Friday, June 29, 2012

Talkin' bout my generation

"Our generation has had no great war, 
no great depression. 
Our war is spiritual, 
our depression is our lives."

It's not a pretty picture, is it? The not-so-heart-warming quote from Fight Club writer Chuck Palahniuk has some merit. There's a lot to be said about our generation; I've heard jokes-a-plenty cracked by sly 40-something journalists and my parents, aunties, relatives. We are the Me generation the no-time generation the ipod-MTV-have-it-all generation. According to Seal on The Voice our cumulative suffering, pain and weight as a generation is pressing down on the shoulders of Karise Eden (really, Seal?).

With all these catchy labels being bandied around shouldn't we have a say in how we're portrayed? We aren't incapable of speaking for ourselves, despite Seal's nationally televised assertions to the contrary. We are vocal opponents to the rising popularity of jeggings, strong supporters of free downloadable music (thankyou, Spotify) and have gone through some serious cognitive dissonance in regards to the role of Hipsters in society (the love/hate relationship is never-ending). We 'like' things constantly, 'share' our thoughts, 'update' our statuses and 'tweet' to our hearts content without really knowing where those 140 characters are meant to end up or what having a twitter account is actually meant to achieve besides adding hashtags to words. We aren't a shy bunch.

We share more of our lives with more people than any other generation in the history of the world. There's a scary thought. Then why all the fuss? What's this about our generation they were saying again? Maybe it got lost somewhere between instagraming what we ate for breakfast and checking in at Kmart with @AngeGreen 'Late night shopping with my bff!' I, too, am party to the instagram community - who doesn't love the ability to instantly make everything you do look like a vintage 70s slideshow? The point is between all of that social-"networking" we don't even get a chance question if there's something else going on we should be paying attention to.

We Follow people on twitter and Like pages on Facebook, we're so connected we can't miss a train without everybody knowing how long the next one will be. There is something to be said about the deteriorating quality of information we send out and the exponential growth of, for lack of a better word crap that we upload, share and send out into the universe every minute of the day.

It's not that I'm suggesting we all become luddites and adopt the Amish way of life but with that amount of useless clicking eating up our late nights, what are we losing out on? The internet was hailed as a revolution for globalising the world, reducing the disconnect and enabling wisdom to be shared the world-over. Somehow we've just developed ridiculous obsessions with cat videos and bizarre fan-cult-personalities (I sometimes have night-mares about the Britney fan guy and that crazy Twilight chic).

There's no shortage of issues going on in the world, there are constant famines and economic crisises, the never-ending political footballing over asylum-seekers, our very own Great Barrier Reef is under threat from the lucrative mining industry and small islands are sinking lower every year as climate sceptics refuse to believe the we've screwed up Mother Nature's Feng shui.

All this, while you were tweeting.

It's not to say I'm not surrounded by and have the honour of knowing young people bucking the trend, becoming social entrepreneurs, taking up a cause, being interested in social justice or abstaining from joining the half a billion people who have Facebook accounts - I've met my fair share; but these are the exception, not the norm.

There was the awkward situation with Tony, I mean Kony (was that his name?), our passing interest in shows like Go Back To Where You Came From and the current ABC series Dumb, Drunk and Racist. We'll occasionally watch Q&A, The Gruen Transfer or even read all the way to the end of an online article on The Conversation or The Punch (when we're not reading Thought Catalog).

But how does this measure up to what all the other generations have done before us, and what they're saying now? All those baby boomers looking down at us from the comfort of middle-age, just happy to be out of the lime-light and behind the panel of judges. What name are we giving ourselves, or are we happy to let others hashtag us #generationwhydontyoudosomething?

I'm no coach for Karise Eden, so I'm not speaking for a generation here - just as one tiny little blogger in the sea of internet personas. All I'm saying is that Chuck had it right with his quote.. great wars and great depressions breed even greater heroes, even greater triumphs; logically following do daily ego-wars and first-world-depression breed a generation that can't see past our own mac-book-pro-reflections?


Read more 'Why Gen Y will be running the world by 2020'  here on these low on words high on graphics article about Generation Y or as they like to call us 'the Millenials.'

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Love and other drugs.. my reality TV version.

Since the age of fourteen, when my best friend got her first boyfriend, people have been giving me unsolicited advice on relationships. I was accosted with the 'privilege' of being the lone single girl who was yet to validate her existence. They hypothesised about how one day, when I was worthy enough and pimple-free, I would 'understand'; one day I would overcome that last bastion to social status and attain a boyfriend.

Almost eight years later, somewhere in the south of Spain this 'one day' came, and I 'understood'. All sarcasm aside, I finally understood what everybody was crying over, stuffing their faces with ice-cream for and breaking down randomly at Adele songs on the radio. More than that, I got my very own personal tour of the irrationality of being in a Relationship. There is no logic, no formula, no grounded sense of reason. It hit me then why nobody listened to me when I told them He's No Good For You, You'll Be Fine, Let It Go, among other variations.

I learned a lot from being knee-deep in a relationship, instead of watching from the outside. It was every bit as dramatic as one could have dreamt it to be. I was swallowed whole by the novelty of being overseas, going on dates in Spanish with a European whose name was straight out of an Almodovar movie. The lesson wasn't that a Colombian Telenovela can actually happen to you in real-life, when you're in Spain and find a guy whose name rhymes with Taco (although that was certainly a hilarious enlightenment on the possibilities of life).

It was that crossing the relationship line is like having an iPad. When you don't have one you look at people with iPads and think they are idiots, you don't understand the attachment, the adoration, the cooing and the ahhing, the obsession with having to be connected. And then you find yourself at the Apple store hyped up on impulse-buying-adrenalin with an iPad2, purchasing all the unnecessary accessories for it and advocating like a Jehovah's witness for all the benefits it will bring into your life.

You're just another addict to the relationship drug. And it is an addiction of sorts. Want to know why? Well, what I learned is that the most attractive thing about another person is how much they like you. It sounds egotistical but is it not the truth? Having somebody tell you and truly believe you are every bit as awesome as you have known all along you were, is one of the most gratifying experiences somebody can ever have. It's affirmation embodied in another person. Who's going to give that up? 

I asked a friend recently, "Who's your ideal guy?" to which she replied, "Somebody who loves me and tells me I'm guapa everyday" (guapa is spanish for beautiful). There's nothing in that answer about if he's a witty, financially stable lawyer of a suitable height and conventional good looks. It's not even about if he reads books or votes Labor. It's about how much he loves you, after all. 

That's it? I hear you ask. Really? That's all? After holding out for 21 years that's all you've come up with? That relationships are all about somebody holding up a mirror to reflect your own ego? Well, yes. and no. It's also about companionship, about having somebody to plan adventures with, try new restaurants with, drag along to things you don't want to do by yourself. You could get a dog, but boyfriends and girlfriends seem to be the more socially acceptable option to bring along to a movie.

Don't get me wrong, obviously it's also about who so-and-so is 'as a person', but it's mostly about things you don't account for. Do they make you cups of tea without you asking? Do they listen when you're talking? Are they interested in what you're trying to say? I'm opening myself up to all kinds of backlash by the masses of people with years of dysfunctional relationship experience waiting to tell me I'm wrong. Which I might be, but this is what I've learned so far. It's not what I thought I would 'understand' when that 'one day' came. But it's come and gone and I'm still standing, living to tell the tale. 

The tale of how what I learned about being in a relationship is that it's possible that somebody else other than yourself believes you are as awesome as you think you are (just as I suspected!). Now that I have my validation, what's next?

Monday, June 18, 2012

What I'm Actually Doing

I write a lot on here about general issues that go on in this bizarre experiment of The Universe we call 'life'; I usually avoid specifics of what's actually going on with me despite the fact this is called Grace What Are You Doing. To rectify the possible misconception that my mind is constantly filled with deep reflections on the circumstances plaguing our generation, here's the low down on What I've Actually Been Doing.

I'm big on To Do Lists and before I even came back from Spain I had drafted a get-my-ass-into-gear-list that looked something like this:
- Get a job
- Get an internship
- Get involved in everything I could
- Be awesome at uni, (no more of this "Ps get Degrees" business)
- Keep practising Spanish
- Pay back the money I owed my parents
- Save money to go to South America

Second to soy chai lattes and free food samples there's nothing more satisfying than crossing off to-do-list items. I'm currently at a part-time job where I can listen to all the triple J and Spotify I want, wear pyjamas to work and enjoy the company of a furry four-legged colleague (the home-office dog, Louie). And did I mention it pays well enough that I can pay for a full tank of gas, eat out frequently and still have money to pay my parents? I am restraining myself from hashtagging "winning" here.

After 'Job' was ticked off came the internship. Last week was my first big day at the non-for-profit youth run organisation that is actually everything I never got but always wanted from my last 2 internships. It's a lot of responsibility, deep-end this-is-real responsibility - no coffee-runs or grunt work here (though, there is the occasional spreadsheet). It's a strange sensation to have so much motivation and drive to work for something you're not even getting paid for. Is that what it's like when you love your job? If so, why do people choose otherwise? Though now all I need to do is find a way to get paid for it..

The rest of the check list items are getting ticked off slowly. I've thrown myself into programs and projects that have me waking up at 2am to write down an idea I just thought of or turn on my laptop for the 5th time at the crack of dawn to send an email. All that idleness from the year-long European holiday has been replaced by a rapacious hunger for productivity. Who Am I??? Like they say - I can't go back to yesterday, I was a different person then.

Admittedly I haven't been practising my Spanish as much as I would like to be. Luckily foxtel allows me to series record Spanish News, there's also my new found love for Calle 13 a South American duo with real lyrical talent. Not to forget the Sydney Spanish Film Festival with hilarious movies like 'Chinese Take Away' or 'Un Cuento Chino'. For some real-life speaking there's the weekly intercambios with spanish speakers over drinks in the city. All that's missing is my attendance. It's a work in progress..

And then there's money, which I'm lucky and grateful isn't a big issue for me. The Bank of Mum & Dad have kindly allowed me to pay them back without interest in my own time. I have promptly informed them that the loan will not be paid back any time soon, but by the time it will I will probably need a new loan to fund my South America Adventure. Fingers crossed that doesn't happen but Money Management & Grace aren't fully acquainted yet so I'm playing it by ear.

So really that is What I'm Doing. Trying to keep my head above water with a lot of red wine, baked goods and great company. It's not a bad life and I do love the problems I have, if you can call them that. This is What I'm Doing - juggling a to-do-list with small rituals that involve lots of food, hot drinks and I'm going to write it again... red, red, wine.

Makes me wonder what other peoples To-Do Lists look like?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Unattractive Necessity of Growing Up

Growing up is supposed to be about a lot of things. Pushing past the initial gag-reaction to espresso style coffee and fostering an addiction to it. Realising you'd prefer to stay indoors with a pre-recorded tv show or downloaded movie than go out til 3am "just cause". Getting a job where you're not allowed to wear clothes with rips, studs or holes in them (unless you're a creative, in which case get your hipster on). It's said to be about letting go of a lot of routines that involve hangovers, bad choices and misadventures.

Yet behind the transition from binge-drinking to wine-snobbery there's the bigger indicators that distinguish actually growing up from just learning to look the part. Coffee and a blazer don't make a legitimate adult. If that were true, every girl in my Public Relations cohort would have a certificate of maturity - with honours (and that just isn't true).

When you separate the image from reality it's obvious that it's not glamorous, it's not even tumblr worthy. Growing up is about responsibility and decisions. You can't put that on instagram - who would like it?

It's not about responsibility for your taxes, your own laundry or even feeding yourself (although that's part of it); it's more about understanding that our youth isn't a disclaimer of non-accountability. It's about waking up and taking into account people and situations from a perspective outside of ourselves.

God knows I've still got a hell of a lot of growing up to do but this post is coming from a place of learning curves. What happens when you grow up is that you realise you're not the only person that matters, you realise what a tiny space you occupy in the world and that makes you first scared and then in awe. After that passes, the understanding comes and you can't go back to tantrums, selfishness or that ever-attractive youthful ignorance.

You have to choose whether you're going to be the "bigger person," take the "high road". You have to decide what's good for you, who is good for you and equally what you're good for and who you're good for. That responsibility is no mean feat. It often means not ending up with what you want. Mostly it means breaking things up, letting things go and moving on. Where's the fun in that?

And growing up isn't confined to the ages of 16 - 25, some people are forced to grow up young and others won't be pushed to do so until late in life. Whatever the age, it's separating the kids from the big boys. The kids are fun, funny, fun-loving but you wouldn't necessarily trust them to be there when you're in between a rock and a hard place. It's the big boys that make the tough calls, hard-fought decisions of conscience and reason that make the difference in the end.

So here's my revelation for the week. Growing up isn't fun, it's not meant to be.. but it sure as hell beats making the same mistakes and not getting anywhere. It's no motivating promo ad for sportswear but Growing Up is about being in the right with your decisions, even though being wrong would have been easier and more fun.

Here's to being alright with making it right. 'Cause that's how grown ups do. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Live in the Present

It was sage advice from my cousin, newly returned from 3 months in Europe now almost 3 years ago. The 4 words came after a marked transformation from anxiety, stress and fear before travelling to a surrender to all that life was travelling. It was the motto I lived when it was my turn abroad; reminding myself just how incredibly lucky I was to be where I was, doing what I was doing. Yet it goes without saying that ‘live in the present’ is easier to do when the present consists of sun soaked days spent people watching in your favourite plaza, making eyes at the cute waiter and deciding which culinary delight to treat yourself to next. It’s easier when the present your living is the stuff made of dreams.

How do you ‘live in the present’ when your present consists of the common-place, often bordering on the banal? The sleep deprivation, the to-do lists, the fatigued sighs, the micro-sleeps, the sneaking suspicion that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when you’ve got a an essay due tomorrow, work the next day, 2 hours of transit before you and a week long forecast of rain.

Nostalgia is a tricky mistress. She leads you doe-eyed toward the instagramed memories and smiling, bronzed photos of you while dutifully chauffeuring you past the home-sickness, the idleness, the small pockets of doubt and relateable reality. She leads you to believe you will never be as happy as you were then. And that’s just not true.

Almost half a year back from The Best Year Ever (So Far) I’ve found my groove once again. Gone are the anxieties and aching feelings of being broken up with by the first foreign country I’d actually fallen for; replaced now with the post-break-up understanding that it was over, but I was better for it. People say you’re brave to travel, to go overseas but the real test of character is coming back to face the music. If you can deal with wherever you are, independent of location, you’re set for life. 

To all of my 20-something friends still mourning the trip overseas at whom I’m forcefully dispensing this advice – take a breath, give it up, surrender to the ‘now’. How do you do that? Eat more cake. Meet a friend. Go to see a live band. Complain less. Consciously seek out what is awesome and right in your life right now, even if it’s just the fact that you are not homeless, friendless or alone. Maybe you’ve got it figured out, maybe you have no clue what you’re doing, maybe you’re making it all up as you go along. Which would be the majority of us, I’m putting up my hand here.

We have the strange and once-only privilege of being young (all ignorance, idealism, Gen Y narcissism and first world problems included). It’s a permission slip to dress inappropriately, mess up, borrow money from our parents, disappoint people, surprise everybody, make mistakes, break hearts, exploit the stereo-type of the broken hearted, ride the wave of fearlessness and naiveté of ideas untested by jading experience. The present doesn’t stop being glorious just because the travels have stopped, we’re getting jobs, finishing degrees or finding ourselves increasingly annoyed at the loud uniformed school students interrupting our public transport peace and quiet that reminds us we’re getting older. It doesn’t stop because we’re home. It becomes more real, our whole youth is a dream we haven’t woken up from yet, so close your eyes and enjoy the ride.

Live in the present.

Yes, that old chestnut.