I recently saw the advertisement for a new pilot coming out this fall called My Generation. I was immediately intrigued by the premise; namely a scripted television show shot like a documentary. We’re not talking The Hills here that markets itself as reality but, rather, a show of art truly imitating life. It’s a unique premise that feels both gritty and intimately real--a delicate balance also achieved by one of my favorite shows: My So Called Life.
Some shows or books or movies are intriguing because they transport us elsewhere just for a moment and we love that sense of voyeurism and escapism. This isn’t that kind of show.
Instead, this is snapshot of the lives of a disparate group of high school seniors (Class of 2000) as they anxiously prepare for graduation, certain of what they want out of the future and desperate for that first taste of freedom. The “documentary” crew then revisits the students 10 years later to unveil where they are now and how, exactly, their lives match up to that oh so promising “plan” of theirs.
I’m a little impartial as this dramedy could very well be about individuals I know. Heck, it could be me at graduation from my high school in Upstate New York anxious to break out of my small town and finally see the world, go make something of my life, go reinvent myself or find myself or become more myself out “there.” Sure I was sad to see high school end as it meant farewell to everything I had known and all the people who knew me for as long as I’d known myself and yet it didn’t feel bittersweet to leave. It felt like I was finally going to go live out my real life, as if all the years prior had just been rehearsal.
…ahhhh to be naïve. No one tells you about the quarterlife crisis or what happens if you don’t meet the love of your life in college or if you’re defined by that first job out of school—the one you loath and fetch coffee like a glorified intern. It happens to all of us or, rather, most of us. And then there you are, standing on the precipice of your late 20s and the dreaded 30, reminded of the long list of things you were going to accomplish. Because 10 years ago you thought you had it all figured out and now? The only thing you’re certain of is that you can’t be certain of anything.
As for me, in retrospect I realize that life has a way of happening and all those carefully laid future plans are usually left right there—in that undefined place in the “future.” Yet the show doesn’t seem like a depressing reflection on how no one gets what they want but, rather, an honest portrait of all the ways life seems to have a way of happening whether we like it or not and how our true character is often tested—and defined—not in those moments when we get what we want but in all the times we don’t. There’s also that welcomed realization that dreams don’t have an expiration date so that list of things to accomplish? There’s still time.
Am I where I thought I would be 10 years ago? Not at all. But where I am is better. The road to get here has been so much more emotional and bumpy and unexpected but not all of those emotions and surprises have been bad. In fact, some of those experiences have been life-altering for the better and some of those surprises have been instances where I pleasantly surprised myself and rose to an occasion or confronted a fear. And here I am today, having made it out on the other side.
Sure sometimes there are those people who end up exactly where they thought they’d be but I’m willing to guess there were at least some detours as to how they got there. I mean think about it, a lot has changed in the world in the last 10 years. There was September 11, the advent of social media, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, the election of the first black president, and on and on. In fact, the 2000s is currently the only time in history without one accepted nickname for the decade. Perhaps that sums up the rapid change, unexpected events, and general impression of the time. We’ve lived through it but how has it defined us or how have we helped define it? And what, exactly, has this time meant to Generation Y?
But enough about me, what about you? Are you where you thought you’d be? If not, what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self about life and plans and the unexpected?
As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I think that’s sage advice no matter what age we are.