In times of extreme stress a lot of people either find God or a shotgun. I found New York.
This August I became a statistic. Like people across America every day, I lost my job. I'd written for the Dallas entertainment newspaper, Quick, for two years, and it evaporated almost over night.
Company budget cuts, plain and simple. I am the 99%, awesome.
Losing a job isn't news, especially today, but as my first "real job" after college, this series of events brought about your standard existential career crisis. Plus, telling my story this way is a lot more postmodern, and thus trendy, so just roll with me.
After shedding my grief and selling my car, I moved to Brooklyn three weeks later. Don't bother reading profiles on the Dickensian plight of Gen Y -- this is what it really looks like. I'm still unemployed, wading through the muck. Albeit, while texting.
The public discourse has been so saturated these last eight months in New York, and abroad, with the Occupy Wall St. movement that whether you're grabbing a Yuengling in Clinton Hill, or you're sleeping at your girlfriend's Financial District apartment, it's been impossible to ignore. It could be a bartender waxing nostalgic about her old protest days, or a 4 AM serenade of chanting protestors marching down Wall St. long past the media's bedtime. You will be woken up.
This wake-up call isn't about politics. It's about clearing the fog of apathy from our minds, bravely panning the static of the purposely dense financial arena, acknowledging America's history of class warfare, and our current situation in reference to it.
Whether you're for or against Occupy Wall St., it's about stepping back to see how the strings of the machinery are pulled, recognizing that we are all still in a changing political conversation, seeking and forming the meanings of concepts like being rational, and, indeed, even cooperation. Why else would the illusion of change be such a constant in American politics?
Social evolution happens at a glacial pace, and it's difficult to document meaningfully in real-time, although Urban Outfitters seems to be handling the job aptly enough with its "Die Wall St. Scum" t-shirts.
This is a concept Gen Y is all too aware of.
"Any political analysis that encourages belief in a secure, rational, and cooperative world fails the test of conformity to experience and to the record of history." - Murray Edelman
Call it cynicism, call it realism, whatever, I'd argue my generation ultimately has simpler, more important goals for the Occupy movement than just "tearing it down, man."
The laziest, most coddled, most privileged cult of youth yet, we're only coming of age now. Still finding our ways professionally, hiking switchback through brush, just fighting to have our voices heard, period. We were raised on the excesses of the '80s and '90s and were thrown into the shark tank of economic decline fresh out of high school. At this point, our most important, if not obvious, concern is nothing more than to be of use.
Suddenly, being a cog in the grand machine -- whatever that machine is -- is more appealing than chasing the unique lil' snowflake dreams our parents whispered to us in our sleep. We just want acknowledgement from the herd. To be heard.
I've had jobs fly me to Beverly Hills for movie junkets, set up per diems, and let me interview rock stars, and I've also had to send out my resume daily for the past eight months. Like many of my generation, I'm just happy to have a chair at the table, even if it is missing a leg. Because, like my 89-year-old grandfather, who lived through the Depression, likes to remind me, there will be plenty of times in the future where there won't be any seats at all.
This shouldn't depress us, or widen the chasm between left and right. It should draw attention to the fluid nature of this conversation, and the malleability of our future as a country. Of course history repeats itself -- at least more and more of us are realizing that we've been sitting on the remote this whole time.