When I was about seven years old, I had a neighbour named Jemima who used to spend a lot of time at my house. She had strawberry blonde hair and her two biggest loves were marshmallows and Tinkerbell. I remember the latter so clearly because we would spend hours siphoning flour (magic fairy dust) onto our heads and jumping off the arm of the couch in an attempt to fly. One day she was straining so hard to think happy thoughts she crapped her pants and had to go home early in a fit of tears. A few years ago I looked her up on Facebook. She was still living at home with a pimply boyfriend she'd had since she was 16 and working at Bunnings Warehouse to pay for her World of Warcraft habit. What happened to the girl who believed so much in magic and in her ability to fly that she actually shit herself?
There's an article circulating the internet titled "Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy". Not all of it comes as a complete surprise. I know that my generation is painted as an arrogant bunch of sissies whose parents dolled out the word 'special' like gum and let us suckle from a bosom of burgeoning milk until we were lulled into sedation. But I'm different because, unlike them, I am special. I can be whoever I want to be. If I want to be a sailor, I merely need to buy a boat. I want to be an astronaut? Sign me up for the next exploration program! Hell, I could be a doctor, I'm just not interested. The only reason I'm not accomplishing big things right now is because I'm too busy travelling. There is a magic suit hanging in my closet and, much like the magic fairy dust, when I put it on I will shine like a star and show the world how amazing I am. Right?
This may sound like a nice bit of self deprecating stand up for our fellow Gen Y-ers to read and laugh at and give that all knowing nod of the head and roll of the eyes. In reality, there is a part of us that truly believes this and once the laughter has faded and the audience has cleared the room, we're left alone under the spotlight with no more material. The suit has lost its glean and we're tossed back into the pen with all the other clowns. The ones we pitied. The ones sitting in a tiny office cubicle with their ordinary jobs clocking off at 5pm to go home to their ordinary homes and their ordinary lives. Once again, our expectations didn't coincide with reality and for a Gen Y-er this fall from grace can be very painful. We weren't installed with a backbone and we're not very good at accepting negative feedback. I think instead we were born with Koinophobia already fixed like a microchip. We won't be happy unless we're at the top of the career ladder and it's not just any career - it's something world acclaimed - art, politics, technology, medicine, sports.
Here's my confession *downs the rest of her whiskey*. When I looked up Jemima on Facebook, I audibly scoffed. I thought "let that never be me". I was so afraid of turning out like Jemima that I packed a suitcase and moved to the other side of the world in a bid to 'find myself'. As long as I remain searching I never have to face the fact that maybe I'm just as ordinary as everybody else. As long as I keep running I never have to admit that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I might be working a 9-5 job but I'm doing it in London! *Cue the barrage of posed Facebook photos by Big Ben with cocktail in hand!* Reality will eventually catch up with me because a 9-5 office job isn't what I envisioned for myself and any doddle with a passport can move to London from Australia in a heart beat. I've spent so much time running away to avoid Koinophobia that I haven't stopped to think what the opposite of ordinary is. What does it mean to lead an extraordinary life? What does it TAKE to lead an extraordinary life? We have all of the ambition and none of the drive, none of the desire to put in the leg work. We don't want to troll the streets in search for jobs. We already attended University, isn't that enough?
An extraordinary life for me would be one where I'm a writer - a real one. Not one that writes long winded, narcissistic blog posts that nobody cares about but actual novels. Novels that are published and hoisted up onto the top shelf of bookstores and sold and consumed and shared for the love of reading. I've been praised for my writing ever since I was seven when I wrote a diary entry for school that was longer than the obligatory 20 words. I've held onto every bit of positive affirmation like a golden nugget. What I have to show for it is an imaginary chest of gold and a pipe dream. To be a real writer requires not only a backbone, but blood, sweat, tears and a unique, resounding voice that people truly care about. It requires years of mastery and the Gen Y-er inside of me is so tempted to blame my parents for not instilling me with an ability to work hard. Even writing this now there's a part of me that truly believes that I'll sit down one rainy Wednesday afternoon in front of my non existent typewriter and the words for an entire book will just magically shoot out of my fingertips.
I guess my plea to the other generations that are so quick to dismiss us as self entitled prats, is: don't give up on us. We are curious beings bursting with ambition. All we need is a hand to guide us and help us harness that thirst for success. I don't know if I can be cured of my Koinophobia but I can be taught to reach for the stars with a more manageable set of expectations. With time, perhaps I could find glimmers of extraordinary in even the most mundane activities. If I could learn to fly without shitting myself - that's a bonus.
Visit Sasha's blog setwordsfree.com, where this post first appeared.