I’ve been renting a flat in Vienna for the last 2 1/2 years; and I am moving out at the end of the month. It’s October 24th, and I asked my parents to pick me up to bring home some stuff.
I don’t know what’s next for me. I have found neither a new apartment nor a room in a shared flat yet. Once again, I’m clueless what to do. Five days ago, I was fired after six months at this new job and released immediately. Although that already happened to me earlier this year; it didn’t take away anything from it’s shock value. I’m a sensitive person, and this cold corporate behaviour hurt me badly. “Don’t take it personal”, my mom said, as she ate a slice of pizza. “It took me a long time to accept this, but you don’t matter in a world like that. You simply must not take it personal.”
In early 2020, when COVID hit and the whole world was anxiously sitting at home without any clear perspective on how to proceed, one thing became evident: The world that we live in was coming to a halt. News anchors and health ministers became our newest and closest family members, constantly talking to us via our screens. Incident rates and death tolls dominated the headlines. We all stumbled into a void that lacked a sense of normality.
It seemed like there was almost nothing we could look forward to. For me personally, I was separated from my then girlfriend because she was asked to fly back to her home country. I’ve never seen her since, and our relationship fell apart, but that’s an entirely different story. One and a half years into this worldwide pandemic, you could ask whether anything has changed at all. Or, in the words of Bring Me The Horizon:
When we forget the infection
Will we remember the lesson?
So I am not sure if we have learned anything at all. Given the dramatic changes to our so-called normal daily life, the world has found it’s way to keep spinning, producing, consuming, arguing; somehow we find ourselves in shallower waters again, don’t we?
Well, although the world keeps spinning, right now it can’t keep producing at certain levels, as we hear more and more often. Chips are getting rare these days, media tells us to worry about getting Christmas presents, and my former colleague from work seemed to have this strange obsession with bad news about the foreseeable collapse of raw material mining or the impending doom of the financial system. But what really made me worry was the chip shortage. There seems to be nothing of more importance in life than producing and selling cars, and having no chips means that my parents wouldn’t be able to replace their old SUV with a new one, right?
ALARM LEVEL RED
The Last Dance
The world sucks without live sports. Back in 2020, when we were forced to choose between horrific news or deep dives into nostalgic reruns of classic TV programming, or in my case NBA redrafts with Bill Simmons or Ryen Russillo (I loved it though), the absence of live sports was noticeable. Fortunately, ESPN decided to release its Michael Jordan documentary a bit earlier than expected. People asked for it, and boy did they deliver.
In US-basketball, there seems to be a clear consensus on who the GOAT, the Greatest Of All Time, is. Even if you were able to recount all the legends that played the game over the last 75 years and found an open-minded basketball enthusiast willing to talk, you could simply cut the corner and go with MJ. I was born in 1991 in the country side of Austria, and even my parents know who Michael Jordan is. My parents! Unless you’re an ESPN talking head that needs to fill air time in the summer (I can’t tell you how much I hate August and September for the lack of NBA news), why argue?
Well, because there is a generation out there who grew up with Lebron James; a highly gifted basketball player whose career was always meant to be compared to MJ’s. As a basketball nerd myself, I’m not even thinking about doing the MJ vs. LBJ debate here — there is no point in competing with so many people out there who make their living out of it.
However, there is a parallel that can be drawn for my article. Remember, we actually started with me insulting my parents and their stupid SUV. Although the overwhelming positive feedback on The Last Dance indicated that almost no one is clearly able to differentiate a documentary from a 10-hour long branding commercial, there was another thing that clearly stood out to me: We got an in-depth analysis of a baby boomer who gave so much in such a short time and totally burned out in the process.
Needless to say, MJ was one of the ultimate competitors in sports and highly successful. It’s also fair to say that we will never see anyone like him ever again. But as far as I see it, I’m not sure if we really want to see someone like him again..
Please hear me out.
Lebron is currently playing his 19th season and has a good chance to surpass Kareem on the all-time scoring list. In my opinion, and it’s an opinion that is clearly shaping in front of our eyes over the last 2–3 years, he may never become the GOAT, but at least holds the title of career GOAT due to this longevity, that enabled him to stay relevant over 20 years of his professional basketball career.
Will he ever have six championships like MJ? I don’t see it coming, but it doesn’t matter because he will never beat MJ’s impressive 6–0 record. But as I teased before, do we really want this comparison, and does it even make sense? Shouldn’t we think more about which question to ask before we answer the stereotypical ones?
For me, Lebron’s greatness is defined by his longevity, overall skill-level, passion for the game, but also his constant change of scenery and passive-aggressive behaviour towards failure. And altough I really love him, I have to admit that all his whining sucks. Similar to Kobe, Lebron learned to pace himself. It may not be beautiful to see him slowly walking up and down the court, but he picks his battles, conserves his energy and tries to be ready whenever he needs to be. That way, he is still dancing in his 19th season, and rest assured he will keep dancing in various forms throughout his life, long after he will retire from playing basketball.
Kobe’s sudden passing reminded me how fragile life is. Thinking about long-term goals, a career or a whole life is important, but I have come to the conclusion that the path towards achievement and goals deserves way more attention. It’s in the path with all it’s highs and lows where we can truly taste and experience life as it is. Goals can change, and sometimes we’re not even allowed to witness the fruit of our work or the influence we have on other people.
Have we found a better understanding of success now? I can only speak for myself when I say that I did, and it has less to do with the question of “Do/did I reach the goal?” that can only be answered with yes or no. For me, the main question has transformed to “How does/did the path towards reaching a goal look like, and can/could I be mindful of walking it?”, which is a different approach my parents couldn’t get comfortable with for a long time.
About sprints and marathons
I have a conflicted attitude towards work and a career. Both my grandfather and father spent too much time at work, piled up overtimes left and right and were forced into retirement in their 50’s because their bodies broke down. Oh, and as you can probably guess, they weren’t really present at home for their families. They both serve as a cautionary tale for me, because I never wanted to end up like them.
Well, although it may sound harsh and important to my own development, please keep in mind that I’m a young white man that was born and raised in the middle of Europe. A young man who mainly struggled from his family’s high expectations, competitive spirits and pressure to perform. A young man who, for a long time, had no idea how privileged he was and still is, who never struggled because of where he was born, his name, gender or skin colour.
Overall, I feel embarrassed that I am writing this article right now, because I am sitting in my own heated room, working on my own notebook and worrying about what I am doing with my life by writing this ridiculous piece that probably no one will ever read. The struggle for me is real, even if it is laughable compared to the fates of many other people in the world out there. Believe me, I am aware of that.
Do you remember what my mom told me yesterday?
“Don’t take it personal. It took me a long time to accept this, but you don’t matter in a world like that. You simply must not take it personal.”
I f#!king disagree, mom. I do matter, and it’s the reason I am searching. I am searching for meaning, I am searching for friends, for my own family, for an environment where I can be myself and grow. It’s the reason I am thirty years old and already worked for more companies than you and dad combined, because it sucks for me to have a job where I don’t see a purpose, where I don’t feel meaning and where I don’t matter at all.
Mom, I know it’s not what you said, or what you truly believe, but you gave me the feeling that this is something I have to accept. But I have hope that there are many young people out there like me who do not want to accept. Who do not want to give in. Who are not ready to give up. I do matter; we all matter, and it does matter to me that we have a fulfilled live while we are young and healthy.
You know dad, it does matter to me whether I am buying a book from the local book store instead of throwing money at Amazon or other companies that clearly don’t give a shit if you were working there. Because for a lot of these companies, you don’t matter. And like it happened to you, or grandpa, and just like it happened to me five days ago, as soon as you are not healthy or fitting the role, you’re gone. Out of the game. And in the worst case scenario, if you did care and worried, potentially burned out.
And that’s a fucking depressing state of the world, that gives you so many possibilities and chances if you only accept the devaluation of your personal value to your company and hence society.
I do care, I take it personal because I walk through life with all my heart and passion, and taking that away from me equals me not having a voice. So should I just give up and accept? Not showing up every single day to at least trying to make this a better place? Not at least trying to grow and helping other people to grow and succeed? Not going through life together, with people I care about, and who care about me?
I should reread this previous paragraph whenever I am applying for another stupid corporate job. Because it definitely takes perseverance and patience not losing sight of the goal when you are looking for a (meaningful) job.
Dad, let’s finally talk about your new SUV
I know that you are all about cars. You love them and I know that every single car you ever had has a place in your heart. Although it’s really hard to imagine me saying that without a cynic look on my face, that’s just how it is. I have my own weird fascinations, I am currently writing a blog about Nick Miller, a sitcom character that I really enjoy watching for the third freaking time. This has to be as weird to you as it is weird to me when you tell me about your new 17 inch rims that you need to buy for your stupid new SUV. Maybe we are not so much different at all.
Oh, and I wrote stupid new SUV on purpose, because for me it encapsulates the whole generational tension perfectly.
“It’s safer to drive.”
Do you really need to drive a f#!king tank to the supermarket?
“I can no longer get into the old car because it is so low set.”
Well, working your ass off just to afford a limousine with 50 now finally has it’s downside, ha?
“Well, at least we could pick you up yesterday to bring home your stuff from the old flat, right?”
.. Well. That’s a fair point ..
But what’s my point after all?
It’s not about me provoking conversations and holding a mirror up to my parents, who never really learned to talk and argue openly with their children. It is my own inability to open up to my own parents and ask for help.
Or understanding, because I am desperate. Mom, dad, the world that your generation built offers so many opportunities, but brings so many challenges and problems. I get it; you have achieved great success. You were able to buy a piece of land and built your own house, you had a career, got kids and enabled them a better (materialistic) upbringing than you had yourself. Of course you want your kids to thrive in this world, take advantage of all the benefits and possibilities it has to offer.
But this world feels so alien to me
Please do keep in mind that there has been a drastic change in how we see and evaluate a successful career and a fulfilling life. For you it is suitable to drive into your retirement in an oversized SUV, because it does give you comfort and you need not fear the consequences of all the greed that has been cultivated, idolized, and encouraged throughout your life time.
But for my generation, and all the generations yet to come, the consequences aren’t only on the horizon, but knock on our doors. It will be pretty tough to maintain this standard of living that you got used to. And again, I’m aware of my privileged life and that I don’t have serious reasons to worry or complain. But at the same time I am very well aware that our wealth was and is based on the exploitation of cheap labour in the world, the systematic exclusion and discrimination of minorities and the results of political and social issues that haven’t been properly addressed for centuries.
My generation may have all the (digital) tools to thrive, but very soon we will all realize that they are not giving us any meaning or profound change. That still lies in our hearts and passions that wait to be expressed and fulfilled, and that’s the only way forward.
The new way
Whenever I am writing about my heart and my passions, I do feel that this is what I am really trying to learn about. I want to get there my way, but not as fast as possible, or with the highest salary out there. I don’t need the best engine, I don’t want to be put under a lot of pressure, constantly face challenges and elbow my competition to the ground towards the finish line. I’m not aiming for a 6–0 finals record. I’m not like you, or MJ. I don’t plan to use all my energy for this one ride just to arrive somewhere and fall either in a deep hole or into health-related, forced retirement.
But on the other side, I couldn’t even build upon your achievements due to the following main reason: As you’re driving your new SUV on your own golden dance floor, you forget that it is already crumbling under your own feet and slowly but surely crashing down on my generation.
Competitive or lazy?
So you could argue that I have never had the chance to go for 6–0. Because like Lebron, I missed my chance to even get to 1–0. And subsequently missed many more to even come close to it. You could argue I never had the will to work my way into it. Maybe I simply gave up to soon. Maybe the fact that I prioritize my mental and physical well being and private life over everything else prevented me from ultimately entering the hamster wheel in the first place. I know many young people out there who have no problem with working off their butt to realize their dreams; with so many more who are forced to do this only to get a fair chance.
I can’t go 6–0 any more, and I am pretty sure I never wanted to. For me, it’s more about going 4–6, and knowing that I gave my best, that I was trying to enjoy the ride all the way and ideally making the world a better place on my own terms. Because that’s what truly matters to me, and because I do f#!king matter, in that world.
Mom, dad, I love you, though please know that the F-you comes straight from my heart. Please don’t take it personal, but with your generation’s growth, prosperity and life choices, my generation has seen your middle finger since we can remember. Rest assured, we will explain our grand children about your last golden dance, and that we not only tried to do our best to keep dancing on the broken floor you had left for us.
I sincerely hope that one day I will be able to look back and say that we did take it f#!ing personal, and that my generation started a course correction.