An essay on our overloaded quick-fix generations and the responsibility of evolving with awareness
Our culture has romanticized the overwhelmed, completely exhausted, far-too-busy lifestyle we all seem to be trapped in. Some of us are practically competing in this un-showered, no-time-to-eat race of coffee thirsty zombies. Some of us are deeper in it than others. There are the autopilots, just waiting to crash and burn.
Look how much I am doing. It's too much, actually. But I am just trying to survive in this world. My constant quest to stay afloat.
Let's be honest, America: Any way you are trying to do it, it's not easy.
Times have changed, and in our culture, we are governed by modernization, technology and careers. We are spread out, isolated, industrialized, and constantly seeking starved connection and needed convenience. Any way to make our lives easier, more simple. Because secretly, as a species, we miss that. We have traveled so far outside the realm of simplicity that we are overloaded. So overloaded that we are praying to scale back. Doing everything we can to re-simplify within this new world of western chaos. We are doing it, mostly, with the tools we have available. More people are getting interested in mindfulness, meditation, yoga. We are tending more to our psychological well-being. Some of us are going off the grid, truly scaling back. Others are embracing what modern simplicity might mean; how we might stay grounded, true and connected while embracing what has become such a culture of personal disconnect.
We are trying to adapt in a healthy way. Because lord knows, thus far, we have been struggling. Mental illnesses are on the rise, obesity and heart disease are on the rise, suicide is the third leading cause of death in our youth -- so something is not right. Depression and anxiety and bullying are taking over our adolescents and young adults, so something is not right.
We are not doing something right. But we are trying.
We are so starry eyed by the possibilities of advancement and technology that we so rapidly forget the important basics. Ourselves, humanity, connection.
We can learn.
Many of the "rules" and beliefs that govern our culture are now outdated, pointless. Marriage is no longer something people inherently must do for money, survival or heirs. People choose to have careers over "jobs." Many communities have (for the most part) come far enough to realize the outlandish beliefs systems regarding racial hierarchies, slavery, single parent homes. We are now battling sexism, LGBTQ marriage rights, and internalized racism and stigma surrounding mental illness. People are pushing for change, for rights, for adaptation -- because above all, people are seeking to be true to themselves, to live fulfilled and happy lives. People are working to not live just for the law, to not just obey and follow customs and norms. Because this "pursuit to happiness" thing we were guaranteed -- well, maybe as a culture, we are only now coming to understand what happiness means to us. How people work, what is true and what is real. We are finally understanding the depths of our rights as humans born on this planet.
This change is good. It has been slow to this sense of societal freedom, this personal-purpose, happiness driven world.
Emotional, mental, physical. We want, want, want -- and all that wanting keeps us from really thinking and feeling. There is such danger in this blind want. We are so busy and overloaded, we chase and accept convenience above all else. Anything to reduce our stress, because realistically, we don't have time to stop. We can't afford to stop and smell the roses, to work less hours, to have time to make a home-cooked meal. To make a phone call, or knock on a door instead of sending a text message.
We need the minute rice, the drive-through pharmacies and Starbucks, the quick answers, the online banking, the pizza delivery app. I am not judging these things, and ones' search for convenience and "quick." But I can't help but worry about how badly we actually need these things. Because we do. For many of us, it's not even about laziness. We are struggling. And its a glamorized, culturally acceptable struggle.
Fast food is cheaper and on the way, boxed macaroni is cheaper and faster. There's no way I am dragging my toddler into the pharmacy to get a prescription, potentially battling a meltdown or overturned display. That 10-minute trip can so easily turn into half hour battle that people don't have the time or energy for. And how do people with more than one young child go anywhere that requires getting out of their car? We need our email and our work email on our phones, in our pockets. We need text reminders, calendars, alarms, snooze. We are trying to survive. Our work demands, schooling demands, financial demands. You can't really go to college without a laptop, you can't really have a career without internet, you can't really have social life without a smart phone. Not easily, not anymore, not in this America.
People don't drop in anymore unannounced in western America because the truth is that nobody has the time, energy or availability. Our social skills are declining (quite literally), our connections are virtual. In fact, it would not be difficult to go for a number of days without even interacting with a human being. Self-checkout, text, Facebook, automated ordering systems at cafés and restaurants.
Sure, many of the advancements are amazing. But are they good for us? Haven't we always been taught that the quick fix isn't always the most quality route, that the easy way isn't always the most sustainable? That there are dangers in these methods?
Actually, in many ways, we do know this. We see the cruelty conditions of mass animal farming, the chemicals in our vegetables, the desperate notes of help sewn into our cheap clothing from sweat shops half-way across the world. Sex workers trapped in a system of injustice that penalizes them rather than helping them, a nation that forgets about the root causes and feeds into a continual cycle of injustice, violence, stigma. We jail our homeless, expel our troubled children. We don't try to find sustainable solutions to our issues, we try to control the aspects that are inconveniencing us. We'd sooner squash the bugs on our counter with complete anger at them than figure out what has drawn the bugs into the house. Rather than seal holes, clean away crumbs.
But... we are trying to achieve and make a difference. We are. But to even do that, we often have to fall into the madness of this rat race. Lose ourselves for a while. Parents are feeling this in a unique way. Making sacrifices so encompassing to their families, relationships, children, and themselves. Sometimes its survival, but sometimes it's the trap that pulls you past that. You know, the boiling frog. It's so gradual, building up a lifestyle that you then kill yourself trying to maintain.
One of the root basics we have seen on this earth, within all species, is that those which adapt survive. The world is a changing place. The western world is so rapidly changing, that we see adaptational differences easily between generations. Toddlers can navigate iPads and smartphones. The generations are changing. The world is changing. In some ways we grow smarter, more capable, and in other ways we are growing weaker. We are forgetting that the basics which make us human need to be properly nourished through these adaptations. We have to make conscious decisions and efforts to maintain important things in the midst of this chaos. Because, at the heart, we are still the same. We are still humans who need love and connection and support. In our adaptation, are we caring for ourselves?
Those who don't adapt die out. Darwin showed us this. Survival of the fittest. Whom, amongst us is fit? Those adapting. The mentally well and cared for. It may not seem that way, but allowing ourselves to drown or starve emotionally, psychologically, and socially... what does that kind of future of humans look like? A new race of quick-fix humans deluded in complete independence, isolation and self-absorption? Life as a corporation, as a machine?
The changes this world needs are rooted in the very basics of humanity. They are seen in cultures who value humanity above money and technology. Some of these are less "developed" countries, others are just differently focused. Bhutan's Gross Domestic Happiness as a national pursuit and Switzerland's investment in human capital come to mind.
We are adapting now, we are changing quickly, and in such a way that we can all see. With this, we must adequately care for our evolution. We must consciously adapt, integrate mindfulness in the aspects of this world that are killing us. As humans, we have the power to make conscious adaptations. To promote good, to foster connection, love, well-being -- the facets of human happiness and well-being. We are shaping our future generations. We have a responsibility to our psychological wellness. But our culture seems to be fine using quick-fixes, making jokes, and accepting illness and fatigue as the norm. We are responsible, globally and personally. Take care of us.