As a mid-twentysomething I’ve come to realize the not-so-subtle shifts in our communication methods. Not only the preference to text over calling, the Insta-Snap-Book-Tweet chains we all link on to, but how we approach conversations with new people. We’ve gone from conversation starts like: How’s your Intro to Feminism class with Prof. Pitts? to What do you do?
It’s no wonder some of us half-hatched hens (*cough*) are feeling tormented by our new social settings/norms. I (as I can’t speak for the rest of you) identified with 99% of the courses I took (Algebra be-gone!). I truly felt immersed in the subject matter, spending hours talking with peers and professors about the topics and more-often, beyond the topics. Disagreeing in an educational setting is favored, it’s stimulating, it challenges the concrete notions on which academia is built (disagreeing in social settings, especially with strangers is suicide). But now what? The collection of courses, of texts, the hundreds of thousands of words I’d written—everything that defined who I was for those five years sits on my bookcase, on this computer hard drive, all stored on various USB sticks scattered around my room—it’s all translucent now. I realized all of who I thought I was had vanished (at least from conversation) when I attended a party full of people I had nothing in common with.
What do you do? (Pressure!) I am about to sum up my worth in a few words. Basically, how I survive defines who I am as a post-grad drowning in the current economic (CAREER-less, and JOB-less) climate. Oh, I walk dogs, I fold clothes, I babysit, I clean people’s homes: who can afford to have a house-cleaner. I have now diminished my intellectual worth with the odds-and-ends by which I survive (if we can even call it that). I can imagine many higher-ed graduates are out there answering: I’m a server, I’m a cashier, I’m a nanny. Not that any of the above jobs are less-than any other. One would only understand the pride in intellectual exploration, the self-loving-intrigue when you’ve learned fascinating things, shared said fascinating things with people who also enjoyed said things. But here we all are, sometimes caught in social scenarios as Waiters, Receptionists, Car Salesmen and women. Titles not ideas, this goes against everything we’ve worked so hard for.
It only gets worse as you enter that strange (and getting stranger) territory: of dating. Dating beyond your handpicked, university approved pool of friends (people you automatically have basic things in common with. [Note: Recall: disagreeing with strangers in social settings is bound to cause unflattering friction simply because Dean Vaughn didn’t hand pick this nut to sit next to you in class therefore proving you shared some common interests if not a love for Charlotte Perkins Gillman and homebrewed beer]).
Meet dating icebreaker question number one: What do you do for fun? The lighter version of What do you do? I feel a bit guilty now, but at the time I didn’t have any doubts in my answer to undisclosed potential partner. “Why do I have to do anything for fun? Everything I do is fun, aside from my menial retail work. But on a daily basis I experience fun in the form of: reading, writing (ranting, as I do here), working out, cooking, drinking local beer. These are typical answers for people of my generation (I’m guessing here). My daily life is fun. I live and it’s fun. I don’t search it out I choose to incorporate it.
What you do is not often who you are (unless you’re really fucking lucky), or anything resembling who you hope/yearn/strive to be. What you do for fun is not simply an escape from the mundane, and more often than not, I hope it is the career you have, the job you do that you feel (at least at times) is something you could call Fun.