An open letter to GenX

Am I qualified to speak on behalf of my entire generation? Probably not. Am I going to? Yes, obviously. Is that a little ironic? Yes, obviously.

Dear GenX,

First of all, thanks for the fine advice about not bringing our parents on job interviews, being less entitled as managers, and trying to avoid the narcissistic personality disorder that we probably already suffer from/inflict on our elders. Really, your words do not fall on deaf ears. Pierced ears, maybe. Headphoned-ears, definitely. Deaf-er, but not deaf. We really do appreciate your feedback.

But, like any good blogger, I have some feedback of my own, in regards to Huffington Post’s recent article “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy,” specifically.

The article introduces Lucy, the impressionable if not a little naive GenY that just wants a really high paying job that fulfills her creatively and challenges her intellectually. We all know Lucy. We all are Lucy, a little bit. That’s just a fact. As a side note, I think I once drew this exact stick figure. It won all sorts of awards, and I received no less than 3 trophies and 350 compliments. That will be relevant later. (Spoiler!)

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Lucy.

The article outlines three major factors as to why Lucy is unhappy. How did the author, one of your GenX comrades, know Lucy was unhappy? Because the author decided it, that’s how. Besides, isn’t everyone a little unhappy? Be honest. We’re all a little unhappy. Lucy’s unhappiness is just much stronger and sadder and in more desperate need of attention than everyone else’s unhappiness, and, thankfully, the author steps right in to help. And by help, I mean invent three arbitrary “facts” based on personal experience that explain why Lucy is unhappy and, furthermore, why GenYs like Lucy will never really overcome that unhappiness.

As a Millennial aka GenY aka “Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies” aka “GYPSY,” I take issue with these facts. Sure, my rebuttal is based on personal experience, but I’m a Millennial, so what the hell do I even know about researching and follow-through?

1. “GYPSYs are wildly ambitious. The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security. The fact is, a green lawn isn’t quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY. Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream.”

First of all, there is nothing wrong with ambition. The baby boomers that raised us didn’t get to where they are without ambition, and the GenXs that followed didn’t either. Cal Newport, a fellow Millennial, pointed out that Google’s Ngram data shows the phrase “follow your passion” didn’t really emerge in English literature before the last 20 years. I respect Newport’s research, and I respect his article “Solving Gen Y’s Passion Problem.” Way to represent us in the Harvard Business Review, Cal. Seriously, good work. Mucho respect, loved the article, etc.

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Now back to the point. Yes, I’m interested in finding a career that fulfills me. But I’m also interested in paying my bills because I’m really, exceptionally uninterested in being homeless. Those don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Just because I want to like my job doesn’t mean I’ve completely forgotten about financial security. I grew up just outside of one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, and because of that, a lot of my best friends have never needed to worry about being financially independent. But despite that luxury, I can’t think of a single person that actually thinks the high-paid, fulfilling job of their dreams exists without a lot of hard work and experience. Sure, we want to have it all. Why wouldn’t we? But are we the first ever generation to want it all? No, of course we aren’t. We’re just as willing to work to achieve our high-expectations as the last generation and the generation before that.

2. “GYPSYs are delusional. On top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better– A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn.”

If you recall, I made a hilarious joke earlier about how my stick figure won all sorts of awards. Get it now? I’m a riot. I’m also markedly not special. Everything I pride myself on is completely subjective, and I learned that in 9th grade when I didn’t make the all-state choir. I learned that again when I never once ran varsity on my high school cross country team, again when I got my first college rejection letter, and yet again when I started applying for internships and jobs. There will always be at least 10 people better than me, so I better make damn sure that there aren’t 10 people that work harder than me.

Furthermore, I refuse to believe that entitled, lazy, “special” job candidates are unique to my generation. Maybe the author of this article hasn’t been 21 in a while, but naivety is basically a requirement. If my generation has a hard time accepting negative feedback, it’s because we’re only twenty one years old, and we haven’t actually had to accept all that much of it yet. We will learn to accept feedback as we work, just like everyone before us. Additionally, the author makes it sounds like GenYs invented career disappointment, and not a single GenX or Boomer ever once felt they deserved an interview, job, or promotion and the disappointment that comes when it isn’t actualized.

3. “GYPSYs are taunted. Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation.”

If the author got legitimate information from legitimate GenYs that legitimately think everything reflected on social media is true, then I take it all back. I have a Facebook friend that constantly posts about his booming new-age photography/music business and says “namaste” a lot. That doesn’t mean I think he’s a Brahman.  We grew up on the internet. We know it isn’t real life. And honestly, I really hope his chakras are as aligned as he says– but I’m not about to lose sleep over the misaligned state of my own chakras. GenY didn’t invent jealously, we just digitized it.

GenX, I mean it when I say that I appreciate your concern for my well-being. You know more than me because you’ve been around longer than me and you probably spend less time on Reddit. But I’d just like to clarify just one single but frustrating thing: Yeah, there are members of my generation that are selfish, entitled and whiny. A lot of people my age think they hung the moon. But there are members of your own generation that are selfish, entitled and whiny that also think they hung the moon. There are kids 20 years older than you that think they hung the stars and people 20 years older than them that think they invented the whole solar system.

Give us a little while to finish growing up before you condemn us to a life of artistic poverty. You were all here, at some point.

Sincerely,

Kelly Fine

GenY

TL;DR: We’re growing up. Everyone has to grow up.

Re: How an Introvert Can Be Happier (Act Like an Extrovert)

I hate tomatoes. I always have, as long as I can remember. I like tomato-based things, like pizza or pasta sauce, but something about actual tomatoes really just grosses me out. However, I feel like hating tomatoes is a weird flaw, so I always order them on my sandwiches, burgers, etc. I have a theory that if I keep eating them, I’ll eventually like them. So far, it hasn’t really worked. I end up taking a few bites and then just taking the tomato slices off.  Try as I might, I can’t just start enjoying tomatoes. It’s probably pretty useless to keep trying.

I feel the same way about the Wall Street Journal’s recent article “How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert.” In the article, psychologist and professor William Fleeson says “If you’re introverted and act extroverted, you will be happier. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s all about what you do.” Please pardon my French, Professor Fleeson, but that’s some bullshit.

I’m an INFJ, which is Myers-Briggs for “Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging,” or introverted intuition with extroverted feeling. Being introverted isn’t the same as being shy. I like people, and I like being around people– in limited numbers. It doesn’t mean I hate leaving my apartment, it means that I’m just as happy spending time alone as I am in bigger groups. It doesn’t mean that I refuse to attend parties– it just means that at a certain point, an increasing percentage of my brain starts calculating how long I have to stay before I can be alone again. I can handle small talk, but I’d much rather in-depth conversations with a smaller number of people. I’m not incapable of being social; I just need a little while to recharge after.

Fleeson’s research shows ” introverts experience greater levels of happiness when they act more extroverted. In the weeklong study, researchers followed 85 people who recorded on Palm Pilots how extroverted they were acting and how happy they were feeling.”

My question for Fleeson is this: How long were your subjects having to act extroverted? Because yes, most people can probably handle extroversion for a few hours a day. But the fundamental truth remains that at the end of the day, these people were probably able to relax and recollect their thoughts in peace. Pretending that lots of social interaction is energizing won’t make people extroverted any more than wearing heels all day will physically make my legs longer.

Pretending to be someone you’re not isn’t the key to furthering your career and finding happiness. Society doesn’t need more extroverts; it needs more understanding. I can’t acquire a new personality any more than I can acquire a taste for tomatoes, nor should I have to.

Rock on, introverts. Quietly, though, if you don’t mind.

A Collection of Howard Fine’s Oddities

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I tried to think of a good story about my dad in honor of Father’s Day, but frankly, nothing can top the one about him rollerblading through the neighborhood to egg the lair of my middle school nemesis. So, instead, I’ve come up with a few of my father’s more distinguishing outlooks and explained them a little. I’m using the word “explain” quite loosely.

On supporting our interests

There are four of us, which means my parents have been coaches, strong shoulders, disciplinarians (or not), audiences, chauffeurs, art critics and editors continuously for 27 years. From what I understand, child rearing means blindly supporting your kid’s dreams, even when they are extremely stupid and far-fetched and hilarious. My dad nailed/still nails this.

As a kid, I wanted to be an artist. Rather than handing me a box of crayolas like any normal parent, my dad bought me one of those ridiculously fancy art sets that comes with every color of oil and chalk pastel and like 11 different paintbrushes. Obviously, I destroyed everything in that box because I can’t have nice things, a trait I still shoulder 15 years later. He bought me another.

He approached every one of my interests with the same gusto. When I liked horses, he planned summer trips to Arkansas dude ranches. When I was into theater, he screamed “GO KELLY. GO KELLY.” from the audience, even (especially) during inappropriate scenes. When I was a cheerleader, he told me the same story about being on his college gymnastics team every time I struggled to land a back flip, and then set up blue mats in our front yard so I could practice.

The four of us each have very unique interests and hobbies and lives. And he was like this for everyone. Dad, if you’re reading this, thank you. And sorry about always breaking everything.

On teaching us how to drive

My very first time behind the wheel took place in my mom’s old grey minivan in a big empty parking lot. My second time behind the wheel was on a very busy road in Dallas rush hour. Both times were terrifying for both me and my dad, as well as anyone unfortunate enough to witness my driving lessons/hear his screaming from 15 miles away. The rest of the siblings were given additional lessons on how to drive a manual car, but I was not, as I was and am a lost cause.

On being on time

It won’t happen.

On traveling

My dad is an extremely nervous traveler, which is only fitting because someone (me) always had to misplace their plane ticket. Next week, we’re going to New Jersey to celebrate my cousin’s Bat Mitzvah. Rather than booking me a flight from Austin to New Jersey and trusting me to find my way to baggage claim, my dad booked his flight from Dallas to Houston and mine from Austin to Houston, so we can meet up at George Bush Intercontinental airport, scramble to find each other, and then fly to Newark together. Not because it’s cheaper, not because it’s more convenient, but because that is just the way Howard Fine wanted to do it and by God “if you don’t think that is the best way to travel then you can just find your own way there.”

Meanwhile, my sister and her boyfriend are flying directly from Austin to Newark three hours after me and landing around the same time.

On automotive care

Is your car making an awful grinding sound? Did the power steering go out? Is the engine refusing to turn over? Did you get a flat tire? It doesn’t even matter what is broken, because every single thing is your fault for forgetting to regularly clean the battery terminals. It is always the battery terminals.

On explaining foreign affairs

The following is a direct quote, transcribed by my little brother, Michael.

“Libya captured some navy ship and held it hostage because they wanted…you normally pay a bribe…you normally…so this guy hikes across the Sahara desert and Libya never expected, you know, a guy to hike… they still have a distinct look from the Egyptians.”

On collections

If you’ve ever been to my house, you’ve seen my dad’s massive Swarovski crystal collection. These little crystal figurines live in 3 giant display cases and are regularly rearranged and cleaned. He has started to sell them now, so he set up a little photography studio in the master bathroom to ensure optimal lighting. Each time he makes a sale, he walks around the house with it, saying goodbye. When I still lived at home, every piece was brought into my bedroom so my dad could say “Kelly, I had some really good times with this one.”

On Facebook

Dad, please accept my friend request. I don’t understand why you won’t accept it. I’m not going to embarrass you.

On our dog, Cici.

Cici is his best friend and confidant. While I was used to being called “KristinKatieMichaelDamnit,Kelly,” I was surprised when my name suddenly became “KristinKatieMichaelDamnitCiciKelly,” or, in extreme circumstances, “KristinKatieMichaelDamnitCiciPakaKelly.” Paka is our neighbor’s dog. I wish this was a joke.

On sickness

Growing up, every single cough or sneeze was followed not by “bless you,” but by “STOP IT.” I still partially expect to hear “STOP IT” any time I have a cold. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is not an appropriate response to other people’s coughs and sneezes.

On diet

My dad has a very particular diet because he has Crohn’s disease, but also because he’s a weirdo. As a kid, I watched in awe as my dad ate an entire half-gallon of ice cream. He used to purchase giant tubs of Gold Medal Ribbon from Baskin-Robbins. Not the prepacked quarts, but literally the giant 3-gallon tubs that they put inside of their display cases and scoop ice cream out of.

After the ice cream phase was the night waffle phase. He would make two Eggo waffles, put any combination of butter, syrup or whipped cream in the middle, and eat it like a sandwich.

Now, he’s moved on to Greek Yogurt. He eats anywhere from 4-10 servings of Chobani daily, both as meal replacements and supplements. Last time I was home, I watched in horror as he mixed strawberry, plain, and coffee-flavored greek yogurt in a big bowl and crumbled a Nature Valley bar into it.

Unfortunately, I have picked up bits of all of these eating habits. I’m working on it.

There are countless other things I could say, but I have a life to live (read: more Doctor Who to re-watch).

TL;DR: Happy father’s day, Howard Fine. I love you. And thank you.

A reflection on my first ever choir concert

1187221_stage_is_yoursIs this a safe space? I feel like maybe it is. I’m just going to bet that it is.

I have this deepish, darkish secret belief that I could be on American Idol. And that sounds super overconfident, so let me clarify by saying that I am overconfident about most things on this planet.

Again, this is a safe space. Hear me out.

It’s not that I’m a narcissist. I don’t even really think I’m particularly fantastic at any one thing, except maybe wearing denim shirts. But when I start to think about [literally any activity], I always conclude that if I am not already one of the greatest [literally any activity-doer] on this planet, I probably could be.

“But Kelly,” you’re thinking, “you just defined narcissism.” But I don’t overstate my talents because I actually think i’m fantastic, it’s usually because I am dreadful at comparing talents in any quantitative way and also I have a lot of motivation. And if I don’t support myself, who will? No one. On a scale of dreadful to fantastic  I am definitely a solid “alright” every time. But why not choose to think I am fantastic? Someone should.

Of course I can’t be on American Idol. Do I rationally think I am as talented as Kelly Clarkson? Of course not. But maybe I could hang? Probably. I definitely could hang. And win. I should be on American Idol because why the hell not, right? I am fantastic!

See? So now that I’ve made myself sound like a self-obsessed ass, I’ll just continue along that road.

Growing up, I was a competitive cheerleader and I really liked playing soccer. I was either fantastic or dreadful at these things. (Know that while I will always believe I was fantastic, I was objectively dreadful at both of those things.)

I think I was okay at musical theater, though. I really liked being on stage and singing and wearing character shoes, and while I never got any leads (dreadful) I was usually cast as more than just a chorus member (fantastic.) I think during this phase of my life I was in 15ish musicals, some of which I performed a few times as different parts at different theaters because I have crippling ADHD and my parents liked to keep me busy.

As soon as I was old enough, I joined the choir and the show choir at my middle school and started singing The Supremes’ songs for everyone. I was that girl. I was in choir all throughout high school, minus my senior year, when I quit because I had an unfortunate relationship with the choir directors that ended in one physically slamming the choir room doors in my face. I’d like to believe that this was because the directors were crazy, and that probably was part of it, but I also was extremely negative and probably kind of annoying to be around. Also, I was fantastic.

“Enough, Kelly,” you’re thinking. “Why am I still reading this? This is unending.”

I was setting the scene. Now you know that I was really into choir and really into myself. Now rewind some. The year is 2001. I am 10 years old. I probably look something like this:Image

It is the night of my first ever choir concert. My elementary school had a choir for the 4th and 5th graders, and because I was fantastic, I had a solo. I distinctly remember knowing  I would rock it.

I didn’t. I was not fantastic.

The stage lights were bright. The Haggar Elementary School gym was packed with parents and disgruntled teenage siblings. I was probably wearing overalls and my hair was probably in a knotted, giant ponytail because no one has ever really been able to figure out just what to do with my afro.

I wasn’t nervous. Why would I be nervous? I was born to be fantastic at this solo. The song was about tongue twisters or something; I don’t remember all the chorus parts because I was elite, obviously. Before long, it was my turn. I walked to the microphone and waited and then right on cue, forgot everything I was supposed to sing. Every word. I just stood there like a tiny, 10-year-old idiot, and right as I was supposed to turn back and return to the group, I burst into tears.

The show must go on, though, so everyone kept singing and I guess I must have eventually walked away from the microphone. But I kept crying. I remember the music teacher mouthing “it’s okay,” because what else do you tell a sobbing child that just ruined the single most important musical event of the season?

There isn’t any really deep reason why I suddenly felt like sharing this story, except the other night as I was laying in bed contemplating what combination of yogurt-bagel-waffle-apple I would eat for breakfast, those forgotten words popped into my head. 11 years late, but clear as day:

If a dog chews shoes, what shoes does he choose to chew?

So, my friends, I am redeemed. I am fantastic. Bring it on, Kelly Clarkson.

My Helmeted Hero

I have shockingly low comedic standards. Essentially everyone alive can make me laugh, and once you’ve made me laugh, I tend to like you and assume that you are an inherently nice and good person. For this reason, I like basically everyone I have ever interacted with. I kind of like that I can find a friendship in everyone, but it does, however, lead me to occasionally overlook some warning signs.

The following is a short story that starts with me befriending the new girl down the street and ends with my father egging her house in the middle of the night. He was wearing rollerblades.

As stated above, I really like people. I think that fact that we’re all just living on this huge planet in this huge universe and interacting with each other casually while our hearts are pumping and our brains are calculating is amazing. Because I am so easily impressed by everyone I’ve ever seen, I trust almost anyone and just assume that we’ll be friends forever. This is an enduring characteristic of mine, but it was especially true of 14-year-old Kelly.

Society forgives your seventh-grade self. That awkward phase is a rite of passage into young adulthood and eventually real adulthood. You over-pluck your eyebrows, wear some black chokers, listen to power-pop and then recognize your mistakes and burn all the evidence. I never did the evidence burning, and seeing the photo below is crucial to understanding how my dad wound up rollerblading through my neighborhood under the cover of night like a regular hooligan.

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As you can see, I had prepubescent angst in spades. I wanted everyone to be my friend. I needed everyone to like me. Enter: The New Neighbor.

She moved in down the street the summer before seventh grade. She had already kissed a boy, had a big TV in her bedroom and knew how to apply eyeliner. I was overwhelmed by her coolness. We became best friends immediately.

However, our new best friendship became quickly strained by the fact that her Abercrombie jeans made her destined for middle school popularity, and my dreams of being on Broadway made me destined for something slightly less. If you need more explanation, see again the photo above.

Before long, we were markedly not friends. There were a lot of rumors involved, although the only one I specifically remember involved me begging The New Neighbor not to become friends with another Neighborhood Girl because said Neighborhood Girl was the gateway to popularity. I’m fairly certain that was not true, but I can’t make any promises.

Unfortunately for me, The New Neighbor lacked my devotion to maintaining any and all friendships. She was ruthless. My trusting, awkward 14-year-old self hadn’t even brought a knife to the metaphorical gun fight, and it was painfully obvious who the victor of this seventh grade rumble would be.

My family rallied. Soon, my older sister Katie was standing with me at the bus stop to shield me from any of The New Neighbor’s mean remarks. My parents talked to her parents, but I still took to hiding in the choir room to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with what had become my very first enemy. These were dark days.

One Yom Kippur morning, my family headed outside for synagogue only to find that our house had been struck by a suburban nightmare: toilet paper. It was everywhere. I was mortified, my parents were angry, and our morning was spent raking streams of white, soggy TP out of our pecan trees.

The New Neighbor had won the war, or so I thought. I never retaliated because I was (and am) non-confrontational to a fault and deeply afraid of getting yelled at. Days passed with no word from The New Neighbor and I almost gained the courage to leave the choir room when suddenly, she was everywhere and she was angry. The walkway to her house, it seemed, had been egged. If teepeeing a house is the middle-class suburban equivalent of a war declaration, egging a house is an unannounced atomic bomb.

It didn’t matter that I was innocent. As far as I knew, her house had been egged by another of her scorned victims.  I was suddenly subject to even more AIM messages, texts, and Xanga comments than before, and even her parents began to glare at me from across the street. Otherwise, she never retaliated. I won the war, although I didn’t know how or why for several years.

Kristin, my eldest sister, casually mentioned my dad’s heroic actions 6 years later, after my high school graduation. She thought I knew. I was stunned. She told me how my 50-year-old dad donned his rollerblades, rolled down the street to her house, and tossed some eggs on her sidewalk. He was a hero in a helmet and I hadn’t even known.

The rest is history. The New Neighbor’s family still lives in the same house, and I think she attends some other Texas state school. I still tense up when passing her house, as if I’ll suddenly find myself transported back into my seventh grade skin and be forced to relive the trauma. I’ve never had a confrontation quite that big and scarring, and I sincerely hope I never do again. Because I like people, and because I’ll never get back those precious hours spent removing bath tissue from my parent’s front yard.

Hot ‘n Fresh out the Kitchen

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It’s no secret that I like the Internet. I’m all about Facebook and Twitter, and I even recently upgraded my LinkedIn (get at me, employers). I’m still at “lurker” status on Reddit and Imgur because what if I get downvotes, but I feel like I can kind of consider myself a part of those communities, as well. Internet people are my people.

I get the internet, which is why this petition to change the National Anthem to R. Kelly’s 2003 hit Remix Ignition made me laugh for several minutes, began a seemingly endless loop of “bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce” in my brain, and instilled a sense of generational pride I hadn’t totally felt before.

We’re Millennials! The internet is our home. We were the ones troubleshooting our parent’s Internet Explorer, meticulously changing the fonts of our AIM buddy profiles, and starting angsty blogs about our troubled suburban lives (Or was that just me?). We’re no strangers to the online world, and we haven’t always appreciated or really even acknowledged that power.

In the 2008 election, Millennials made up just 18 percent of the electorate. Granted, 18 percent is higher than was expected, and in 2012, that number rose to 19 percent. But why isn’t that number 38 percent, like the boomer generation? Personally, politics hurts my feelings because I’m very easily offended by raised voices and unwavering opinions. However, I voted!  We have a duty! This is America, etc.

We’ve been using the internet for dumb stuff for years! This is also, admittedly, a little dumb. But it’s political! Guys, it’s progress! According to Pew Research (what isn’t according to Pew?) more of us were able to identify the Twitter logo last month than were able to identify Secretary of State John Kerry. That’s embarrassing. But according to MacArther foundation, we’re the first generation to really use the internet for participatory politics, and 41 percent of us have communicated politically using new media. That’s a lot of percentage, y’all!

So now, after five paragraphs of words, here is the point of this blog post: I feel like we’re getting it. I was one of the first 1,500 people to sign that petition, not because I really think it would or should ever happen, but because I just feel like maybe President Obama would handle it with a very charming press conference and maybe R.Kelly would make an appearance and maybe I would be invited. We’re still not the most politically active generation. But I think this is a strong start. We’re relating, finally, in our own way.

Keep it up, fellas and honeys. Go ‘head on and break ’em off with a lil’ preview of the remix.