Marina Keegan, on graduating from Yale this year, right before she died in a car accident over the weekend. Very sad.
I think she makes a great point. The last thing anyone wants to feel is regret. To feel like we missed an opportunity as it goes whizzing by in the air. We seem to be hard-wired to think that every missed opportunity is a chance we’ll never get back; some are, but the vast majority come back around, in one way or another. We’ll meet another girl that is perfect for us. We’ll get another job offer. We’ll find another way. It’s never too late to turn everything around, to change things up, to move forward. We have so much time.
We’re raised to focus on goals, on milestones and deadlines. On trophies and raises. But that’s not how we think; we’re too young for that, and we refuse to see the world through those lenses. We measure life in laughs, in conversations, in moments. So we might as well just spend as much time as we can in the forgetfulness and excitement of youth. You never know what’s going to happen, when it’s going to end, or who you’ll be with when it’s over.
“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”
That’s all we can ask for.
If there’s one thing you should remember about heading to a college bar after you’re a graduate, it’s this: you never come out of it thinking that it was a great idea. This was especially true of O’Grady’s, a bar notorious for its dark interior and its strong drinks. O’Grady’s gave out Dum-Dum suckers to help quell the sting of rail vodka. As far as student bars go, it was a pretty great place to acquire a blackout. Somewhere in the swirl of the night, we expected to find solace.
On any given weekend night, I could spot 6 or 7 coworkers at the bar; O’Grady’s is never the kind of place you want your colleagues to see you, but there we all were, hoping the other wouldn’t remember an awkward encounter the next morning.
The bar was near and it didn’t have a line (a rarity after midnight), so we went in. O’Grady’s was full of a student populace we were no longer a part of: underagers, drunken slobs, stressed-out overachievers and proud Greeks. The bartenders, trained to be flirty for tips, tried their very best to keep the booze flowing and the conversations light. I looked around and saw a few guys whispering sweet lines into the ears of strangers, girls twirling and dancing to the music, wallflowers eyeing up people they would muster up the courage to talk to, and groups of friends sitting around the tables telling inside jokes. A normal night.
Nostalgia hits you in weird places when you’re at an old haunt: the bartender’s smile, that dartboard you lost game after game at, the conversations you had with strangers. Ghosts come in all shapes and sizes, rushing by in waves of hazy memories and forgotten conversations. We’ve seen too many familiar faces fade away into adulthood, off in some bigger city chasing larger dreams. Those of us who stayed still float around the city, searching for specters of the olden days, haunted by the people and places of our past.
It was after about one-and-a-half whiskey sodas that things started to get hazy. It was time to move on.
Whiskey has a way of making you stronger and weaker at the same time. This is never more apparent than when you’re having a one on one conversation with a pretty girl at a dark bar. During the good times, whiskey raises you up, pats you on the back for your accomplishments, and whispers in your ear that there’s nobody better or smarter or funnier or more attractive than you. Nobody is more capable than a man with a whiskey buzz.
During the bad times, whiskey kicks you down, laughs at you, and dares you to swim deeper and deeper into it until you get to the bottom. Whiskey makes you overthink. It makes you regret. It makes your failures float to the top of your consciousness, your anger surface.
Whiskey will inevitably make you say a lot of things. It may get her to smile. You’ll almost always make her laugh, either with you or at you. Whiskey will make you brave enough to share secrets with her, and if you’re lucky maybe she’ll tell you some of her own. You may think you’re having a profound moment, a pivot point in your life; you may see visions of the near future, her hand in yours and a smile on your face. But then you’ll leave. She’ll go one way, you’ll go another. The whiskey will turn back into a mean friend, the one that tells you it can’t believe you’re going home alone again, the one that can’t believe you actually thought you had a chance with her.
But then whiskey tucks you in and swiftly lulls you to sleep. The next morning, whiskey might kick your ass, but whiskey is never boring. At least you and it had a few adventures together, right?
-“young, educated, and somehow still able to buy stuff” is a pretty astute distillation of my generation’s demographic
I wrote about the Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign last year and I’m happy to do it again.
“Your life is your life.”
The newest ad takes a poem from Charles Bukowski and asks the youth of the world to actually make something of themselves. It borrows an attitude from Fight Club and uses the “this is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time” view of the world.
“Be on the watch. There are ways out. There is light somewhere. It may not be much light, but it beats the darkness.”
This life is all we have. Our world is crumbling, our cities are burning, our people are mad as hell and tired of doing nothing about it. How fitting that London is in the middle of a riot.
But, maybe we find hope in us. This ad is saying that change isn’t going to come from above. It’s not coming from the rich, and it’s not coming from the old. It has to come from the youth. The light isn’t going to get brighter without us.
“Your life is your life. Know it while you have it. You are marvelous. The gods wait to delight in you.”
This ad is essentially saying that it’s our time. We can’t wait for anyone else to save us. We should know better.
Or, ya know, maybe it’s just trying to sell jeans.
I’m obviously no expert in mental health, but I’d wager that it’s not merely the PTSD that drives veterans to suicide: it’s a feeling of not belonging, of being adrift in the civilian world. It’s been eight years since I left Iraq, and I still miss sleeping with my 9mm pistol. Crowds make me edgy. I walk into a park or a restaurant or an intersection, and I see fields of fire and egress routes. I desperately want to kill people who cross me: just remorselessly cave in their skulls with something blunt and heavy. There’s no outlet for the rage, and it festers in my head and keeps me from sleeping.
But I’m lucky. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life — loving parents, an older sister with a beautiful family, a girlfriend who makes me a better person, great friends, readers whose cynicism and humor mask a deep kindness — who influence my daily decision to stay in this world. But none of them can ever know the part of me that went to war, not the way that my platoon sergeant or my crew or my fellow lieutenants did. If I didn’t occasionally reach out to them to talk about who we were and what we did, a part of me would be gone — forgotten, dead.
Another (post)war story from one of my favorite bloggers, Matt Ufford, at Warming Glow. Reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Tim O’Brien.
The ability to tell dick jokes and write about TV while still being able to show pain and real emotion on the same medium is a defining trait of my generation. It’s a constant battle between the wonderfully absurd and the painfully real. It’s cynicism and idealism trying to occupy the same space.
It shouldn’t make sense, but it does.
Becky Lang, in The Tangential. I think there’s a ton of truth to this article, especially about how our generation is generally averse to any kind of high culture without a low-culture counterweight. We find more fun in deconstructing high culture and take more of a delight in thumbing our noses at self-seriousness than celebrating it. The Simpsons is a pure example of this.
And yet, through all of this, she’s right. We’re creating our own type of high culture by acting as though we’re better than all of the people we’re making fun of.
I’m as confused as you are.