This Is What Success Is Now

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A woman holding a white cup while working on a laptop near a window
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We are the generation that drinks green juice in the morning and made vegan food popular. We have political opinions and source our food locally and care about the chemicals that are in cleaning supplies. We read an endless feed of hot takes and mic drops. Everyone we know seems to exist just to correct one another and prove who is the most “awake.”

We buy the deodorant without the aluminum and have personal websites and months that are littered with bullet points on our Google calendars. We have friends take photos of us to document what we’ve done, we read self-help books but don’t call them that, we are part of debt-free communities and accountability groups and share personal essays that other people have written and say: “This is so me.”

We are always trying to life hack our way through existence, find another way to cut a corner or learn a skill or stop drinking fancy lattés in the morning so we can save enough money to buy a house. We are always in pursuit of more followers, always cognizant of what time of day gets the most “likes,” and only consider anything – from jobs to relationships – real when it’s online. We wake up and check our notifications and fall asleep scrolling, too. And the pieces of people’s lives we see? The semblance becomes the whole. 

We take personalized supplements and re-read our college textbooks and binge on Netflix and Seamless when we inevitably crash because it’s all just too much. We are smart and self-sufficient and have to re-learn how to coexist with someone because we have trained ourselves to consider reliance a fault. We reference social and psychological phenomena in everyday conversation and all think we have the answers to transforming our broken system into a utopia. We value “conversation” and reject judgment, though really, judging – ourselves and everyone else – is almost all we do. 

We are never quite where we want to be, and we all think the thing we need to be is the Next Big One. The next viral sensation, the next _________ insert-most-famous-person-in-your-field-here. Everyone thinks they have a novel in them, a business plan so ingenious it has never been conceived of before, a philosophy about something that would tilt the axis of the Earth, if only we had the time, or the money, to get it started. 

We have no certainties about the future. We burn sage and wear crystal necklaces and litter our corners with houseplants that have names. We take yoga classes and log regular hours at the gym. We learn to cook from YouTube and have strong opinions about everything. We are always busy. We are in a relationship with wine. We have skin care routines and self-care routines and always ready for a camera. We don’t have preferences, we have identities. We advocate for acceptance. We skim and said we’ve read. We hear and say we’ve listened. 

Everything is a photo op and everything is for sale. Instead of ad spaces, they buy us, our clothes and our food and our Instagram accounts, perfectly tagged with the brands we are just ever so slightly too fond of. We are independent to a fault. We think we have failed if we aren’t starting a business or doing something different, unique, novel-worthy. There is always room to improve. We don’t want a marriage and a career, we want a soulmate and a purpose. We say that if we can impact “just one person” in our lives, all of our effort would be worth it. Maybe we’re projecting, because there’s one person we still can’t seem to save, and it’s ourselves. 

We are the kids of the generation who said: “You can be anything,” and we heard: “You have to be everything.” We are the ones who were told that success is something that makes you seen, and have started to wonder if maybe it’s something that lets you disappear.  TC mark

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