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Seize the Birthday

My sister, the Kensington Chronicle’s own Wendy Darling, just had a birthday last week, and it made me ruminate on the passage of time, and what birthdays mean to me. In many ways, I see my birthday as the beginning of a new year, a time to take stock of where I am in my long-term plans. And as much as I’ve gone to great lengths in recent editorials to explain the stunted development of me and my fellow millennials, realizing just how much further along our own father was at this point in his life can be a bitter pill to swallow. To say nothing of Kensington Darling, our ancestor and illustrious founder of this very paper, whose many and varied accomplishments I have enumerated elsewhere. He and his contemporary J.M. Barrie, Neverland’s beloved founder, accomplished more in a few decades than most people do in a lifetime. Are the days of Renaissance men and women like that well and truly gone?

Well, my answer to that question, dear readers, is a resounding “no.” As much as I wholeheartedly believe that the deck is stacked against us in a lot of ways, I fear, of late, that I’ve become something of a “millennial apologist.” The absolute worst thing we could do would be to allow a culture that undervalues us to disillusion us into inaction. Down that road lies the self-fulfilling prophecy of what our generation’s worst detractors have been saying all along. And looking back at some of my earlier posts, I wonder if my repeated references to our generation’s “inability” to do certain things isn’t just me falling into the same trap that they have.

My friends, if you take away one thing from my commentary on the plight of the millennial generation, I hope it’s this: That this laundry list of challenges I’ve been amassing are not meant to be excuses, but rather some manner of explanation. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t feel the need to explain ourselves, but the truth of the matter is, the media’s incessant millennial bashing has left us with something to prove. Whenever I see another ill-informed commentator jumping on the anti-millennial bandwagon, it brings to mind the immortal words of “Lost’s” John Locke: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” Though I’m as surprised as you are to find myself quoting a pop-culture character as opposed to his philosopher namesake, I think the sentiment is apt.

So, please, dear readers, don’t let me tell you what you can’t do. We are every bit as capable as the generations that came before us. Don’t let the prevailing proclamation that “30 is the new 20” lull you into the false sense that what you do in those intervening 10 years doesn’t matter. On the contrary, what we do in our 20s matters now more than ever. Sure, we’ve got challenges to overcome, but so has every generation. If that just means we have to work all the harder to secure the future we deserve, so be it. So come your birthday this year, while you should absolutely allocate a little time to celebrate another successful revolution around the sun, I urge you also to take stock of where you are in your own personal journey. The lives we want may seem out of reach now, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

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Posted in Editorials
Posted on July 3, 2014

Nothing To Fear But Love Itself

Love has been in the air of late in Neverland, and it has been the subject of much debate amongst myself and some of my fellow townsfolk. Is love merely a distraction, like a seasonal allergy, or is it the rose that the old adage is ceaselessly reminding us to stop and smell?

The inability of some in my generation to form meaningful, long-lasting relationships is nothing if not a multi-faceted problem. In my recent editorial about millennials, I posited that the dearth of serious, long-term relationships in my generation may stem in part from the nigh endless expenditure of effort that is required for us to stay afloat in these dire economic straits. Additionally, the “everyone gets a prize just for showing up” mentality of our current congratulatory culture, and the rash of so-called “helicopter parents” who swoop in to “save us” at the slightest perceived provocation, has left us profoundly ill-equipped to handle actual disappointment in our lives. In a generation that’s been raised to make mountains out of every emotional mole hill, we’re forced to re-evaluate if it is, in fact, better to have loved and lost. In that context, “never having loved at all” can emerge as an arguably more-attractive option. What’s more, in a world where many millennials have been coddled since birth, the prospect of such an all-encompassing relationship can seem like one more way to see their personality subsumed by yet another “other.” And the longer the utter alien-ness of the concept of real romantic love exists, the scarier that prospect becomes.

Take me, as a case in point: in my nearly 27 years on planet Earth, the amount of time I’ve spent in relationships is so small it’s practically statistically insignificant. And until recently, the absence of romantic love hadn’t even created a noticeable void in my life, at least not a conscious one. But two people who have been near and dear to me for as long as I can remember have just embarked upon a romantic relationship, and I’d be lying if I said this development hasn’t given me pause. Now, the subject of this post is so profoundly personal that I will refrain from mentioning the individuals by name, but suffice to say that the positive effects that these two have had on one another in such a short time have been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Up to this point, I’ve counted the man in this scenario as one of the most slovenly and unmotivated millennial specimens I have yet to come across. Now he’s cleaning his place unbidden, and living up to his responsibilities on a regular basis. And the woman in question had been gradually descending into an existential quagmire, but seeing the world (and this town) anew through new eyes has helped pull her out of that rut.

So let me pose the question to you, Neverlandians: Is that what love is all about, in the final analysis? Finding someone who brings out the best in you and never letting go? Is a match well-made truly greater than the sum of its parts? Does deciding to share your life with someone provide a newfound sense of purpose to an otherwise rudderless existence? And if so, is it truly possible for a generation that has had “no time for love, Dr. Jones” to make up for lost time now?

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Posted in Editorials
Posted on June 26, 2014

Millennials in Neverland

Right around the time that most of the so-called millennials were partying like it was 1999, psychologist Jeffrey Arnett coined the term “emerging adulthood,” which, appropriately enough, would come to describe the epidemic of protracted adolescence that is quickly becoming the most defining trait of my generation. In the eyes of the world, the generation of people born after 1980 seem either unwilling or unable to grow up. Some people blame it on the overinvolvement of so-called “helicopter parents” who hover around their children so ubiquitously that they never learn how to deal with adversity themselves. On the other hand, many reactionaries are ready to diagnose our entire generation with narcissistic personality disorder. As with most important issues, I believe the whole thing is a lot more nuanced than that.

In a lot of ways, the youngest members of the Kensington Chronicle family are prototypical millennials. And in a few cases, it’s not even an exaggeration to call it a family, since, to the extent that we are employed at all, myself, my brother, Michael, and my sister, Wendy, all work at a newspaper which just happens to be owned by our dear father. You might think it’s a pretty cushy setup, being poster children for nepotism at our dad’s small business. And you’d be right, up to a point. But it doesn’t do much to impress upon us the importance of responsibility and financial independence. I talk a good game, but KensingtonChronicle.com – at least so far – is like the red-headed stepchild of the print publishing division. And I’m not saying that all of what my siblings and I do for the Chronicle is incredibly work intensive, but when you boil it down to dollars and cents, our salaries don’t amount to much more than a pittance, certainly nothing even remotely approaching a living wage. Wendy, Michael and I are all in our mid-to-late 20s, and the only way that we can afford a place of our own is because we’re splitting it three ways. And this isn’t because our father is a penny-pinching miser, either: it’s because there’s simply not enough money to go around.

I think this is a good example, in miniature, of our generation’s seeming inability to grow up. Secondary school is now a requirement for any young person who wants to be competitive in the shrinking job marketplace, a hurdle which was not present even a generation ago. The good news is, this makes us the most educated cohort of young Americans in our country’s history. But on the flip side, with our schooling now extending into our 20s at least, the onus of crushing financial-aid debt that many college students find themselves under at the outset of their post-college careers, and a recession-culture job market that underpays and undervalues their more-than-qualified workforce, is it any wonder that my generation appears to be floundering? That it takes us years to start families, not only because we can barely afford to take care of ourselves, but also because the rat-race to stay above the poverty line is so all-encompassing that it renders us ill-equipped, from the a time-management and emotional-growth standpoint, to even know how to carry on healthy romantic relationships?

In Neverland, it is particularly difficult to cast off the chains of childhood, due in no small part to the fact that magic is, in one form or another, part and parcel to our everyday lives. In fairy society, youth is famously a prerequisite for holding any position of power – a fact which our fairy friend Tinker Bell very vocally laments (though I dare not print her age, lest I see my own “emerging adulthood” cut tragically short). And Peter Pan, our cartoonist at the Chronicle… Okay, it’s possible he actually does have narcissistic personality disorder. But it’s equally possible that young people are simply narcissists as a matter of course, and that as our generation is forced to hold tight to the reins of perpetual adolescence, so, too, do we cling to that particular excess of youth. But fear not, people of Earth: we are not, in the final analysis, a generation of lost boys and girls. Your millennials are, in fact, growing up; It’s just that growing up isn’t what it used to be.

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Posted in Editorials
Posted on June 12, 2014

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