Conversations With Dad

I’m not going to lie.

My father has affected me in ways I’ll never fully understand.

Though absent from the world, he is ever-present in my world. He makes appearances in my dreams, the sleeping kind. But he also shows up when I’m Dreaming–those fleeting moments when I think I’ve figured out what, you know, I just might do with my life.

Now, on the cusp of my thirtieth year, I keep returning to things I said to him. Things that have assumed a life of their own. In two instances, I remember exactly what I said, the precise order the words tumbled from my mouth.

“But I want to be an intellectual.”

Here, we were discussing my disjointed career plans. If I wasn’t going to become a high school teacher, what would I do? Why, I’d be a professor, I declared, as if teaching college kids is more noble, more cerebral, than instructing secondary school students.

The line above was uttered during a rather ordinary talk we had regarding my future. But when neither choice materialized, I reverted to my philosophical, albeit depressed, state of mind.

“I am all alone in this world.”

Here, I was lecturing my father about the reality of my predicament. No matter how many people stood by me, I was ultimately stuck in my own head, condemned to view life through the veil of my own distorted perception.

No one could figure me out but me. And, being in such a sad state, I had only shattered inner mirrors to reflect my pain.

Of course, these statements–in one form or another–still apply. I like to think of myself as intelligent, even without a teaching degree. And I remain the only one behind my thoughts.

The major difference: You’re not here anymore, Dad.

But, in truth, you really are.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

Those of us born in the mid-1970s until about the mid-1990s don’t know what to call ourselves. Are we the Millennial Generation? Generation Y? Generation Next? The MTV Generation? The Net Generation? The Peter Pan Generation?

Whatever the label, something about my generation is amiss.

Many of us–as we near 30–look, feel and act like we’re still kids. We’ve earned college degrees from some serious programs, but find ourselves working at Starbucks. Our debit is enormous, our savings minuscule. Desperate for direction, we live with Mom and Dad.

A myriad of socioeconomic forces have led to this troubling state of affairs. Some blame the child-like adults (we’re spoiled), while others find fault with our parents (they spoiled us). This, of course, is not the whole story.

Once upon a time, Americans believed in the concept of a stable identity. Personhood was fixed and firm, and “who you are,” as a known entity, truly mattered. In this world, based on the notion of self-as-character, people focused on the individual; the Actor took precedence.

When the effects of modernity were set into motion, however, America entered the self-as-performance phase. Here one’s innate identity came into question. People began viewing themselves as socially constructed beings. Instead of “who you are,” modern society ran on an Action-driven system emphasizing “what you show to those you know.”

By the time my generation arrived, another major shift occurred. At the very point my peers and I were supposed to “grow up,” the Internet took hold and hasn’t let go.

Today we lead our actual lives while simultaneously maintaining our digital lives. In this era of the self-as-representation, the Act takes center stage. It’s not about who you are or what you know–it’s about the layout of your online profile, the cleverness of your user name, the number of hits on your blog.

Searching for the holy trinity? Try Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Devoid of a cultural GPS, my generation isn’t simply lost. We’re just here, in front of the computer screen, connected in our disconnect.