February 18, 2013

Becoming A Successful Adult: The Power In ‘Meaningless’ Work

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TC Flickr
TC Flickr

It’s a strange feeling knowing you’re basically an adult.

It starts with small hints like your friends on Facebook getting actual, real jobs at respected companies. Pretty soon, pictures of rings are plastered on your news feed, then, before much time passes there are pictures of lavish wedding ceremonies. You know it’s over when faces of unknown children take the place of those wedding pictures.

Reflecting on Facebook, there are a lot of things that are messed up about it. Dead people’s profiles being one, the unsettling and egotistical pursuit of likes and comments being another. I’ve written on both those topics so I’ll try to stay away from them for the time being. My point is that, of those bothersome aspects, perhaps the most bothersome is the resulting dissatisfaction one gets after seeing the success of their friends in life and business.

Either they have made a respected name for themselves in a creative and interesting field or they’ve somehow managed to start an affecting business with a completely original idea and make, not only a profit, but a living wage.

It eats at you knowing that they’ve seemed to actually accomplish something while you still have a habit of eating bad Chinese food in your underwear in front of Netflix on a Tuesday night, when you’ve got work tomorrow as a bagger at the neighborhood grocery store.

Further, through a string of failed attempts at relationships, you’ve been left bitter and insecure and desperately trying to catch the eye of the nice lady(s) or dude(s) that come into your store every now and again to get fancy pasta and organic milk.

There also comes a strange point when you realize that star athletes and the people on TV and in movies that are “adults” and have interesting jobs, cars, children and million dollar lofts are your age, maybe even younger.

It seems, at least for now, that you will die poor, sad and alone.

What’s the problem with becoming an adult though? Why is it so unsettling?

Quite possibly the only reason it sucks is that you are becoming ever more keenly aware of the fact that you have less and less time on this world.

One of the most profound observations everyone makes about becoming an adult is the realization that nobody really knows what they’re doing.

There’s serious power in knowing that everyone, even the commander-in-chief of the United States of America is floundering in competing notions about how the world should be.

There’s really no such thing as an authority figure and nobody has any real control over other people’s lives, they barely have control of their own.

What they do have control over though, is what they choose to do. Most people just do what they think is the best or the right thing to do for them, and if they work at it long enough to become good at it, chances are they’ll be recognized.

Many times though, what they do is deemed unimportant or meaningless.

They seem to be trivial pursuits like taking pictures of your friends at parties or writing some ghost shell of a novel.

I’d argue to the contrary noting simply, who’s to say where the next great innovation will emerge?

Though it’s been found that most innovations don’t come in someone’s twenties or thirties, there are still decades to come, upon which to base a body of work to draw from.

I’m struck everyday by the level of creativity, honesty and heart that’s apparent in the work of my generation. Even more fascinating is the very idea that this stuff is actual, real work now. What you remember as a quirky meaningless hobby this person had in high school, has now become a life’s work that has grown and will grow to be respected, and admired.

What would Infinite Jest be if DFW never decided, for some reason or another, to get started on some overreaching, seemingly trivial ghost shell of a novel?

Hell, the next great innovation may even come up as an idea you get while eating bad Chinese in your underwear in front of Netflix on a Tuesday night.

Most of the literature and opinion on millenials that exists today focuses on the ‘failure to launch’ idea that we are still living in our parent’s basements, have yet to earn a significant income and are engaged in a loose hook-up culture marked by apathy and lack of direction and morals.

This literature is also largely written by 60-something doctors and professors, who think that, because they’re accomplished, their opinion somehow matters more than anyone else’s.

What these older voices don’t realize is that while they’re busy pretending to be important, millenials are working harder, faster, and more efficiently thanks to the internet than these 60-somethings ever could. A revolutionary new software development, social network, maybe even a new artistic medium that could turn the world of art, as we know it, on its head is being developed in the minds and work of the millenial generation. What’s more, they’re doing it for free because they’re passionate about it.

A notion like that should free you up to pursue any hobby or project you like and work to hone your skills until you, too, become one of the greats.

Chances are, whatever these projects are, they, no doubt, will soon shape the world and become the new, respected standard for a variety of industries.

After all, if you’re going to do a project, you might as well do it right.

If you still feel uninspired and disturbed by the fact that you’re getting older with nothing to show for it, just remember that Andy Milonakis is 38. That alone should give you some comfort. TC mark

Buy Michael's eBook, "Schizophrenic Connections," here.

Buy Michael’s eBook, “Schizophrenic Connections,” here.

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer in Boulder, CO. His work has appeared in Salon, The Week, Scientific …

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