I wrote a few posts about milennials a while back. I feel a certain closeness to this generation, although I’m Gen X myself. That’s partly because I have always been restless. I’ve had a hunger for something more than I had, and a need to search for what I thought life could be, at the same time as I didn’t. Milennials tend to drift, because after college they suddenly find that it’s up to them. Life has been pretty much planned from kindergarten to graduation from the university, and then they are left alone to cope in a pretty complicated world. That’s hard without guidance, and all we can do is to improvise. Some do that better than others.
I don’t read a lot of blogs, but have a few I like to read regularly, as well as some I read occasionally. Extra Dry Martini is in the first category, while Such Small Hands is an example of the other. They have both written about moving, about finding the place you belong to. The blogger Such Small Hands was living in South-Korea when I started reading her posts, and after living in South Carolina for a while, she now lives in Hong Kong. I think Extra Dry Martini (Sarah) spent her childhood in Alaska and Washington state, but moved to Los Angeles at the age of 18. She spent about as many years there, but moved to New York City a year ago. All this moving sounds exciting, but they also describe a challenging life. I think you’ll find that almost everything Sarah writes is relevant if you are struggling with doubt and feeling that you are not sure where you should be, but Ocean Avenue isn’t a bad place to start.
I mentioned the podcaster Megan Tan last time I wrote about this. She talked about friends that travelled the world when they didn’t get the life they wanted at home. She interviewed a guy that had spent the last three years in the Caribbean, sailing. I think it was his job to deliver boats by sailing them to customers. His life looked glamorous on social media, but that may not be the whole truth. The cowboy lifestyle may seem appealing for a while, but to some people it would be difficult sleeping alone in front of the fire every night.
I live by the ocean and see many small boats and big ships leave. I wonder how it would be like to have the freedom to go. I was as a young man fascinated by the tradition of frontier and movement in American popular culture (from great names like Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Jack London to On the Road and Easy Rider). A bohemian lifestyle seemed fascinating, but in reality most countercultures produce just as many disappointed and desillusioned people as the societies they rejected.
I don’t have the solution, but maybe a counterculture is preferable after all. It encourages independence and reflexion, providing you think critically and come to the conclusion yourself. That’s not always the case. There’s often a pressure to adopt whatever is the popular attitude at the time, and many don’t accept the definition of tolerance. It doesn’t mean that I have to agree. There’s a bit of a bohemian in me. I’d like to think I’m outside the box a lot of the time. I like to make my own thinking and decisions. Many say they think outside the box, and job ads even claim they want someone with that ability, but that’s nothing but rhetoric. We Norwegians are not beatnik at all. There’s a strong pressure to conform here. We are doing a lot of things right, but we also need input. That’s where we fail because we are unwilling to listen to and reflect on opposing views. That’s especially true with public employees. This is a country that needs a rebellion, and better counselors.
I still have the urge I had in my youth to experience something new, at the same time as I don’t see the benefits of living on the outskirts of what individuals in the government find acceptable (CPS, school, the hospital, Police and so on can be used to limit your movement). I sort of see the concern because countercultures tend to leave out moral, but I try to let ideas outside the box inspire me. I can live in a conservative society and still make my own, different choices. This should be viewed as a strength, but people in public positions tend to see it as a threat.
This is one of the reasons why I haven’t embraced neurodiversity. It is a risky position in this society. Different isn’t necessarily seen as positive, because while some see it as a good thing, others think deviants, and psychologists may label it suboptimal development. Life inside a box that encourages this kind of thinking isn’t pleasant.
Incidentally, the American literary tradition isn’t just about leaving a landscape behind. It’s also about a change within, about coping with difficult things in life, and about looking for solutions. I’d like to think I’m an autonomous unit, one that sometimes needs help, but still capable of making independent decisions. I turned 50 this summer, but I’m still learning, still trying to figure things out, trying to choreograph a life. I don’t think I’m home yet, but I’m moving towards it.