My mom is a really good person. Like, to the core. She taught me not to judge and not to assume and to be giving but to also be true to yourself. To be loyal, to be reliable, to stick with things. She doesn’t lie or speak bad of people. She would never backstab someone to get ahead. She would never sacrifice relationships for success. This approach to life has done her right. She’s happy.
I can’t say that I’ve had the same experience. Trying to live by her lessons doesn’t seem to reap the same richness of life. Maybe it’s where I live? Maybe I’m doing it wrong? Or – and I hate to even think this – maybe my mom’s way of approaching life is obsolete. If she had to start over today, I wonder if would she have the same success. Or maybe she’d be eaten alive.
The women around my age or younger who seem to succeed in getting all the things, they are a different breed than my mom. There is no mistaking that. The ones who get the attention, accolades, marriages, jazzy jobs? They seem to be better not just at doing the thing, but at playing a game. Whatever it is. Whatever it takes. It’s not as if this kind of opportunistic woman never existed until today, it’s just that it seems to have become accepted and expected rather than tolerated. Just as extroversion and charm have become valued personality traits in the last half century or so, We don’t remember because every generational norm is the new normal. And old people just seem annoying.
Some say this generation is just more adaptable, self aware and personable. But is there a dark side to the affability of this generation? This generation of people who have been indoctrinated in the “have it your way” mentality. This generation of people who can create their own quasi-celebrity, constantly being (falsely?) vaguely validated by the waves of strangers’ approval. A generation of precocious adults, only interested in gaming a system rather than being a part of it. A generation that once solves the puzzle, is bored with the game. Even if that “game” is a person? A generation awash in the lukewarm bath of “like.” It give me real fucking pause, man. I wonder, have we gamified our entire lives?
Something has changed in the collective us. The next best thing comes faster and faster, it’s no wonder people lack fortitude. Communities, I’m talking real life ones, have been weakening and disappearing, replaced by individual screen lives. If people can jump ship with jobs, friendships, towns, apartments, whatever, and reinvent themselves without any real repercussion; why would they stick with things that present difficulties? I am not immune to this way of thinking. And I think that’s part of the reason I haven’t succeeded in either way of being – like my mom who sticks with things and is satisfied, or the girls of my generation who don’t just want to have a good life, they want the best one and they want to blog about it. (I realize the irony in that last part, this being a blog and all).
If we are no longer accountable to the collective, is there a reason to be to ourselves? Is being a good person only of value anymore in religious communities? Is it that I need to adapt to this trend of selfishness and oneness?