status quo

Passion plays: defending our identity and a future that looks like us

Passion fuels the lives we envision for ourselves better than discipline or elbow grease alone. However, a little bit of passion’s dark side -- anger -- may be the best defense of our identity, and a future that looks like us.

Dialogue2010 participant Elmira Bayraslı shared at her "Wonderment Woman" blog the anger that keeps her hybrid. Rather than assimilate or choose one social group to belong to, the daughter of Turkish immigrants in New York ferociously defends her hard-won ability to switch to independent American woman -- and back again.

As an expat I know this righteousness-to-be-hybrid. A defense mechanism not only kicks in but is kept in place by a low level anger about external pressures to live and be a certain way. It’s been a cornerstone of my survival, and for many people living between worlds.

I was reminded exactly how homegrown this righteousness is by a Facebook group of one-line jokes about Berkeley upbringings. How counterculture taboos affected childhood is dizzying:

  • boycotts of table grapes and iceberg lettuce make kids anxious when visiting un-PC families,
  • a sneaked McDonald’s meal draws punishment while smoking weed does not,
  • the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are off-limits (pseudo-military!),
  • while the whitebread Brady Bunch and misogynistic Barbie are what’s wrong with the world.

Free Speech protests witnessed from baby strollers make this group a veritable Red Diaper Baby playdate.

Also glimpsed: the realization that  much of what characterized a Berkeley childhood thirty or forty years ago -- that is, the lifestyle and belief system of an alternative community, the anger that separated it from the rest of the nation -- has now become mainstream in America.

So, my righteous sisters and brothers, what are you going to keep being angry about when it comes to who you are?

I Dream Of GenY: In Sync With Today's 20-Something Worldview

If you're over 30 (OK, over 40) you probably don’t yearn to recapture 20-something days of gritty uncertainty. It’s even less appealing if you’re from the tail end of the Baby Boom, a generation gap in itself. My birth year alone meant I’d always occupy an entry-level position in that cultural generation.

Last week a visiting friend and I reminisced about our salad days in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Now Sex and the City types fill its fashion showrooms, art galleries and wine vaults but in the late ‘80s -- when our loft went Hollywood in the film Fatal Attraction and Madonna launched her naughty picture book from the basement nightclub -- it was a no man's land. Motorcycle gangs. Transvestite prostitutes. Bloody meatpackers in white coats and industrial rubber boots. You know, affordable. Plus, our landlady (a dominatrix!) didn’t complain about the party noise.

Unconventional freedom after-hours compensated for our brick-wall career prospects in mainstream media, entertainment, architecture and advertising. Unlike the disaffected GenX slackers a couple years behind us, my downtown loftmates and I refused to embrace the fact we'd never build equity with our marquee employers.

We still had our eye on the ball! Just. Needed to. Get. A foot. In. The door. No surprise the rising tide of GenY and its status quo rebellion has recently uplifted me.

Even with today’s dismal economy, the blogosphere is abuzz with possibility for young adults. A location-independent lifestyle design site launched this week challenges us to “live an awesome life on your own damn terms” while top blogs of young entrepreneurs spearhead social renewal.

The idealistic, brazen careerist mindset resonates because I'm old enough to have faced the corporate cubicle and young enough to frolic with a novel and unbounded reality.

Time travel to GenY’s brand of 20-something grit is a trip I'm willing to take. Ever felt in sync with a different generation?