You wake up, you go about your routine, you finish everything you have to do, you’re on top of your game, you get 8 hours of sleep—But yet, yet, there’s still something missing. You don’t feel fulfilled. It’s a constant puzzle you struggle to solve. You go about your entire life with the spark missing, even though everything is picture perfect.
It’s the constant problem I see in my own friends – ending up in a corporate grind job that you believe you would enjoy but then finding yourself completely not enjoying it. It’s the millennial trap; finding yourself stuck in a rut even though you’ve achieved everything you’ve set yourself out to do. In fact, this article is a spur of the moment inspired by a close friend’s spiral into depression after he found himself completely void of purpose, realising he was stuck in a life he did not know how to live. How do you recover from losing your sense of purpose?
One of my favourite methods of procrastination would have to scrolling through speeches. This is not your typical rally speech nor your timed Academy Awards rambles – and neither is it the TED talks (they’re a close second favourite though). It’s commencement speeches. Make no mistake: it’s never a commencement speech I’ve personally witnessed. My own commencement speech from JC was hardly an uplifting affair. In fact, I don’t remember a single word from it. I was just looking forward to march back home to hit the books, as single-minded as all stressed out A level students would have been during exam period.
In the US, however, commencement speeches tend to be a publicity-generating vehicle and a tug-of-war of who managed to invite the most prestigious speaker. Most commencement speeches don’t vary that much in terms of the general topic (Pursue your dreams! Plan your future! Vote Obama for president!) but the sides they take often can be polarising. Some speeches insist on pursuing your dreams and being whatever you dreamt of being while others anchor you back down to reality, reminding you that passion does not (often) pay and that sometimes, doing what you love is a slogan best left to artsy Tumblr backgrounds.
In fact, it’s a struggle that I witness daily – the commencement speeches are simply but an annual affair. My Facebook feed often turns into a warzone at times – an acquaintance would bring up an article about how following one’s passion is a lie that earns you no substantial income while another friend would passionately write a monologue of how their passion has kept them continuously going. There’s a general sense of discontent that seeps through my Facebook newsfeed, from one meandering post to the next, all of us trying to distil a point out of this constant banter. More often than not, this constant back to forth occurs between the maligned millennials – the ones allegedly without a singular direction or purpose.
According to good ol’ reliable Wikipedia, the term “millennials” generally refer to those born between 1985 and 2000 – or those born in the years leading up to the turn of the millennium. Think about it: it encompasses a far too large range to be able to pick out a certain trend. Studies conducted on this vague pool of “millennials” often refer to “young people”, often cutting off at a maximum age of 30 years and often going as low as 15. It’s safe to say that we easily qualify under this large umbrella of millennials. And without a questionable doubt, millennials probably stand as one of the universally bashed age group – and often for peculiar reasons. You must have read the accusatory articles which blame millennials from everything possible on earth – from global warming to the state of the London property market to the circus ground that American politics have turned into.
Our generation is one laden constantly by the mistakes of the previous generation, and yet being tasked to solve all of them, as if we possessed a magical wand our elders did not. So we commit ourselves to the endless grind, to the 9 to 5, to the corporate routine that eventually becomes a habit. We fail to realise that it’s only when the job ends, when you get to take a breather and finally immerse yourself in your hobbies that you learn how to breathe properly.
And there lies the struggle and true paradox of our entire generation: we propel the tide of consumerism and yet are the ones increasingly opposed to capitalism. You’re stuck in a soul-sucking job that pays well because your part-time true passion barely even scratches the surface of your exorbitant rent. You have one eye trained on your dangerously low bank balance but yet are unwilling to give up on that girls’ night out you’ve been planning for weeks. You put off buying a house because you’re hyper aware of the hidden costs and are unwilling to contribute to the property bubble but the self-indulgent bachelor pad you’ve spruced up isn’t helping in cutting costs as well.
More than a trap, it’s a maze. And the only way to get out of that maze is to keep on going, to let yourself do the things you love without being perpetually haunted by fears of the capitalist structure. Almost everyone I know is involved in some sort of a side gig. Corporate jobs aside, everyone has serious hobbies or an extra job or even part-timing as an Uber driver that they involved in to keep themselves occupied, to keep themselves fulfilled. Some of my friends do improvisation and hold shows fortnightly. Others draw art as a passion and do so for commission as well. Do they run a living from their side hustles? Well, of course not. But do they get to live through their side hustles? More often than not, the answer is yes.
So don’t be afraid to commit, and over-commit. Don’t be afraid to hustle and be the Jack of all trades. We are only human as much as we let ourselves be – and not living from 9 to 5 for five out of seven days is a routine that will eventually kill us. No, we’ll never get out of the trap but perhaps we can work around it if we invest in experiences rather than materialism, if we focus on the intangible things rather than collecting the tangible.
Perhaps “find a job you love doing” is an idealist cliché best saved for hipster wallpapers, but maybe it’s time we bring it back to humanise ourselves from the robots we are turning into.