Worries of Gen Y that didn’t exist in the 80s. As told through 80s movies.
My parents became adults in the golden era of the eighties. To hear my mum speak about it you’d believe it was a magical time sandwiched between the Vietnam War of the seventies and market crashes of the nineties. They had the contraceptive pill but no AIDS crisis. They had free education. Terrorism was something that only happened in Ireland. If your parents couldn’t fork out the $20k for a deposit on a house, that’s okay – you could just save up. You weren’t plugged in to an online world your entire waking life.
This isn’t to say my parent’s lives were worry-free. And right now my parents have a whole host of anxieties that are particular to their age and time – namely, am I ever going to move out? But there’s a reason our generation has become more anxious than ever before, and I don’t think you can blame it entirely on helicopter parenting / excessive use of ADHD medication / spending all day in bed with a laptop (delete as applicable).
The worries that occupy my brain space aren’t the same things my parents got stressed about – mainly, because they didn’t exist.
Pubic hair, and what I should do about it. Anyone who’s watched vintage porn knows what the kids of the eighties felt about bush. Now I’m not so sure. Will he still like me if I have any hair down there? Am I still a feminist if I wax? Can I shell out $50 to visit the beautician this month? Isn’t shaving, like, really bad for it? Sometimes it feels like a having a vagina is more trouble than it’s worth and sex is way, way too much effort.
Whether I Facebook the ‘right’ way. Stop posting pictures of your food. Stop posting selfies. Nobody wants politics on Facebook. Stop posting The Onion articles like you thought of it first. Stop mixing up “your” and “you’re”. Stop tagging people every time you go out. Stop boasting about your travels. Stop.
Hey, you’re not posting anything. Stop being a lurker.
And this isn’t even accounting for the general fear of future employers taking one look at that photo your friend promised to delete and firing yo ass.
Do I have a mental disorder? Am I just worried, or is this Anxiety? Does everybody feel like they’re not good enough, or do I have Depression? I like to arrange things neatly and have strange habits when I drive. Is that Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour? I think about food and calories and how fat or skinny I look approximately 5,678 times a day. I must have an eating disorder.
Our habit of over-sharing means we’ve never been more willing to talk about mental illness. For the most part this is A Good Thing. We’re getting rid of stigma and allowing ourselves to seek treatment. But are by bringing mental illness into the public conversation we create a level of anxiety in an already anxious world that these things will happen to us – whether or not we actually need to be worried. Some days I am certain I must be mentally ill, because what goes on in my brain cannot possibly be normal. Or is worrying about mental illness a symptom of mental illness?
Student Debt. Because politicans gave them free education, guv’nor. Admittedly this isn’t a day-to-day worry. I mean, I don’t not spend money because I’ve got a massive debt hanging over my head. It’s just always there, in the back of my head, that I owe the deposit on a small flat in university fees for a degree I didn’t want, anyway. Speaking of small flat…
Renting for the rest of my conceivable adult life. Owning an actual house is so far from my realm of possibilities that it’s just tucked away in a little drawer of pipe dreams, next to being a film star and attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. My dreams are smaller. A flat with a relatively new bathroom and central heating would do, without cockroaches and/or flatmates with serial killers qualities. Bonus points if it has a rooftop balcony. That’s the dream, folks.
It’s not the renting that kills me so much, it’s the injustice of being forty and having to ask somebody else if I’m allowed to paint my walls.
Will I be able to have children? Not a day goes by where I don’t get another reminder that there’s a big chance this will never happen. There’s a constant bombardment of articles about fertility problems. IVF. Miscarriage. Missing the biological clock. Octomum. They’re subjects that need to be talked about (except Octomum. Please stop talking about her.) but they bring with them stress and anxiety (is that a disorder?). Every day there’s a voice in my head that says I might not have children – and I’m only 23. And single.
Am I living my dream yet? Charles Bukowski said: “Find what you love and let it kill you.” I already love lots of things that will kill me – watching endless episodes of Parks and Recreation while lying in bed, drinking too much and the occasional cigarette – so I don’t think that’s what Charles was talking about. But what do I love? Do I love my job? What would I love to do instead? Is there anyone who will pay me to give my Game of Thrones theories while simultaneously taste-testing Ben and Jerry’s? My parents were told to get on and get a job that you kind of enjoyed. I’m supposed to find – or create – my dream job. If I haven’t then I’m not doing life right.
How trendy can I be without being labelled hipster? I swear this wasn’t a thing in the 80s. They could get away with all kinds of crazy attire. Today, we walk a very narrow line between Trendy and Hipster. Trendy is good, Hipster is bad. (As if I needed to remind you.)
The label hipster gets scathingly attached to anyone who bucks social norms. It might be someone who wears vintage dresses two sizes two big, or who rides a bicycle, or who’s dyed their hair a funny colour. But what if you like all of those things yet still occasionally listen to Taylor Swift? Is that allowed? Are you a hipster, or worse, a wannabe? How about we start a new rule: unless you are actively being a music snob or pretentiously carrying on about some underground label, let’s we stop throwing the hipster label on anyone with an appreciating of typography and adorable jumpers. Then maybe we can stop worrying.
But you know what? I wouldn’t trade places with my parents for the world. Because despite a million anxieties that never used to exist, my generation got the internet.
Do you think I missed any? What causes you to stress that wouldn’t have affected your parents?