My sense of ennui and loneliness combined with a general lack of purpose will lead me to compose the next Great American Novel, an interesting thought as I am neither Great nor American. It will be about a schizophrenic parrot in love with a schoolteacher as that is much more interesting than a displaced university student staring vacantly out of a inter-city train window, chewing on granola and worrying because she’s just cut all her hair off again and fears that this time it was really the wrong choice.
I wrote that in my journal today en route to my 9-to-5-nose-against-computer-screen-half-hour-lunch-break desk job. As I input data I think that I really would love to write the next Great American Novel (though I am neither Great nor American) but what the fuck do I have to write about?
Last month my boyfriend and I visited my parents in New York; that was fun. My freshman year of college I went crazy (I mean, are you really a privileged white kid if you didn’t stand crying in front of a mental hospital, wondering if you should go and check yourself in, at least three times during your first year of university? Who knew that figuring out your own meal and sleep schedule could be so hard?) — that would take up a few chapters.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was little – when I first moved to America in elementary school (here comes the sob story) I didn’t have a lot of friends so on the bus to school I would practice what I called “my writing mind,” coming up with a story about everything and everyone I saw. If we drove past a woman walking her dog, I would think “Grace Ann pulled her purple North Face coat closer around her, struggling to maintain control of Snowy’s leash.” Then I would spend recess reading (“Your nose in a book all the time is making you miss out on the world around you!” my dad cried one day, exasperated as he realised for the 1000th time I hadn’t heard anything he’d just said as I was too focussed on Harry Potter), only to come home and write it all down in one of my famous black and white marble composition books, covered in Lisa Frank stickers (ah, the early 2000s). When I graduated high school I gathered everything I’d written since freshman year into a 35,000 word document, which I have promised myself I will one day at least try to publish. Then I packed my bags for college so I could study sociology and ultimately become vaguely middle class, writing disgruntled short essays in my spare time, never to be shared by anyone.
I am scared to really pursue my dream of becoming a writer because I’ve been told countless times that the best I can hope for is my name on the masthead of an online blog and a lifetime spent in a Brooklyn coffee shop, flicking my asymmetrical haircut around as I wonder if it’s time for my next cigarette break. Now that I’m getting ready to enter the working world, I truly wonder: is this the best the millennial writer can hope for?
My real problem – or rather, my entire generation’s problem is that we have been conditioned to believe that as soon as we graduate college we must choose between money and art; and, between our LinkedIn and Instagram accounts, we are somehow caught betwixt the two. The latter may, to many, only serve as a method of procrastinating the monotony of adulthood, but where is the freedom that allows us to at least try? Why can’t I have both?
What I’m trying to say is that in the fight to be better than each other, maybe we’re more alike than we think. We are a generation notorious for our appearance-focused self-absorption, and maybe it’s romantic to still believe in the notion that we really are each special and talented in our own ways – but it would be a waste not to at least try to prove ourselves. I want to read your books, I want to listen to your music and I want to watch your films, so give them to me – we’re all in this together.