It’s a dilemma.
Trying to decide,
I wish I was Hannah Montana,
but I have to pick a side.
This group of people called “the Millenials” often have a problem. Or several problems.
Not all of them are completely new or may seem unimportant – yet, it bugs us. After reaching a certain age somewhere near the twenties, neurologists tell us that our brains change. We cannot learn so fast anymore, we forget things we have learnt before, and so on.
This phase happens to coincide with a stage of “higher education”, namely college or university. I will just assume, representatively for most of my peers, that we decide to go there for some kind of purpose. Many may imagine a crazy, party-filled, druggy lifestyle for a few years. Some may even go there with the expectation of broadening their horizons. Meeting people. People who are interested into the same little details that fascinate them about the subjects they chose.
My question to all of you out there: have these imaginations become true?
Did you dig deeply into the literature for your seminars? Did you get the chance to do extracurricular activities? Activities that made you a person more interesting to the companies you want to apply for? Can you now finally name your favourite theorists; do you know their birthplaces and last words?
I wouldn’t answer any of these questions with a direct “no”, yet my “yes” wouldn’t be too enthusiastic either. Of course, I had some interesting lectures. I met some people I would die for. And especially my year abroad helped my personal development. Often there are phases where I try to increase my knowledge, buy magazines from all over the world and download apps to correct my weaknesses in geography.
But I sometimes feel that all of this is not enough. I am about to write my BA thesis and feel like I haven’t gained half the basics I should have. One of the magazines I read shows me that I forgot how to math, that the statistics that I remember from my economics class are completely outdated (specifically: China’s economic power is a LOT higher now than I remember) and that I don’t update myself enough on the situation in the middle east.
It is hard to realize that school actually did a good thing by pushing all these different subjects on me. It is even harder to realize that the speed in which I learn can never match the speed that new knowledge is found by smart people all over the globe. And maybe the hardest lesson is that I have all this knowledge at my fingertips while choosing to watch funny cat videos instead.
Have I stopped learning or trying? No. I still have things I care about, specific areas of knowledge I can impress at least non-experts with. And If I keep trying, I hope to make the step to an expert in at least one of these fields. The path may look dark and scary now. But then again, I often have the feeling that I am not alone.
Am I ready for life?
It all boils down to this question. Maybe this isn’t even specifically a Millenial thing – but rather an issue for all people suffering from one crisis or another every quarter of their lives.
Any tips how to stop that from happening?
Everyone has the right to be a bigot, lastly it depends only on yourself how big the discrepancy between your idealism and your behaviour becomes.
That being said, that makes me sad. I feel like the world is becoming less real as people are confronted with a number of fictional scenarios every day. Confronted meaning that they don’t actively partake but rather observe. We see fights in sitcoms, play through fictional problems in school essays (school uniforms, anyone?) – where our actions and views don’t really bother anyone.
Therefore, many of us forget how to conflict.
Firstly, there is a lack of real opinion. The information we receive is mostly biased and already pre-digested – therefore I see a tendency to just follow what sounds logical after one listen without getting to involved. Of course, in an age of information you cannot reflect on everything. But if we just used our brains a bit more that could make all the change – we can do better than just blaming our lack of investment on being too busy – especially when we spend 3 hours per day looking at funny cat pictures.
On top of that, real conflict scares us. Everybody talks about discussion skills and being tolerant and being open to others, but that only applies as long as personal views are not attacked. As soon as there is a real conflict, there is a tendency to not talk about it to the “right” person. Instead, gossip emerges, we use sitcom-formulas to not resolve our conflicts.
Lastly, fail of compromise. Of course, if we never use a chance to discuss, we get no practice in finding compromise. School systems tend to teach us one truth (when it comes to real topics), strong speakers quickly oppress strong speakers’ views (so they won’t be voiced, but they still exist) and lastly, we return to the first point, we don’t really care about finding common ground. With the internet and connectivity, we never fail to find anyone who shares our point of view and expressed it better than we maybe could. So maybe there is simply no need in attacking anything as soon as you feel good enough about yourself?
But can’t we do better than that? Aren’t there things we want to resolve, things in society or tradition that annoy us enough to try and talk about them? Try and change them, even? Or is it just me?
When we gather knowledge, we want to show off. For instance, when taking the lessons for my driver’s licence I started to critizise my parents’ driving styles in every possible way. And, give it two month after passing the test, I forgot all about that. Because there are new things to brag about, new stories to tell.
So, right now I am watching documentaries about Freud for an analysis of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. Freud talked a lot about sex. But another thing he reinvited was the trinity within each of us. Our three parts are
HARDLY EVER IN PEACE WITH EACH OTHER
You might imagine this like a scene in a pub. The Id, the part that’s steered by our instincts, attacks the (boring and moralizing) Super-Ego. And then there’s the poor Ego, who has to go between them to prevent anything bad from happening. We can understand that those three will not often go and have a beer after that.
So, what I wonder about: where does everyone’s crave for knowledge in humanities come from? Of course, it’s rational to create a shining CV with lots of extracurricular activites and foreign languages. Being with loads of ERASMUS-students, most of which are at least bilingual overachievers, tends to put me under pressure. And I don’t think that it’s different for anyone else. The philosophers weren’t the big thinkers, they were the ones actually (dared to) put down their inner dialouges in (neat and almost comprehensible) words.
So, I don’t only research for my own studies in English and Communication Sciences and study a lot for my dream to speak perfect Japanese: I also started to read about economics and politics and learn Spanish vocabulary whilst writing this post. And that is not only because of childish competing against others. I really love studying and learning about new things. I feel bad when I don’t open a book during the day. And I want to exchange my thoughts with others. And maybe that’s also just for the lust to know more and show off more. Vicious cycle.
But then, there’s also your friends’ and mates’ Id – Ego – Superego. And they tend to take you to a stripclub in the middle of the night. And I still wonder: what does all of that have to do with sex? Wha’ever, even Freud said that a cigaret sometimes is only a cigaret.
Freedom. That is what I thought I would get as an International student in Birmingham. Starting again, inventing yourself, without parents and friends and all the stressful leisure. But all of that thinking changed when I moved into an empty house. From now on I am Anita Baumgärtner, lead tenant.
Problems start with my name: despite not being Chinese or something, Baumgärtner has an umlaut in it. Thinking about English keyboards (and people) I had to make a plan. Although “Anita Dollar” (see what I did there?) sounded quite good in my opinion, people kept offering me jobs as a stripper. So, what next, Translating my name into English? Possible, but Treegardener sounds just as dorky as it does in German and reminds me of my dad’s first Starbucks-purchase, where he stumbled something like “just say driii (supposed to mean tree)”. I just had to stick with the boring way of using the transliteration of “Baumgaertner” which makes it neither more readable nor elegant.
I want to spare you with the usual “I-cannot-find-a-clean-house-in-Selly-Oak” and “the-electricity-broke-down-again”-problems and start with my life right here. Since I’ve been alone for three days in a seven bedroom house, I was a bit freaked out every night and broke Bolt’s record time by running up the stairways. With six empty rooms as potential hiding-spaces for burglars, rapists or -even worse- Slenderman. But then there were also the perks – it’s convenient to have a very own kitchen and three bathrooms. I could have got used to it, but then it got crowded in “CASA ANITA”. Now there are 7 people from 6 nations and 3 continents in a comparable tiny space.
A clash of cultures cannot be avoided – there are some quite open topics like the educational systems: the Chinese have to go through quite a different process than we do. Classes of 60 people in highschool are normal. After that, all of the 1.8 million pupils who want to go to University (no matter which subject) are taking the same test at the same time. And I thought my final exams were crazy. And then there is religion. From matters of “which meat can we eat” (not important to vegetarians) to “can I have sex in my house while my parents are home” – everything is up for dispute. These conversations are a life-time memory – not only because they can be really shocking, but because you learn a lot. Not only about other cultures, but mostly about your own.
Still, I cannot understand why there was suddenly an opened – but still full – yogurt in the shelf. Or how someone can eat a 5-course menu for breakfast (while I am proud of my microwaved bagel). But after all, I am here to learn. Cheers!