Updated: May 24, 2020
Thank you for asking.
Feeling a little disoriented, I guess, and in no small part because I learned about a new genre of social media post today. One in which Gen Z kids (“Zoomers”) make short aesthetic videos from found YouTube footage of high school students circa the early 2010s and post them to Instagram or TikTok, waxing nostalgic in the comments. “notice how none of them had cellphones and they just lived in the moment,” emyaleo says. “they all look so unified. as they should be,” adds disgustednicki. “they look so happy,” M3llis_11 observes.
This might be too disturbing a question for so early in the morning, but how bad does one’s life have to be now in order to look back wistfully on the hellscape that was the early 2010s?
As an alumni of the graduating class of 2010, this prospect is horrifying to me. Not because it makes me feel old—though I guess it does—but because of how wrong these takes are. Not only did I go to high school every morning deeply and decidedly unhappy, but in my memory, all of us, without exception, absolutely hated one another. The was no unity to speak of. Cell phones (even smartish ones) were definitely a thing—as was Facebook, economic recession, and rampant homophobia.
In 2010 I was seventeen, then eighteen. I went to the University of Arizona on academic scholarship and knew no one there. I felt so out of place; all of my friends from high school went to community college and worked at coffee shops on Fourth Avenue. I didn’t feel like I belonged in college until I found the creative writing department and allowed myself to believe writing was a thing I could do with my life. This belief is what got me through the 2010s, from Oregon for a master’s degree to Ohio, where I currently live, for my doctorate. Back then, I don’t think I could have imagined how much better my life would be in 2020.
Yesterday was my birthday. I am now twenty-eight. That feels old to me, though not as old as it probably seems to the Zoomers. But I don’t want this meditation to veer into generational “who had it worse” territory. Every generation thinks their lives were harder than any of the others, past or future. This, of course, is a fallacy. Life is always hard, no matter when you were born. There is plenty of existential ennui to go around, especially in the midst of a pandemic. I’m trying to focus on the good things. I’m trying to find new ways to believe it gets better.
How are you, Sarah Haak?