Thanks for nothing, modern life

September 24, 2013
By

So there I was, eating a gluten-free bagel, sipping on ethically harvested acai berry juice and sending out another status update on Facebook, when it occurred to me: Am I happy? I mean, truly, deeply, fantastically, organically happy?

I think I am. I’m healthy, have a beautiful wife and a good dog, a warm house and a steady paycheque. My iPhone photostream suggests I’m living the life. But how am I to really know?

And just like that, without realizing it, I had immediately entered into the existential crisis that apparently consumes my generation.

These thoughts were fueled by a recent Huffington Post article called Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy, all about why so many people my age are unsatisfied. The article’s premise is that people born between the late 1970s and mid-1990s are miserable because there’s a gap between their expectations and the reality of their adult life.

The author argues people in their 20s and early 30s were raised by parents who taught them they were more special than anyone else, then they grew up and realized in most cases that’s simply not true. The humanity of it all is unbearable.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s impossible to be as perfect and happy as we believe we ought to be in this modern life. We’ve evolved from cavemen to explorers to living in a brave new world where our every minor need is immediately cared for, so all we have to worry about is our own feelings.

Now we’re told we should have it all — living the good life at all times, never worrying about depressing things like money or bills because surely our life’s fabulous true calling is waiting just around the corner, along with buckets of wealth and admiration. Sure, I’ve got a good job that keeps the heat on and lets me live comfortably, but how does it make me feel inside?

Every day, we’re bombarded by another story offering helpful tips on how to finally live that healthy, happy, fulfilling existence we’ve always wanted. We forget these are modern, first-world problems our ancestors never had to worry about it.

I’m pretty sure Ontario’s early settlers didn’t bother with this happiness question. They thought, “Gee, I really hope I can survive through this winter, and can you believe the way that trader at the Hudson’s Bay Company looked at me? I’m totally going to return this beaver pelt.”

In 2013, if you’re not doing hot yoga, eating kale, going on a cleanse, discovering your inner child, working in a fantastic job that’s rewarding and fulfilling and changing the world, all while taking perfect selfies of your beautiful face and sharing it with your closest 1,000 Facebook friends on a daily basis, then you’re not really living.

No sir, you’re just waiting to die.

We’re constantly comparing our levels of happiness through Facebook and Instagram, that la-la land of filtered, edited reality where it’s always sunny, we’re always photographed from our best angle and there’s a palm tree in the background.

It’s not good enough anymore to just eat because you’re hungry. Food used to be a simple matter of survival and pleasure. Today it’s a political statement.

Now we want the full biography of the stuff on our plate — the recreational pursuits of the parents who fostered the chicken we’re eating, the name and address of the farmer who fed him, and how they voted in the last election.

When did it become the mark of an irresponsible person if you eat gluten, that suddenly hated protein that gives elasticity to dough and was a key part of everything our parents used to eat, from bread to pasta to beer?

Never mind that statisticians think only about five per cent of us actually have a sensitivity to gluten of any kind — we’ve convinced ourselves everyone needs to cut it out of their lives entirely and immediately, or else we will surely die young, unhappy, alone and overweight.

Why is it that from the moment we wake up to the minute we fall asleep at night, everything we do needs to be enlightened, wonderful, so incredibly rewarding for us?

With expectations like that, no wonder people feel unsatisfied today. I could go on. But anyhow, I’m late for my hot yoga class.

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based writer whose column appears every third Saturday. He can reached at greg_mercer@hotmail.com and past columns can be read at gregmercer.ca. Follow him on Twitter at @MercerRecord.

So there I was, eating a gluten-free bagel, sipping on ethically harvested acai berry juice and sending out another status update on Facebook, when it occurred to me: Am I happy? I mean, truly, deeply, fantastically, organically happy?

I think I am. I’m healthy, have a beautiful wife and a good dog, a warm house and a steady paycheque. My iPhone photostream suggests I’m living the life. But how am I to really know?

And just like that, without realizing it, I had immediately entered into the existential crisis that apparently consumes my generation.

These thoughts were fuelled by a recent Huffington Post article called Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy, all about why so many people my age are unsatisfied. The article’s premise is that people born between the late 1970s and mid-1990s are miserable because there’s a gap between their expectations and the reality of their adult life.

The author argues people in their 20s and early 30s were raised by parents who taught them they were more special than anyone else, then they grew up and realized in most cases that’s simply not true. The humanity of it all is unbearable.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s impossible to be as perfect and happy as we believe we ought to be in this modern life. We’ve evolved from cavemen to explorers to living in a brave new world where our every minor need is immediately cared for, so all we have to worry about is our own feelings.

Now we’re told we should have it all — living the good life at all times, never worrying about depressing things like money or bills because surely our life’s fabulous true calling is waiting just around the corner, along with buckets of wealth and admiration. Sure, I’ve got a good job that keeps the heat on and lets me live comfortably, but how does it make me feel inside?

Every day, we’re bombarded by another story offering helpful tips on how to finally live that healthy, happy, fulfilling existence we’ve always wanted. We forget these are modern, first-world problems our ancestors never had to worry about it.

I’m pretty sure Ontario’s early settlers didn’t bother with this happiness question. They thought, “Gee, I really hope I can survive through this winter, and can you believe the way that trader at the Hudson’s Bay Company looked at me? I’m totally going to return this beaver pelt.”

In 2013, if you’re not doing hot yoga, eating kale, going on a cleanse, discovering your inner child, working in a fantastic job that’s rewarding and fulfilling and changing the world, all while taking perfect selfies of your beautiful face and sharing it with your closest 1,000 Facebook friends on a daily basis, then you’re not really living.

No sir, you’re just waiting to die.

We’re constantly comparing our levels of happiness through Facebook and Instagram, that la-la land of filtered, edited reality where it’s always sunny, we’re always photographed from our best angle and there’s a palm tree in the background.

It’s not good enough anymore to just eat because you’re hungry. Food used to be a simple matter of survival and pleasure. Today it’s a political statement.

Now we want the full biography of the stuff on our plate — the recreational pursuits of the parents who fostered the chicken we’re eating, the name and address of the farmer who fed him, and how they voted in the last election.

When did it become the mark of an irresponsible person if you eat gluten, that suddenly hated protein that gives elasticity to dough and was a key part of everything our parents used to eat, from bread to pasta to beer?

Never mind that statisticians think only about five per cent of us actually have a sensitivity to gluten of any kind — we’ve convinced ourselves everyone needs to cut it out of their lives entirely and immediately, or else we will surely die young, unhappy, alone and overweight.

Why is it that from the moment we wake up to the minute we fall asleep at night, everything we do needs to be enlightened, wonderful, so incredibly rewarding for us?

With expectations like that, no wonder people feel unsatisfied today. I could go on. But anyhow, I’m late for my hot yoga class.

 

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based writer whose column appears every third Saturday. He can reached at greg_mercer@hotmail.com and past columns can be read at gregmercer.ca. Follow him on Twitter at @MercerRecord.

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