I had no idea what my niece was saying. I don’t mean I didn’t know the band she was talking about, or what semi-talented celebrity she thought was cute, or what oddball approach to a school subject she was discussing; I mean I honestly had no idea what she was saying. The individual words coming out of her mouth were English, but they were put together in a way that I did not recognize as discernible language. At this point I was genuinely afraid that I was, unequivocally, an adult.
I have had suspicions for some time. I recently realized I was more likely to attempt to sleep all night instead of stay up watching Monty Python films. I had taken to being concerned about my IRA instead of my GPA. (And in a related story, I have an IRA.) I have also caught myself recognizing the songs piped into the grocery store as I look at labels and compare prices instead of just buying something cheap and nacho-flavored.
A line from “The Breakfast Club” wafted through my mind: “when you grow up, your heart dies.” I’m not that pessimistic, so I let that one go. But I wondered if I should gear up for a mid-life crisis somewhere around the corner, and what it might look like if it shows up. I’ve already run with the bulls and swum with sharks, so my crisis should be a doozy.
As my contemplative nature kicked into overdrive, I realized every age group is isolated to the point of having almost no ability to generate meaningful dialogue with other age groups. This is likely everyone’s fault. I’m blessed to have grandparents still living; but I have no more real connection to my grandfather’s experience of being strafed by Luftwaffe fighter planes while fighting fascism any more than I have connection to young people’s needs to be precious, fragile, individual snowflakes for whom microaggressions are tantamount to being strafed by Luftwaffe fighter planes. And neither have need or desire, it seems, to foster a connection to my generation. I’m too old to be young, and too young to be middle-aged. This is definitely not a new phenomenon, just new to me.
With my newfound sense of wisdom, responsibility, and general adultiness; I thought it might just be my generation’s duty to try to bridge those seemingly unbridgable gaps between people who feel One Direction is the pinnacle of musical expression, and those who swear the best music stopped when Glenn Miller failed to land. (Well, failed to land in any way that would allow the music to continue.)
I’ve painted myself into quite a corner with this brush of responsibility. I’m not sure I’ve had the proper education or preparation for such an undertaking. It seems like a very difficult bridge to build. Then I remembered that my generation is most known for sitting in coffee shops being professional slackers. I also remembered that buying a shiny, fast car is the time-honored response to being faced with the unwanted epiphany of mortality. I’ve always seen myself as a Mercedes SL kinda guy …
~ Justin Cunningham is an over-educated, under-employed lovable rogue with incurable wanderlust. He lives in Arizona with his lovely wife, but spends an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about that place where the horizon meets the term “saudade”. He is also completely aware of how ridiculous all of this sounds.