POV: The Younger Generation.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV will focus on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories. 

On a recent frigid Monday, I had dinner at a neighborhood restaurant with Jamie and Megan. At the table next to us were two girls, tiny and twig-like, one in a neon orange beanie and braces, the other with a pixie cut and thick swipes of glitter eyeliner. “How old are those girls?” I said, looking over. “Ten?”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I overheard a snippet of their conversation, something about just having graduated college. As they compared notes, a waitress appeared table-side, carrying a tray of enormous coconut milkshakes. Cream spilled over the edges.

I had a sudden, ridiculous thought: Look at those twenty-one year olds, so young, their whole lives ahead of them. I shuddered.

The girl in the neon beanie laughed, flashed her braces, sipped her milkshake.
In LA this Christmas, during the many hours of driving that occurred in the span of fourteen days, I realized that I had no idea who I was hearing on the car radio. I also hated everything I was hearing on the car radio. That’s exactly how an old person would feel, I thought. To be sure, I consulted a friend. “Do you think that the fact that I hate KIIS FM says something about me, or does it say something about the state of pop music?”

I crossed my fingers for the latter.

“It’s you,” she said.

At twenty-eight, my friends and I are coming to the uncomfortable realization that there's a generation of adults in our city who are younger than we are. We’re no longer fresh out of college. And we’re no longer new to New York City, which is, mercifully, full of people our age who are just as unsure, and just as broke, and just as un-grown-up as we are. 

Still, we’re at a strange point, where it’s okay to not know what we want or where we’re headed, but where this uncertainty seems to carry consequences that it once didn’t: that we’ll never save enough to retire, that we’ll have roommates forever, that we’ll casually date until we’re forty and never settle.

“We’ll be twenty-nine this year, and thirty next year,” Lily said the other day, after which I very nearly vomited. “Does this mean we have to start being serious about things?”

As the youngest in my family and the youngest among most of my friends, I’ve always been comfortable being the baby. But I’m no longer the youngest in my community - which is known for its unending influx of fresh faces. And to add insult to injury, time only seems to pass more and more quickly as days and weeks and months and seasons come, go, and come again.

Last year, on the last day of summer, I jumped over the sandbags lining the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach and stood with my feet in the ocean, watching them disappear beneath gentle waves. Everything was gray, lukewarm. 

Behind me, a woman sat on a rock with her dogs. “There could be snow on the ground tomorrow,” she called. The wind blew and she hugged herself. 

She smiled. She tossed her white hair. “Soak it in,” she said.
You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, here. Thank you so much for your support, as always!


Rachel Weaver said...

i want better words- but all i can manage is, beautiful.

Stephanie said...

I always enjoy your writing...I went through a similar stage in my late 20s, and again in my 30s. I had an older friend at that time who said, "You will feel old for a while, but then it will pass."

Now I'm 43 and I don't think in such black and white terms anymore. Yes, there are generations of younger people that are coming up behind me, with different music and different viewpoints. I don't feel so old, however, and I've made a life for myself that follows my own conventions and no one else's. Really, the older lady had it right: Enjoy, soak it in!

Anonymous said...

I'm a couple of years older than you, but I've never been more unsure in my entire life, at a time when I should be stable and have a family and a career. Those are all things that are very out of reach for me right now and it's scary. So, I can relate.

max said...

so happy POV is back. and beautiful as ever.

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing, i can totally relate!

Shoko said...

Rachel, so nice of you. Thank you.

Stephanie, thank you so much! So wonderful to hear! I will do my best to enjoy :)

Brianna, there are no "shoulds," I don't think - you're doing amazingly.

burntfeather said...

Ahhh you always have such a beautiful way with words. I try and not to think as age as a number, as cliched as that sounds and if I ever start to think negatively about getting older, I remember that quote about some people not being given the privilege to have another birthday - that always reminds me how lucky am I :)

Bekka said...

I'm so glad we're the same age, growing up in the same city, often feeling many of the same things.

Raquel R. said...

This POV could be the perfect written illustration of Baz Luhrmann’s words «…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.»

Lisa said...

Shoko, I can so very much relate to this. I'm almost 35 now and surrounded by people that seem to be leading such adult lives: retirement funds, kids, a sophisticated looking house... At times I wish I could rewind the clock just a bit. I look at certain people in their early twenties and wish I'd had it all figured out back then, just like them. There are times too when I downright panic - thoughts like "I'll be forty soon and won't have a retirement fund!" and "I should know by now if I'd like to have children" hit me frequently. On the other hand I believe the process of "growing up" looks different for everyone - I don't think it knows the concept of time. All we can do is keep going, work hard on the things we love and trust in ourselves and our abilities. Of course some planning doesn't hurt either (one of my goals for 2014 is to tackle that retirement fund issue!). Beautiful post, as always. I could just read your words over and over :)

tara said...

I disagree, I think some of the music on KISS FM is horrible! But then, I guess I did just turn 28... :)

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you have a handful of people saying the same thing but I adore your writing!


joeycake said...

Love this so much. SO beautifully written. It's so wild to not realize you're aging until you're relative to someone/something else. Crazy!! And yes, please let's have lunch next time you're in LA:)

angela said...

I think that the lady on the beach had the right idea! I think that no matter how young or old you are there will always be someone younger. The passing of years does seem to speed up when you get to a certain age though!

Jocy said...

I was just telling a friend the other day that every time I go home (southern California), I realize that the markers (of success, settling, growing older) are different than the ones I tend to value. It's in those moments that I pause to think about whether I made the right choices in life. My partner/husband and I are in our 30s. We don't own a home; we don't have plans to own a home for a while, partly because we can't decide where in the world we want to "settle."

In the end, I know I did make the right choices. I think at this age we both know the contours of the life we want to live, but some pieces are always in flux or uncertain. I guess that's what makes life interesting for us. So, I try to plan a few things out, but enjoy that we don't need to figure it all out yet. I don't know if we ever will feel like we've got it all figured out. Might be a little boring anyway.

Julie / Bound said...

Beautifully said, Shoko. I just turned 28 also, and there's something about the creep toward thirty that makes this particular birthday feel more intense. But I think we're always surprised by what we've learned in the years we were thinking of ourselves as the babies; even though KIIS sounds weird now, we can turn our backs on it and dig through a whole stack of curated music.

Shoko said...

Thanks so much, you guys. You are all so thoughtful - I love reading your comments.

Rachel @ Existation said...

I actually like a couple of the songs on KIIS FM...does that mean I'm still young at 27? *fingers crossed* =] Lovely, lovely, lovely per usual, chica.

magical said...

chills, as always. xx

Melissa said...

I just turned 28 and have been trying to wade through these issues as well. Stupidly, the place I've noticed it is with actors in movies and TV. I feel like they were always older than me, but I looked up someone the other day and they were born in 1992! I almost hyperventilated. I know age is just a number, but it is strange territory. Glad to hear I'm not alone!

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