looking forward and trying to figure out what I am actually supposed to be doing. I keep thinking that I should be acting my age, whatever that means. The more and more I think about it, I am acting exactly how I should be. I think the expectation is that as a twenty-something college graduate, my particular brand of dualism isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s expected, and it’s reflected and reinforced by the pop culture we breathe in. Look at the group on How I Met Your Mother; the characters are successful, professional, productive members of society but they also spend their free time at the bar looking for beer, bedmates and laughter.
Eventually, we’ll meet an anchor that makes the boredom go away, and we’ll be content just sitting around. We’ll be happy doing couple-y things, and “adult” things, and we’ll give less and less time to the other side. Eventually, the distance between your own personal Yin and Yang is almost undetectable. We’ll find a balance. It just might take a while, so we might as well enjoy ourselves while we’re waiting.
My dad was a PC before being a PC meant being John Hodgman. I’ve worked on a Windows-based computer since I was playing Commander Keen as a three year old. We never had a Macintosh, but I do remember using iMacs in 4th and 5th grade. Even to a PC, losing the co-founder of Apple is a pretty big moment.
Yesterday, my generation’s visionary died, and we’re a little broken up about it. You can see it in the flurry of sincere tweets, obituaries, and blog posts from a normally-disaffected generation. He was our John Lennon, a dreamer who seemed to believe in himself and his own ideas on a supernatural level. I saw more than one tweet fly by into the ether last night about how losing Steve Jobs is my generation’s version of losing Walt Disney, someone else whose ideas were so brilliant and so new. People are actually laying flowers for Steve Jobs, a former executive at Apple stores he helped create. That is absolutely unheard of in an era whe
re our nation’s youth are protesting in front of Wall Street, an era where we distrust anyone wearing a suit and cast shame on executives across the country.
Steve Jobs showed us why we should Think Different. He hired the brightest people and expected them to make the best products. He pushed his employees to the edge because on the edge, legends are born. He proved to us that breaking the rules isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do. We learned from Steve that if you’re good enough, you make your own rules. Through his work, he taught us that simplicity in design trumps complexity every time. His products showed us that ease of use is a beautiful thing.
Steve Jobs taught us that sometimes, things break, and the world will crush you. He also taught us that there’s freedom in losing everything. After being fired from Apple in the 80’s, he could have sat on his couch, wallowing around with a bag of cheetos and daytime TV like the rest of us. He started Pixar instead. He taught a generation of underpaid, underemployed, and overworked people that life is too short to work in a job you don’t like. We learned from Steve that settling for a life we don’t want is far worse than feeling lost for a little while, and we each take that lesson with us well into our twenties.
The fact that the majority of my generation probably heard about his death via one of his products says more about the impact of Steve Jobs than words ever can. But Steve Jobs means more to us than the phones in our pockets, laptops in our backpacks and music in our ears. He showed us what we could be if we were brave enough and heard our inner voice in a clear and resonating tone. He was a genius, someone who changed the world, and he will always be an inspiration to each and every one of us.
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.
I didn’t take 9/11 very seriously when it happened (I wrote about comedy’s place in tragedy last year). I was 13, and I lived in a suburb in Minnesota. The day was filled with jokes about planes aiming for the buildings in our town: Go ahead, take out the teen center and ice rink. Nail the McDonald’s downtown. That was how my classmates and I felt that day; there was no danger, no threat to anyone close, no damage done in our world. We made jokes because we didn’t understand why our teachers were so solemn, so quietly fearful of how everything would turn out and what the ramifications of the attack would be.
They remembered the draft and they remembered Vietnam, so at that moment all of our teachers and parents probably had visions of their students and sons forced to wear camouflage, ready to fight another guerrilla enemy in a long war. History was again going to be repeating itself, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
But there wasn’t a draft, only a generation of volunteers heading to the Middle East to fight for whatever we had lost that day. And many battles have been fought, and many lives have been lost, and many things will never be the same.
What happened and what changed and what evolved in the last 10 years is nothing short of astonishing.
We’re still involved in the same wars. We’ve seen the feeling of unity and “God Bless America” patriotism mutate into polarized political factions. One of them is an overwhelming celebration of anger, fear and jingoism hiding as“Average American” patriotism. The other party is full of idealists hiding under a veil of irony and cynicism because they just might actually believe in the “Hope and Change” rhetoric of yesteryear. Everything is black and white. And anyone in the middle better duck and cover, because there isn’t a place for reasonable people who see value in both sides. Politics isn’t a buffet, it’s a prix fixe menu. If you aren’t with us, you’re against us.
Economically, we’ve seen empires crumble, then banks crumble, and then we crumbled. Jobs were lost, and many more Americans had to deal with layoffs and job reductions. Gas shot up, loans went unpaid, and houses still remain foreclosed. The rich get richer, the poor poorer. Again, the middle is no place to be.
We’ve now fully realized that we’re on our own. The institutions won’t make us whole. Our political parties will only keep fracturing and moving towards the poles. The banks will let us down, religion will not save us, schools can barely teach us, and the government cannot protect us.
But, as the Springsteen song goes, “at the end of every hard-earned day people find some reason to believe.” We still have hope. The internet has evolved from a place for nerds to talk about episodes of The Simpsons and Star Trek into an all-encompassing ecosystem of its own. Social media creates communities of geographically-displaced human beings, and is even aiding in revolutions across the world. Pop culture is making us smarter and more aware. There is some light, even if it isn’t that much.
There will be good years, and bad years, and we will keep moving forward. Just remember that good things will keep happening. Kids will still laugh, friends and families will still get together, and comedians will still tell jokes. We will still smile. We have our freedom, and no group or institution or moment has been able to take that away. And we will never forget one of the moments that changed everything and defined our generation.
There are rules you should break, and there are rules you should respect. Which rule belongs in which category is completely up to you. You will ultimately be defined by the rules you break. The world is built and enhanced by those who break the right rules and respect the others.
You will be rejected, by girls and jobs and friends and enemies. You will feel left out. You will feel alone. If you’re strong and smart and brave and confident enough, you won’t let that darkness cover you and define you.
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we’re special, that we’re alone in feeling the way we do. The truth is, we all feel the same basic things. When you do feel rejected and alone, just remember that everybody else does too. Friends will dampen the bad times and enhance the good times.
You will have good friends and bad friends and friends you only keep around to compete with. Some will journey with you, others will fall behind. Find the ones you can spend lazy time with, time spent going to brunch or sitting at the park. If you can sit around with a group of people, watch crappy TV, and still enjoy yourself, you’ve found your best friends.
You will collide with strangers who will leave scars (good and bad) that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. Deep, ephemeral connections with strangers during an impromptu adventure are some of the most memorable moments you’ll have. Some of these collisions will last for a long time, some of them will be fleeting. Enjoy the moments.
If you’re not exercising now, start. We’re at the lazy peak of our physical existence, so it’s easy to forget to take care of our bodies. Right now, everything heals, and what we do often has little lasting power. Watch what you eat. Watch how much you drink. Soon your metabolism is going to shut down and the negligence will bite you in the ass.
Find something you’re passionate about and throw yourself into it. There is nothing more boring or useless than hating everything. Sarcasm, satire and cynicism are okay, but feeling electric about something is much better.
There are people who love to dichotomize the world, to assign people to teams, to categorize chaos. Remember that while some things are good and some things are evil, the majority of things lie in between those two poles. Don’t let anyone put you on a team you don’t belong on. Think for yourself and be a free agent instead.
Silence is your best friend and your worst enemy. Figure out how to find peace in silence and in nature. Nature has been here much longer than you, and it’ll be around long after you’re gone. Your job is to hunt for the beauty that exists in the world, and try as hard as you can to ignore the ugly.
As long as we’re young, we still have time. Take advice from your elders, take advice from the younger generation, and take advice from your generation. Most of all, take advice from yourself. Nobody sees the world like you.
Do things today and learn from the past. And never, ever forget to move forward.
(Inspired by/stealing from this)
I live in Madison, the stereotypical college town: full of youthful energy, busting at the seams with a mixture of stress, lust, college pride and drunken adventures. I’ve lived here for five years and have generally considered myself a part of the young vibe Madison so vibrantly exudes.
But lately, I’ve started to feel a little old and disconnected. The students look younger and younger, and now I’m older than most of them. They worry about fake IDs, homework, and where they’re going to go out that night. I worry about paying school loans and getting enough sleep so I can work 50+ hours a week. It’s like one morning I woke up, and I wasn’t the same person. Blink and you’ll miss it, but you become someone else.
People my age don’t really fit in…..we’re too old for the college crowd and too young for mortgages and garage sales. They call it a “quarter life crisis.” It’s a time when we’re supposed to reconcile the past with the future; who you were in college morphs into “adult” you. But really, it just feels stagnant. We’re just waiting to become an adult. It’s an awkward time because we don’t really fit in.
Objectively, I’m still young. I may have a little less hair than I did when I was in college and I may wear more “adult” clothes, but other people still group me in with the Badger crowd. And that’s fine, because I’m not quite ready to give that persona up.
Then again, I don’t feel like an adult either. I’m not ready to host dinner parties and settle down. The most responsibility I want is taking care of a dog and holding onto a steady job. I definitely don’t want to have kids yet, and I’m not trying to get married. It’s too early for that.
I’m lucky enough to have a great job, but much of Gen Y is underemployed or not employed at all. The average age of marriage is climbing up next to the big 3-0. Having kids comes soon after that. This means there are 5 or 6 years post-college where you just don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing, or what’s expected of you. It’s a confusing time. In pop culture, this is the cornerstone of the Apatow-ian comedies like “Knocked Up.” We all have a little bit of Seth Rogen in us.
When I think about this period in life, I think about How I Met Your Mother. I love that show. At times, it’s flat-out hilarious. Other times, it’s emotionally devastating. This season, a main character’s dad died unexpectedly and the characters are all coming to terms with leaving their twenties behind and embracing that new side of themselves they never knew they had. It’s sold as a love story, but it’s really about growing up and dealing with all of the good and bad things that come with being an adult.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a great time. At our age, we’re full of disposable income and the “real world” hasn’t made us jaded and cynical (yet). We’re still wide-eyed dreamers who believe in love, life, and the pursuit of happiness without too much stress or too many setbacks. Pure hope. We have an amazing amount of unbounded excitement for this new world we’re supposed to be entering. We are rookie adults.
So here we are, straddling the line between keggers and wine tastings. The sun is setting on the person I was in college, but the promise of a fulfilling “adult” life is still there. We’re at the crossroads between the reckless, exuberant youthfulness in our early twenties and the life we’re supposed to be leading at the end our third decade on this planet. I guess these years are about becoming the person you’ll be for the rest of your life. As long as I remember that to hold onto a lot of the person I was and the person I am now, I’m not even remotely worried about becoming Future Tom. I’m excited to meet that man.
This post was first featured on The Next Great Generation. Check it out…it has articles by much better writers than me.
Five months ago, I started a real job. One with an office and coworkers and everything else that makes a job a “job.” No more sitting on Twitter and Facebook all day and no more working remotely from home or the nearest coffee shop.
But I survived week one… and two, and three. Nearly a year after graduating, I finally feel like I’m successfully leaping over that giant chasm between college and professional life. The first months of a new job are filled with terror, excitement, confusion, and promise. You can either enter the fetal position and shake until it’s over, or, you can face it head on and try to learn something from it. Here are some tips for surviving and thriving in your new job.
There is no way you can get through the first week of something new when you’re constantly worrying about all the things you don’t know. Accept a certain amount of disorientation (physically and mentally) when you enter something new. You’re going to get lost, turned around, confused, and uncomfortable. You might as well embrace it. Knowledge will come.
Ask Questions and ALWAYS Ask For Help
The only way to stop being lost is to get directions. Ask for help when you’ve lost your way, ask for clarification when you’re confused, ask someone to repeat something when you didn’t catch the message. You’ll appear enthusiastic and others will know that you’re interested and excited about this new experience. At first, this wasn’t easy for me. I’m the type of person who wants to figure things out for myself and seldom asks for help, but I realized that I had to ask for help when I needed it. Missing deadlines because you’re too stubborn or proud to ask for assistance is just plain stupid.
Get to Know Your Coworkers
Go ahead and tell stories about your glory days in college, tell NSFW jokes, and let your coworkers get to know the “real” you… after a while. When you start out, keep it clean, keep it safe, and keep it professional. Get acclimated to the job and the people you work with before you bust out the keg-stand stories and salty language. This isn’t to say you can’t show off your true personality, just understand that work-land is different from the dorm room and act accordingly.
Remember That Everyone Is In the Same Boat
Everyone else who is new is feeling the exact same way you are. They’re going to need just as much help as you. And if you’re the only new person, just remember that you’re not the first one. What you’re feeling isn’t strange, it’s just a byproduct of entering a new environment: Everyone’s running around trying to figure out what their place is, how they fit into the big picture, and if they’re going to make any friends. Just like you. And you know what? They made it. You will too.
Fake It Till You Make It
Above all, just jump in the deep end. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You’ll quickly learn that the waters will keep rising; it’s either sink or swim, and it’s much preferable to tread water for a little bit than sink straight to Davey Jones’ Locker. Take on responsibilities you aren’t sure you can handle. It’s the only way you’ll grow as a professional and as a human being. As the quote from Mad Men goes, “This is America…Pick a job and then become the person that does it.”
Eventually, things will make sense. You’ll either be happy at your job or you’ll be miserable and get another job. It’s really that easy. With these five tips, you should be able to survive the murky waters of a first “real-world” job with flying colors.
They say we hop jobs too often. We have no work ethic, expect too much, and want to be famous despite having no talent. We expect too many thank-you’s and pats-on-the-back, and we don’t take criticism well. Oh yeah, and we just don’t have enough respect for our elders.
At some point, hearing the same anti-millennial garbage over and over gets old.
Millennials get a bad rap. Look, I get it: Some of us are easy targets. Many people my age are poster-children for the Gen Y stereotype: They have helicopter parents, they received praise all of the time and thus expect a reward for everything they do, and they try to emulate Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Snooki .
Unfortunately for us, this is a case of a few very rotten apples spoiling the bunch. For every Snooki-obsessed Gen Y stereotype, there are a ton of entrepreneurial, hopeful, caring, and hard-working millennials that go unnoticed.
Things are going to change for the Boomer generation, and they’re slowly catching on to this fact. Naturally, they’re terrified, so they’re lashing out and trying to discredit us. There have already been some quality posts in defense of Gen Y, but I think it’s time to throw my hat in the ring. It’s time to stick up for my generation by explaining or attacking some of the common misconceptions the best I can.
Those darn kids want everything RIGHT NOW!
Yeah, we’re a generation of impatient, ADD-addled people. We want “instant” everything, and waiting on anything is annoying. We want and need everything to be instant: Communication, customer service, information, feedback…everything. It’s not natural for us to wait on these things.
We grew up with the internet and instant messaging, so we had a world of answers at our fingertips and indirect contact to every single one of our friends at all hours. We grew up with mobile phones and text messaging (or at least came of age when they became popular), so we always have had instant access to our friends, family, and customer service, wherever we are. Our life is instant. The older generations are used to waiting for everything, but we aren’t. This is something the older generations are going to have to learn to deal with, because we are in a culture of “instant.”
Those darn kids are unrealistic and entitled
One of the often-used words to describe Gen Y is “entitled.” They say we believe we’re entitled to unrealistically big salaries. And you know what, they’re right. We DO feel like we deserve all of that. But who can blame us? We’re the ones who are paying an incredible amount of money to go to college, yet many of us still haven’t landed a job after graduation. We need a nice job with a big salary because the previous generation made student loans a HUGE hurdle in our twenty-something lives.
We believe in our own abilities to an “unrealistic” level (yes, it’s overconfident, but at least we actually believe in ourselves) because we’re the “good job for trying!” generation that “earned” a trophy for being in last place, just because we participated. There’s a quote attributed to Alex Bogusky, and it goes something like this:
“Being nice about someone’s mediocrity is the worst kind of mean”
We’re a generation that has been constantly rewarded for mediocrity, so of course we’ll feel entitled to unrealistic jobs, salaries, and lives.
Just remember: We’re praise-hungry, entitled monsters because you made us this way.
Those darn kids don’t know how to work
Yeah, we don’t want to work 9-to-5 desk jobs in traditional offices. Get over it, because that’s not going to be the norm in 10 or 15 years.
Who wants a desk job? We’ve seen how miserable our parents could get because of their crappy, thankless desk job. Of course we’re going to fight against having that, and we’re going to do anything we can to avoid it. For us, it IS avoidable….we’re the generation of dorm-room entrepreneurs. We have laptops, the internet, and smartphones; “work” isn’t bound by location or time.
Those darn kids whine on social media
Hell yeah we whine on social media. It works; smart brands understand our influence and want to make us happy (ALL brands should want to make their customers happy). We found a way to be heard, so we’ll send out our grievances in 140 characters or less and hope it reaches someone important.
We found a way to create communities that aren’t bound by geography. We found a way to band together and take the power back from the massive institutions that we can no longer trust. So yes, we’re going to keep writing tweets & blog posts to get your attention, and we will broadcast our negative experiences and expect them to be rectified (instantly, of course).
Those darn kids are…just like us?
There are a lot of things that separate our generation from the Boomers or Gen X. We’re very different because we grew up in different time periods, with different cultural norms and different situations. But, remember this: Just like your generation and the next generation after us will, our generation wants to laugh, love, and live. The definitions of what these things mean may be different, but we’re still driven by the same desires. Of course I’m going to complain about the next generation, and I hope the next generation feels free to challenge their elders like we do.
But for now, shut up and give us some respect for once, will ya?
What do you think about Gen Y?
I was in eighth grade on 9/11, in Mr. Wenthold’s art class.
I remember not taking it too seriously…we were in Minnesota, so we weren’t very afraid of anything happening to us in the middle of America.
I remember doing my homework every night in front of the endless TV coverage, with pundits and politicos trying to make as much sense out of this mess as they could.
But the most searing, burning memories I have of that period came when the comedians stopped making jokes.
(Here’s where I wanted to embed the video: I urge you to watch this)
I remember the shock and utter confusion on their faces. That uneasy sense, wondering if they were crossing the line, wondering if they could tell jokes at all anymore. That lostness. I will never forget Jon Stewart’s first monologue after returning. Conan’s monologue. The SNL opening, where Lorne asked the Mayor if it was ok to start being funny again.
To a 12 or 13 year old kid, seeing the clowns crying signaled that this was real, it was real bad, and it was real serious. I won’t ever forget that.
So here we are, nearly a decade later. A lot of bad things have happened since then. We’ve been at war for my entire adult life. Every now and then, a natural disaster comes along and rips apart a city or two. Financial kingdoms have toppled, and many jobs have been lost. And there’s a lot of hatred.
But a lot of good things have happened since then, too. After every disaster, we’ve rebuilt what we can. New York is still standing, albeit without two giant towers that used to grace the skyline. New Orleans is getting there. Jobs are coming back, to some extent. My generation, the generation that came of age in this mess, created empires in their dorm rooms and are revolutionizing the way people interact with each other. We believe that we can help fix this mess. We still have hope; that in itself is a good thing.
And the comedians are still telling jokes. As long as the clowns still exist, we’ll be alright.