~ kusala
[ ku-sa-la: Pali term meaning wholesome, skillful, good, meritorious. ]
[ Action characterized by this quality (kusala-kamma) is bound to result (eventually) in happiness and a favorable outcome. ]


2006-04-05 - 11:59 a.m.

Grow Up and Embrace Your Inadequacy

[preface: was fairly raging a couple of hours ago, after spending a good 20 minutes expounding, in my grandiloquent way, on yuppiedom, material culture, and the Modern Psyche, blahblahblah, only to have the motherfuckin', bungholelickin', pissyshittysnotty electricity in the office go out again (it was the third time this morning). Thus, lost all my "work." Probably a good lesson in there about why this place is actually called "work," and it's unrelated to the "work" I lost... Oh well. I'll be uploading this asap this time, before the next imbecilic, pothead, goober of an Edison worker twists the wrong resistor at the powerstation or sumpin.]

I'm feelin' compelled to comment on the "Grups" article that's been making the rounds. The article about the thirtysomethings who are "still living like they did when they were 22," more or less (the "less" being that they now can apparently afford Tribeca lofts and $500 jeans).

Though many of the points resonated, I felt those familiar creeping feelings of dissatisfaction start to rumble at various points during my reading. I shared the article with a fortysomething friend in Switzerland, who can relate because her barely thirtysomething husband is making scads of money in software marketing while listening to blaring hip-hop in the office, etc. The following is an excerpt of my reply to her:

I finally read the whole article over dinner last night. Some of the observations were interesting and right on, like the attitude about work, preferring days off to bonuses, not wanting to become a "suit" (why did I keep thinking of [straight-and-narrow former coworker] while reading this?). However, I had a hard time relating because all these people seemed like such materialistic typical "yuppies" who make like bazillion dollars and are SO into their clothes and possessions and whatnot.

I guess I find it weird when people still try to act bohemian and "outré," or whatever, but they're as materialistic as anyone (the shredded jeans that people spend $500 on — ridiculous; "dressing down" but being label conscious all the way). It seems hypocritical — sort of liking the idea of being "antiestablishment" but being really as mainstream as ever in a certain way. And of course, I think this article was really narrowly focused on a small group of ultra-urban types. There are still huge segments of the population who tromp into middle age in the most ordinary way (working for an insurance company and whatnot) even though some of these new ethics and priorities have most likely wormed their ways into even that demographic — still retaining some youthful "hipness" even while they trudge, in Dockers, to a 9-to-5 drone job.

In the end, this article really did start to make me feel uncomfortable, and I fairly soon determined that the reason why was that all those descriptions of Tribeca lofts, fabulous post-dot-com-boom/bust lifestyles, trendy jeans and footwear and music and baby accessories, and eeeeeevvvverything really started to make me feel... inadequate. I know that was probably more "about me" than about the article, but there it is.

And I realize that the article was written for New York magazine, and that it's focused on a particular time, place, and audience that tends to be pretty damn upscale. And then I drew on some of the things I've learned that helped me remember that it's really not about comparing myself to someone else's fabulous loft, or fabulous shoes, or fabulous job, or fabulous life, because it's all ok to let them have their lives while I have mine.

And the trick goes something like this*:

  • Ask myself: "What am I comparing?" For example:
    ...how much/little money I have compared to...
    ...how I look compared to...
    ...what kind of car I drive compared to...
    ...my relationship status compared to...
    ...what kind of degree/job I have compared to...
  • And then answer: "Thank GOODNESS that none of that has anything to do with anything, and least of all with my personal worth. I just thought for a minute that it did.

And ok, that was far afield from the original topic of the article, but it describes some of the feelings I sensed it bringing forth in me.

More to the point, I think that people are living all kinds of lives, and that those of "my generation" are probably on the whole more aware than ever of what work "means" to them, and that they want it to be more fulfilling in a spiritual and existential sense. However, the desires to acquire some creature comforts, and buy a house, or just pay the rent, or have a family, or not have a family, and provide your kids with nice things, and dress yourself fairly well and not too embarrassingly, and [fill in the blank]... all these desires are probably fundamentally similar in 2006 from to what they were in 1956, or 1926, or maybe even 1886.

Similar, but different.

*Credit to Marilyn Grossboll for a great lesson...

= = = = = = = = = = =
previous entry
next entry