My generation lives in a world set on hyper-drive. We’ve grown up being sensitized to this...but is it distracting us from being able to focus long enough to accomplish anything?
Instead of being fed information, news is shoved down our throats and screamed at us. It is second nature to be on the cutting edge of technology, culture, and current affairs. A popular t-shirt slogan says “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet”...and for many of my peers, this is almost true. Our society is, globally, increasingly interconnected through social media, so when injustice happens, we read, see or hear about it...and then our attention is immediately pulled somewhere else. It is overwhelming, but addicting.
Author Courtney Martin writes in Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, “Always moving...We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible. We drink coffee. A lot of it...We are the daughters of feminists who said, ‘You can be anything,’ and we heard, ‘You must be everything.’”. She was writing about young women, but I would argue that much the same thing could be said of the young men I know.
Being everything means that we take on five projects at once, that we are interested in everything, that we find it difficult to say no to anything. And we continue to “find ourselves” over and over again, in new and different jobs, always looking for that one magical profession that will fulfill us. Often we think we have found it, only to be let down when it does not meet our expectations. So we move on, not sticking around long enough to stir the waters like we could, not long enough to realize our full potential.
Successful YouTuber Gunnarolla (Andrew Gunadie), also an alumnus of my alma mater, The University of Western Ontario, recently posted a video asking his viewers if it was worth him creating occasional videos. Between his two full-time social media jobs, Gunadie was losing time and passion for the medium that gained him fame to begin with. He said, “Yeah I have two jobs...My question to you is, is it worth trying to be a part time YouTuber? Why continue to make videos if you can’t be successful? To be honest YouTube is not really a creative outlet for me anymore.” Because he was no longer interested and available enough to create “good content,” Gunadie was questioning his involvement in what could be considered a third job.
I want to change the world. I’ve undertaken project after project, including volunteering, work experience, and two degrees towards that goal. I would hazard a guess that many people my age, regardless of their professional dreams, want to do the same in whatever field they are in, whether it’s entertainment, business, government or something in between. The problem is in deciding what that change will be, how we will craft it into something we can live off of, and then (and this may be the hardest) in sticking to it. Many of us find ourselves and our talents pulled in many different directions. And, being the ambitious, driven individuals we are, we often lose sleep rather than letting any one of our projects fail. If we do slip up, whether it is as small as a typo or something much more serious, we whine about how stretched thin we are...and do nothing to change it. This gives us incredible freedom in the possibilities, but carries costs, not the least of which is a lack of stability.
Enter Kai Nagata, the former CTV Quebec City Bureau Chief who, disillusioned with the business of broadcast news, recently quit his job. Nagata writes,
If storytelling turns out to be my true passion and the best use of my skills, then I'll continue down that path. If elder care, academia, agriculture, activism, art, education, Budo, or as-yet unforeseen pursuits turn out to make the flame burn brighter, I'll make the switch, or do them all...Right now I need to undertake a long-delayed journey of personal discovery. Having given away all the possessions that didn't fit into my truck, I've set out on the road again, heading West. I know I need to go home for a while. I need to surround myself with family and friends. I need to consult, meditate, and plan the next steps. I'm broke, and yet I know I'm rich in love. I'm unemployed and homeless, but I've never been more free. Everything is possible.
I identify with Nagata’s plight. He is a prime example of what has been called the “Peter Pan Generation,” for our refusal (or, if we are habitually unemployed, our inability) to grow up and don the mantle of a permanent job. He thought he had found something he could feel good about doing, and then discovered it was not for him. Regardless of whether or not his opinions on the business of news have merit, and despite the fact that many are shaking their heads at his Kerouac-like anti-career move, it took courage to follow his convictions. He, like so many of us, wants to make something of himself...or wants to make many things of himself.
I find myself in a similar soul-searching situation. But instead of looking at a myriad of interesting opportunities and trying to decide how many I can take on, I have made the choice to narrow down the options. As I apply for jobs in areas that I am passionate about, I am constantly asking myself- “Could I make a difference here? Does this use my skills in a way that I could be proud of? Is it something I can commit to?” If the answer is yes, I hit apply. If it’s not, I don’t, despite whatever financial consequences that may have. After six years of bouncing from cause to cause, I am looking for something that I can sink my teeth into, a job that I can devote myself to. I want to find my niche, and I want to work hard at it. Then and only then will I feel free to branch out again.
“Or do them all...” he said. For Nagata’s sake, I hope that's possible.