My generation is full of discontent. I see an ad on TV for a reality show that is handing out checks of $100,000.00. A friend who watches with me is trying to start a business. He is putting money behind his ideas, money he doesn't have. He's willing to risk it. "We need to get you on that show," I say.
"They wouldn't give it to me", he says. He is a white man in his mid 40's. On paper, he is in the privileged class. "We can spin it", I say. "A man in his mid 40's lives at home with his mother to take care of her. His job has been cut due to the budget crisis, his car is over 20 years old, in need of repairs. . . He is clearly upset. This is not the right thing to say to someone who has dreams of not just hitting it big, but of hitting it huge. Mega huge. Bill Gates huge. To make a difference to the world in a big, you can't miss it, way.
I sit on the couch with a man whose dreams of hitting it big match mine. I sit on the couch with a man whose discontent matches mine. I have built a church out of the need to achieve. My eyes sting from being at the computer too long but if I have nothing to show for it, what was it worth to sit there at all. And then I get to berate myself. It was not writing the screenplay. It was not cleaning the house and reading the stack of magazines that have piled up and it was not able to get me an audition. I have created such a need to have a feeling of achievement that it has reached the kind of fervor people have with their faith. It has become my faith. And the man who sits on the couch with me mirrors this kind of fervor in his own world.
We are confused at the changing of the way our lives were "supposed" to turn out. There was once the corporate ladder, a single focused climb to the top. With the dawn of the dotcom industry one instead leapt to the top or crashed to the bottom or took a zig zag path, each change calculated to bring you a notch higher in success.
The corporate ladder has rearranged itself like the staircases at Hogwarts. Now, twenty year olds can make a fortune with the Internet -- YouTube, Facebook, Google. Kids of 22 are mega-rich from the Internet. Men of 50 are being laid off of work. Now, age and experience is not security but a liability. Higher ups are fired for budget cuts and replaced by the "I want it when I want it and I want it how I want it" generation. Our generation is dismissed. How easy it has become to lose it all, or to be usurped and surpassed by an enterprising You Tube star.
Our elders sacrificed. Those following us are pampered. We are in the middle wondering what happened. At my age my parents were married, with children, well into careers. According to the timetable of my high school graduating class, I should be an empty nester about now. Men my age are supposed to be well into their professions looking toward retirement, and instead they look to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
I don't believe that God wants me to suffer, but I do. It is suffering of my own making. It is of my own belief system. I believe I have not achieved. I believe I have not worked hard enough. I believe I am not good enough. I don't see this as a faith system. I look to the world as proof. My prayer to the Church of Achievement becomes a list of "I don't haves". And like the trinity of Christianity mine is also a trinity -- marriage, home, and stellar career. Not particularly in that order. But because I pray to my God of Achievement, I suffer the lack of it. How can you feel you have lived a worthwhile life when you've chosen to swing for the fence, have struck out, and have nothing to show for it?
The Economy is tanking. I have lost half of my savings in a year. I thought I was smart. I followed the cardinal rule of diversification, but every sector has tanked. A friend says, "I have never invested and I have nothing to lose. I have always believed in real estate and art, owning things of value and building experiences. I don't mind going back to nothing. Cleaning out the system." I am stunned by her view of the economic mess. I am not ready to lose everything. I scrimped and budgeted and saved for over 20 years. I should have just bought whatever I wanted if it's all going to disappear now anyway.
There is a saying of family businesses -- Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves is three generations. I feel President Bush has taken us back to shirtsleeves in three generations. His grandfather would have been of the time of the depression, and here we are again. Scared, and out of work, and deeply in debt as a country and Mr. Bush will ride his bike out of the Whitehouse into the sunset and take no responsibility for the destruction he leaves behind.
Britney Spears has the most Internet hits of the year, above World Wrestling Foundation and then Barack Obama. Simply to be recognized is to achieve. You wonder if you have to find a new path. And I am one of the lucky ones. I have a roof over my head. I have food to eat everyday. I have family. It is not for me to complain. I have the luxury of typing these words and of imagining that they will come to something.