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Why Taking Chances is the Key to Happiness

Dear readers, these recent months have been tumultuous, for me and for many of those closest to me. My brief dismissal from – and subsequent reinstatement to – the ranks of the Kensington Chronicle has inspired me to look back on how much my personal and professional life has changed since we first launched the online edition of the Chronicle three years back. With that in mind, I’ve re-read all of the online editorials that I’ve written (with the exception of some of my recent pieces that don’t really fit that description). And this trip down memory lane has made me come to a startling realization: I had no conscious idea of how much of my life up to this point had been driven by fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. For a while, even fear of acceptance; specifically, with regards to my sexuality. On that front, we’ve born witness to incredible milestones, rousing opportunities to declare loudly and proudly that “love won.” But my biggest stumbling block in finding a romantic partner has not been my sexuality. While I’ve been alone for most of my life, and feared on some level that I’d end up that way, a part of me has also been afraid of falling in love in the first place. It’s taken me 30 years, give or take, to learn that it truly is better to have loved and lost; that rejections and setbacks are survivable, and are in fact the only way for us to grow as people, the only way to find that person with whom we want to spend the rest of our lives. A proper paring truly does make two people better than the sum of their parts. I’ve seen it with my parents, George and Mary Darling. I’ve seen it with Wendy and Peter; Michael and Lily; and now, I think, with John Smee and myself.

John, woefully, has already found himself on the receiving end of my relationship hang-ups, and I am so grateful that he has elected to give me another chance. I realize now that the way I treated him in the aftermath of the Chronicle sale had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. And I’m happy to report that now that we’re over that hump, we’ve emerged all the stronger for it.

I’m also grateful for my siblings, Wendy and Michael. That sibling relationship can ebb and flow, but I now know that it will never break. As different as we are, they will well and truly always be my best friends. And that knowledge alone is enough to get me through even the most difficult of days.

In the past, I’ve buried myself in my work, sometimes at the expense of every other aspect of my life. Now, this was in part because I’m a workaholic, and always will be; I’m simply wired that way. But it was also a way of distracting me from the other parts of my life that I found lacking; anything to avoid staring into the abyss of crippling loneliness that my self-imposed isolation was driving me inexorably closer to. But if I’ve learned anything from my recent brush with unemployment, and my blissful reconciliation with John Smee, it’s that being a newspaperman isn’t everything. Our jobs don’t have to solely define us, any more than our sexuality does. Being assistant editor in chief of the Kensington Chronicle is something I do. But John Darling is who I am.

I once wrote that “Growing up isn’t what it used to be.” And I do believe that our generation has some obstacles in our path that no prior generation has ever had to deal with, obstacles which at times can seem insurmountable. But I also believe that nothing is truly insurmountable. That we cannot allow fear, or a culture that undervalues us, to disillusion us into inaction. That we must be steadfast in our refusal to let anyone tell us what we can’t do, least of all ourselves; life is hard enough without putting roadblocks in our own path to happiness. We have to not get so hung up on finding “the one,” but at the same time be open to love when and where we find it. All at the same time striving for balance between all of these different pieces of our lives.

Growing up has never been easy. And it was never meant to be. But I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends and family with whom to muddle through it. And I couldn’t have asked for a more tolerant, nurturing, magical place to do it in than Neverland. I love you all, Neverlandians, each and every one; and every day, you find a way to remind me of just how much I am loved. As long as we all continue to fight for that feeling, then Love truly has won. And if people like us have anything to say about it, it always will.

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Posted in Editorials
Posted on April 18, 2017

The Dating Game

We are, each of us, getting older. Every second of every day. And as we get older things change. I’ve talked at length about how my sister Wendy has found a new life at JH Media, and how even Michael is running Dear Darling now and developing a life of his own. Our family has been so tight knit for so much of our lives that as my siblings and I grow apart, I’m feeling a void of intimacy in my life that I don’t know quite how to deal with. Trying to fill that void with work, clearly, is not the answer. For a while, I’ve been trying to build up the courage to wade into the dating pool, but the concept remains wholly alien to me.

I fear I’ve missed that high school phase experimental phase that most of my peers went through, and I can never go back. That sort of trial and error period where you throw caution to the wind, make your share of mistakes, and set a baseline for the rest of your romantic life. Usually by my age, people have been around the block enough times to have received at least a little positive reinforcement in this area. But now even asking somebody out seems like a bridge too far. What it they say no? I just don’t know if I could take that kind of rejection.

And I must admit that I fail to understand the online dating-hookup culture. In the millennial limbo of protracted adolescence, casual dating seems to be the order of the day. The vast majority of college educated millennials say they’re not planning on settling down anytime soon, and this sometimes leads to us not wanting to put labels on relationships; because 10 years is a long time to be “dating” someone and not get married, at least in the eyes of generations gone by. But I still cling to silly romantic notions like “love at first sight,” and the longer I fail to experience these things, the more I’m forced to consider that there might be something wrong with me. It’s possible I’m such a hopeless romantic precisely because I haven’t had any significant romantic relationships, and my primary frame of reference for these things is pop culture. Also, I had to grow up listening to the fairytale beginning of my parents’ romance, which I still hold up as the relationship standard, even if their marriage isn’t necessarily having a fairytale middle.

It’s also distinctly possible that I’m overthinking this. I do excel at overthinking things. But everyone tells me it’ll happen when I least expect it. That I can’t force these things, and that the greatest relationships present themselves when you’re not even looking. But I have nearly an entire lifetime of not looking under my belt, and that kind of happiness still eludes me. Part of me wonders, “If it was going to happen, wouldn’t it have happened by now?”

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Posted in Editorials
Posted on July 27, 2015

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Brace yourself, dear readers, we’re about to take another deep dive into the rabbit hole that is the plight of the millennials in the workforce. I’d like to be able to say that things have progressed since the last time I wrote about jobs in Neverland, but it pains me to report that, at least in my own circles, most of us still find ourselves running in circles. And were it not for nepotism, our work situations would be much more dire indeed. My job, as assistant to the editor in chief, and editor of the Kensington Chronicle’s online edition, has not changed, nor has my salary. Our fairy friend Tinker Bell is now my father’s secretary at the paper. My brother Michael has moved up in the world, ever so slightly; he’s gone from the mail room to taking over my sister Wendy advice vlog, Dear Darling.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, I have a good friend (who, for the purposes of this editorial shall remain nameless) who is currently without employment, and would seem to be in no immediate danger of acquiring it. I will say that, in his last job, this individual was particularly ill-equipped to work on anybody’s schedule but his own. That said, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel his pain. With the massive layoffs we’ve seen during the Great Recession, those of us who are still fortunate enough to have our 9-to-5 jobs are working longer hours, and doing the work of two or more people. In this kind of work environment, it becomes increasingly difficult for millennials to juggle their work life and their personal lives. A narrative begins to emerge that millennials can only successful in one of those areas, not both.

Now, if you think about it, the idea of a 9-to-5 salaried position has become less and less relevant the further the industrial age has receded into our society’s rearview mirror. During the era of industrialization, routinized tasks were the order of the day, and this kind of work could be planned far enough in advance that businesses could create set shifts for workers, who would work the same hours, day in and day out, doing exactly the same thing. But now that computers can do a lot of these tasks that used to required manual labor, the landscape is changing.

What’s the upshot of this? Millennials are willing to be paid less than they’re worth, forgo promotions or uproot their lives and move, all for the opportunity to work a job that affords them the kind of flexibility they need to have a life outside of work. And, as you might imagine, when there’s an able-bodied work force that’s willing to take a pay cut to maintain a flexible schedule, the market will adjust to that demand. And the first real businesses to capitalize on this desire for flexible hours have been Uber and its competitors. The problem is, the new picture bears a striking resemblance to the piece work of the 19th century, when workers had no power, no rights, and worked an ungodly amount of hours for almost no pay. Uber drivers, for instance, are expected to provide their own cars, their own insurance, and Uber takes a large percentage of the profits.

And this so called “sharing economy” doesn’t stop there. We’re seeing the same thing happening with Instacart shoppers, Airbnb hosts, and Taskrabbit jobbers. There are even on-demand doctors and attorneys cropping up online. These companies will tout that they’re giving workers the kind of flexibility they want by enabling them to monetize their own downtime. But this so-called downtime is the time that earlier generations spent actually leading their lives. And since the amount of work that’s available in these professions is entirely dependent upon demand, even if you had the time to start a family, financial security in this scenario is something you’d only be able to dream about.

I am happy to report, however, that when it comes to my sister Wendy, she’s turned out to be the exception that proves the rule. As many of you are no doubt aware, about six month ago, she spread her wings and flew away from Neverland towards an amazing opportunity in New York City; she’s now an up-and-comer at a world renowned media outlet called JH Media. I hope you’ll kindly indulge me for a moment as I engage in a bit of shameless promotion on my sister’s behalf. Wendy has a book coming out in the very immediate future, entitled “ASK WENDY! Advice on Life, Love, and Living,” and I urge you to click over to the JH Media site without delay to learn more about it. Her correspondence has, of late, become uncharacteristically sparse, but I can only assume that this is an indication of the breadth of her success!

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Posted in Editorials
Posted on June 10, 2015

Patriot Games

When Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” premiered back in 2012, the show’s disillusioned cable news anchor protagonist, Will McAvoy, voiced a much-talked-about rant bemoaning a bubbly college girl’s claim that “America is the greatest country in the world.” When Sorkin, with his characteristic lack of subtlety, went on to use McAvoy as his mouthpiece to rebuke the flag-waving college student for being part of the “worst period generation period ever period,” all the “West Wing” alum wound up proving was that while he may still have his finger on the pulse of Politics with a capital P, he is years behind the times when it comes to generational politics. If anything, recent studies indicate that millennials have more in common with Sorkin’s Will McAvoy than the writer seems to realize.

In fact, a 2014 Pew research report alleges that only 15% of U.S. millennials cling to that outmoded worldview of blind belief in American exceptionalism. Indeed, my generation has grown up in an era when “patriotism” itself is seen as a dirty word, with the perception of having more in common with “fanaticism” than many of us are comfortable with. And millennials seem to be profoundly aware of their own bias in this regard; it’s now common practice amongst those in my generation to celebrate holidays like Independence Day by taking to their social media platforms and posting images of over-the-top, stereotypical Americana, accompanied by the appropriately ironic hashtag #merica.

That said, I would vehemently deny that my generation’s lack of traditional patriotism equates to Anti-Americanism. As usual in situations like this, it all comes down to semantics; While MTV has not necessarily always been a bastion of political adroitness, a recent poll that they conducted arrived at a markedly different conclusion from the Pew Research Center, simply by coming at the issue from a different angle. Millennials may not see patriotism as an “unquestioned obligation,” but 86% of millennial respondents to the MTV poll reported that they were proud to be an American.

On my sister Wendy’s @ItsDearDarling Twitter account, she has a feature called #DashOfDarling, for which she posts almost-daily inspirational or thought-provoking quotes. Back on Memorial Day, she posted a Mark Twain quote which I think gets to the heart of the matter: “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” In a world where the all-seeing-eye of the internet and the 24-hour-news-cycle lays bare the skeletons in all of our politicians’ closets, millennials are redefining patriotism as knowing when to support those in power and when to question that authority. And in that context, advancing the ‘merica meme isn’t so much a commentary on our nation as a whole, but rather a scathing look at the wilfully uniformed segment of our population that would rather engage in unreserved nationalism than draw their own conclusions about the state of the union.

I should add that the same Pew Research report that has prompted many in the media to trumpet that there is a generation gap in America patriotism shows that 55% of millennials believe that our country’s “best days are ahead,” an optimism that outstrips that of many of our predecessors. And that’s one sentiment in Sorkin’s “Newsroom” opening that I think the majority of millennials can actually get behind: Whether or not we believe that America is currently the greatest country in the world, we do cling unflinchingly to the belief that “it can be.”

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Posted in Editorials
Posted on July 12, 2014

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