The Politics of Gen Y: Making Time for Tomorrow

I finished my first year of law school in May.  The grind-it-out days of 1L behind me, I jumped on the first flight I could out of my “home” in Philadelphia to my “home-home” outside Los Angeles.  Having studied out-of-state as an undergraduate as well, I have grown accustomed to the cross-country flight, just as I know exactly what to expect from my two weeks of vacation back in California.  I’ll play some golf with Dad, see some of my oldest friends, watch the L.A. Dodgers (now a team of minor leaguers, without the minor league prices or the minor league promo nights) with my brother, and see a movie with Mom. 

I love those two weeks.  I love them because I can power down and skip the morning coffee for fourteen days.  I love them because the best times are the ones spent with those who know you best, who love you deepest, and who you trust the most.  It was a great two weeks.

Much to my Mom’s dismay, we bypassed the matinee of The Hangover 2.  Just thinking about watching that movie with her makes me uncomfortable.  Instead, we saw Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  In the movie, Gil, a hack screenplay writer, is stuck in a rut while vacationing in Paris.  He has to deal with his relentless wife Inez, who chomps at the bit to experience the highbrow Paris of 2011.  Gil is also a daydreamer, a middle-aged writer caught in a quasi-romantic affair with the literary legends of 1920s Paris with whom he magically makes contact.  Each night, Gil is whisked away to the older decade that he fantasizes about constantly.  And each day, he remains entranced by his nighttime rendezvous with the past.

What is it about the present that leaves Gil – and, I’d wager, most of us – a little unsettled?  We constantly find ourselves longing for different days, for days already behind us.  We turn on our favorite classic rock radio station to get us through our morning commutes.  We watch reruns of sitcom and HBO classics when we get home.  We set our DVRs when ESPN replays a game from decades ago.  We even vote for “new” candidates for office who aren’t new at all (I’m looking at you, Jerry Brown voters). 

One year removed from college, I still replay a lot of it in my head.  I think about the house band I played in with some of my closest friends.  I think about the classes I loved and learned from, and the professors that taught me how to be a better person.  I think about relationships I let slip, and the ones that will continue to grow.    

There is a yearning for Yesterday that permeates through much of my generation.  Part of it is because, for many of us, the first twenty-plus years of our lives were fairly stress-free.  Our responsibilities included working without getting fired, going to school without failing out, and having fun without getting arrested.     

But, we also yearn for Yesterday because we are insecure when we are unsure.  It is easy to reflect on our prior jobs, or our time in college, or our childhood memories.  If the time or experience was enjoyable, then we take pleasure in replaying it.  If the experience was disappointing, at least we can take solace in the fact that what’s done is done. 

Contrast that to the giant headache brought about by wondering how we are going to live comfortably in this economy, or if we will ever pay off our student loans, or if we are going to be good parents.  We spend a lot of time thinking about old boyfriends and girlfriends because we are afraid that the new ones down the road won’t compare.  We glorify Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan, and question whether we will ever see a leader of the same fortitude.  We recall weekends in college and lament that Friday and Saturday nights just will not be that fun anymore.    

I think it is time we reassess our focus.  We can continue to reminisce about and relive Yesterday, but let’s do it without turning our backs on Tomorrow.  Nostalgia is healthy, but, as is the case with everything, too much of it can be damaging. 

I know that I am running out of two-week stints with my family in California; but, I refuse to lament the fact.  Rather, I will do my best to make the few remaining trips “home” as meaningful and enjoyable as possible.  We cannot avoid Tomorrow’s mysteries.  Instead of willfully ignoring the next inevitable bend in the road, let’s prepare ourselves so that we may make the turn without engine failure.  Yesterday is old news.  Let’s look Tomorrow in the eyes and tell it, We aren’t afraid.


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