When I was growing up, my family would vacation in the USA at least once a year. We usually stayed somewhere in the Florida region, and although I came to know our favorite spots pretty well over the years, the excitement of those trips never wore off. Florida’s beautiful beaches didn’t hold the same appeal for me as they did for my parents, but I couldn’t wait to see what was new. Back in those days, visiting the United States was like visiting another planet — nothing looked the way it did back home! Many of the trends and things I spotted would eventually make their way across the Atlantic, but they took their sweet time. I recall watching US blockbusters on home video months before they were even in German cinemas. I loved that. Every little piece of the USA I could take home with me was treasured like an epic conquest.
That thrill is long gone, of course.The world that my generation – Generation Y – lives in today is a digitally connected global village, where everything you could possibly want is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If I want the new Nike Air sneakers, I can order online right now and have them delivered to my door within a week (Seriously, open a new tab and type in “Nike Air”. I wasn’t even sure those were still a thing and still found my way to a retailer in five seconds flat!) If I want to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones, I can have that ready to go on my laptop, tablet or Smart TV in under 20 minutes. If I have a question about anything at all, I can type it into a search bar and have a million potential answers a heartbeat later. That’s pretty awesome. It’s also pretty scary.
My generation is the first that has the potential to know and be and have everything we want. The world is quite literally at our fingertips, ours for the taking. Talk about pressure to succeed. Faced with such an embarrassment of riches, many of us find ourselves unable to answer a very simple question: now what?
I’m not complaining. Getting to ask that question is an absolute privilege, and struggling with the answer is definitely a first-world problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless – a problem I’m all too familiar with. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I never wanted to be a cop or a fireman or astronaut, I just wanted to tell stories. As a teenager I didn’t just gobble up author biographies and books on writing, I spent endless nights in front of the computer, reading up on the ins and outs of the publishing industry. I wrote for hours every day. I made plans, way ahead of time. Today I could publish anything I write with the push of a button. 14-year-old me would be jumping for joy, but I often find myself dragging my feet. Now that a lot of stumbling blocks have been removed, I suddenly have time for questions. Is that good as it can be? And will that be good enough? Will people read this? What if they don’t? Do I really want to find out?
With unlimited opportunities comes an unlimited supply of what-ifs. Asking those questions out loud is not exactly cool, of course. As a member of Gen Y, nothing should slow me down. Eat, sleep, achieve, repeat. That can be quite a challenge. Now, despite my bouts of self-doubt and an undeniable tendency to procrastinate, I consider myself very lucky, because I have an idea of where I want to go. That’s more than I can say for those who spend years working odd jobs, stacking one degree upon another and jumping from one internship to the next without ever arriving anywhere, because they have no idea where they were going in the first place. It’s a way of life to some and a crippling problem to others. In any case, it’s emblematic of this generation.
Gen Y has been afforded many luxuries. There’s no war we’ve all had to fight. There’s no issue so pressing we’ve all had to face it. Nor will there be. My generation is the first that has the potential to know and be and have everything we want. We’ll fight our own wars. We’ll face our own issues. We just have to decide what they are. As it turns out, that could take a while.