The State of the Millennial Trek

Life be cray.

As I write this during the return leg of a whirlwind mini-vacation (or as I like to call it, PTO-improvised) trip to Europe, two thoughts are running through my mind: I finally understand the whole travel bug and I can’t believe the Virgin Atlantic flight attendant just gave me a second pasty post-schmoozing. Pasty aside (it’s delicious, by the way), I’m feeling deeeeeeeep & the crux of the Millennial neuroticism (or what I’ve found out to be uniquely American neuroticism) has never been clearer.

We want to have no regrets during this time in our lives, but have no clue how to get to this mythical state.

Now, this idealistic destination doesn’t come with instant gratification like our famed Tinder, Spotify, Netflix, Venmo, Amazon et al. It can happen tomorrow, but it probably won’t and everyone needs to understand just when to take advice.

Now when the thirtysomething American couple I randomly saw twice in Portugal tells me: “we wish we could just pack up and live in Europe, but with a 1-year old at home, it’s out of the question now.” The mental (or tangible) rebuttal on my end is challenging. Is this a credible warning of what’s to come? Blind hindsight ignorant of my personal reality? Probably both, but moving to Europe for a couple years sure does sound pretty swell (including a second drink with Frederica in Lisbon’s Barrio Alto — if you’re reading this Frederica, I can send you the Google translated version of this post).

This “swellness” — the pack-up-and-dip plan — leads to the inevitable question: what about reality? You may be thinking: reality? Which one? I’m talking about the desk-sitting, resume-building, meeting-overkilled, savings-saving, social media-infused-when-we-should-probably-be-working reality we face on a daily basis. Oh yeah, that one.

Is it worth keeping?

Is foregoing the historically anti-sapien corporate life for the adventured traveler around Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe shrewd? Unhinged? Dangerous? Smart?

What about bouncing from a publicly traded tech company to start a business? Shrewd? Unhinged? Dangerous? Smart?

How about leaving corporate law working for the ACLU on $12/hr? Shrewd? Unhinged? Dangerous? Smart?

We all have our idealistic dream scenario. The question becomes: how do we stay present & happy in reality, while giving our ideality the time it deserves to become reality?

Disclaimer: No, I have not been smoking too much weed lately.

Our path towards discovering the balance is exciting (or at least, that’s what Yoga class is telling me recently). Our path towards discovering the timing can be pretty damn stressful.

With each marginal step up the age ladder, it becomes clockwork. Allie’s 26th birthday pregame when it felt like her 25th was yesterday, Scott’s 28th birthday pregame is Saturday when I could have sworn he rented out McTeague’s Saloon for his 27th last week. The same lavish Christmas party with three dressed elf actors instead of two. It’s happening…faster than we realize. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick..

The anxiety rushes in & the self-talking piles on. How do I sign up for Remote Year? Wait, this incubator is accepting cold applications? Are there any media projects associated with Brunch & its culture (extra shameless plug)? Mom, Mom! Pick up the damn phone!

Woo, I digress, but you can see how it becomes more difficult to chill out with each passing year.

Now, if I was some sort of emerging Millennial storyteller, voice, author, Instagram poser, Snapchat aficionado & writer (I’m not), I would tell you no one has the answers. But if I was just me, Harrison Forman, a 25-year old who has had four jobs, two apartments, countless Bumble dates, and a stagnant bank account that refuses to improve Y/o/Y I’d tell you, there is literally only one answer: acceptance.

What I’m starting to realize at 25 (great age, highly recommend it) is that almost all of our definitions of happiness are inherently self-delusional. As Yuval Noah Harari notes in Sapiens, the problem with our current view of happiness is viewing our personal narrative on the same scale as other narratives (e.g. our friend who just launched his startup, our high school roommate who seems happily engaged). When in reality, these moments were built up after ups and downs similar to your own!

There is no magical moment of happiness. That never happens, so the only option is to realize the constant impermanence of feelings, experiences, and emotions.

If I rush inside from my Uber Pool and yell “FUCK, vacation’s over,” will that really make me happy? As much I love a good yell (preferably to Avicii’s “Fade into Darkness”), my neurotic self is starting to realize, acceptance, rather than volatile immaturity is the answer — who would have thought?

Now, of course, acceptance doesn’t mean don’t try to do anything cool, interesting, or bold in our 20’s. We need to certainly stay cognizant and for sure, take calculated risks, but by appreciating the current absurd moment, every moment (even waiting at the water fountain for 10 minutes because your work-wife is running late, ugh), then I assure you, it will be okay. Actually, it will be great because the path you’re on is the path you should be on.

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