Monday, 23 September 2013

Sawing Off The Horn on My Unicorn

I don’t know if I can call my new-found agreement on the Gen-Y issues a matter of hindsight. Technically, I am still Gen-Y and still in my twenties… and still somewhat delusional and spoilt. However, I’m starting to give my more passionate friends a slight eye roll when they get overly-defensive regarding opinions our elders impose about our behaviour and supposed self-entitled mindsets. 

The following thoughts have been developed after many humourous and serious debates following the viral article “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy” – a cute and funny, non-journalistic report of an opinion summarizing one possible reason a certain population of youngsters seem unsatisfied with life. And this would be my not so funny, non-journalistic report of an opinion summarizing why these unhappy youngsters get so justifiably defensive about it (as I once did.) 

I think what helped me calm down about the whole topic was a few key realizations (not all of which I can take credit for – some smart cookies in my life helped me work these out.) 

# 1.  Baby boomers and Gen X are not glowing role models. They made plenty of mistakes on top of all their glorious effort. While we can appreciate the hard work and sentiment of their generations, it’s important to remember they didn’t do it perfectly. With that, we bring to the world a new passion and outlook, and we won’t do it perfectly either. But we will still be contributing to the overall growth of the world – positively and through lessons learned from our mistakes. 

#2.   Grandparents and parents always think younger generations are going to ruin the world as they know it. And they are wrong. Just as their grandparents and parents were wrong. Yes, we will leave small negative footprints on this planet along with the positive development from our time, but all I have to do is point out Hiroshima and the 2008 Financial Meltdown and those older generations can no longer argue they’ve not left significant negative impacts. (I mean this as an  opposition to all the wonderful things they’ve brought to the planet and done for our lives, which is plentiful.) 

#3.   We don’t live in the same economic and social make-up as previous generations, and with such we are adapting to the new ones (hey, guess what – just as our grandparents and parents did!) And if we face it - instead of complaining about how unfair and difficult it is all the time (and without being side-tracked by articles regarding how lazy and spoiled we are) – we will learn from it, grow from it, and come out succeeding with immense growth in wake of this economic mess our parents left. Sorry Mom and Dad, just pointing out the obvious. 

#4.   These articles are making generalizations about the largest population of youngsters who seem to be the most annoying and stand out. It’s like how we make extreme generalizations about a Asians being bad drivers – because nobody notices, comments or looks who is driving when there is a talented driver in front of them (which could very well be Asian.) In the same way, every time these stereotypical characteristics pop-up in a youngster, we notice. Yet nobody stops to point out the youth who have the hardworking, conscientious, reflective natures. If you get really defensive about the whole topic, it might be worth considering how many of these generalized traits actually apply to you. (Hey, only the truth can sting that terribly, right?) 

#5.   While we can blame the previous generations for why we have the mentality that we do, (they are not wrong; our generation does act lazy and spoilt in regards to careers and effort needed to achieve success, and it kind of is their fault we were raised this way,) that finger-pointing gets us nowhere. It’s just another excuse justifying our lack of effort to change our lives. If we really want to show them we are different - and that we can make a change in this world - then we need to take responsibility for who we are regardless of how we became this way. (Admittance is the first step, right?) 

When I re-read the two articles I’ve posted previously on a similar topic, two specific points stood out that I don’t want to let go of. 

#1.  Our lack of self-efficacy: these “Problems-With-The- Gen-Y” style articles constantly tear down our belief in ourselves and our generations ability to create change. They steal our already fragile sense of self-worth and autonomy by painting us all with the same brush. Let me remind you - “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead. 

#2.  Dear previous generations: you can still help. Do not wash your hands of us just yet. You can still participate in the creation of who we are and how we behave by tackling the suffering and disappointment with us. Don’t stand back and tell us what we are doing is wrong; get your hands dirty and help us figure it out. Don’t claim you have never behaved this way; show empathy and remember how you worked your way out of it. Be a source of inspiration and motivation, not of discouragement and negativity. There are those of us just waiting for the right words to set us in motion towards creating a much, much better world…

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Sleep Fast

I was 16 years old and the woman’s words were “Sleep Fast.” It was spoken at a Fraser Institute Seminar aimed at developing successful business practices. A not-so witty way of saying success comes with the sacrifice of some ever-pleasant Zs. Those two words have conducted far too many of my decisions as an adult regarding the importance of sleep. It’s nearly impossible for me to get them out of my head.

Despite a four year education in health and well-being at University which consistently expressed the necessity of good night’s rest, I still practice the “Sleep Fast” method. The times in my life I’ve accomplished the most I generally hadn’t spent a lot of it sleeping. In fact, during my first year of post-secondary studies I adopted a routine of consistent napping as opposed to a solid night’s sleep; essentially, 2 hours of shut-eye when I couldn’t keep my lids up any longer. Yes, it caught up with me and I started to feel a little burnt out and anxious, but I never did get sick like people said I would. I never felt the rope burning at both ends to a point I could not step back from.

Throughout the rest of University, I was adamant I just needed a solid eight hours sleep every night (in light of the gracious advice from others) and somehow it never seemed to be enough. I always felt groggy and lazy. Which brings me to where I am now, a 5-7 hour per night sleeper. Sometimes it’s less; I can function just fine for an entire day on 3 hours without whining about how exhausted I am, without needing to take a nap, and without noticeable compromise to my mental ability. And, to most people’s disbelief, I have way more energy and mental alertness than I ever did during my well practiced sleep routine in University. The days I choose to stay in bed for over 7 hours, I’m taken by that groggy, over-slept, unmotivated nature (what most people claim to experience after 9-10 hours of rest.)

People who are aware of my abnormally short dozing schedule constantly tell me I need to sleep more; that they think it’s the worst thing I can do for my health. An advice piece aimed to twenty year olds I came across in a health magazine stated that not sleeping enough was a definite detriment to productivity – I’m not feeling that.

With such, I face this health-based dilemma: to make a conscious effort in training my body to sleep more, thus reducing my available time to spend working towards my dreams, or continue on my path of so-called destructive R.E.M. patterns risking what is said to lead to poor health.

I look at the people who give me the “sleep more” advice and while I recognize this is extremely judgmental, I don’t know if I want to take advice from them regarding healthy and successful life practices. They don’t appear more balanced or successful. So I look at those who admit they often sacrifice rest for work and play, and in all honesty, they seem better off. They make productive decisions and they appear as healthy, if not more so, than their counterparts (from what I can see.)

The more research I do, I see that more sleep is probably better (but hey, at one time science convinced us cigarettes and cocaine were good for your health, too!) And maybe I just don’t want to. Maybe being tired just doesn’t bother me that much. Maybe I’d rather learn sign language at 4am, or devour an entire novel in one night, or over-schedule my work and social life in replacement of those extra couple hours under the sheets I’m “supposed to” be aiming for. I think my body is so stuck on this new-found, glorious lack of sleep I wouldn’t be able to sleep that much anyway. I'm not saying I'm giving up sleep, I'm proposing that perhaps it's OK, just for now, that I don't spend that much of my time doing it.

I may pay for this one day. In my forties, I may write about regret and naivety regarding how I should have heeded the education and advice given to me in my youth.

Nonetheless, I’m making the bed I lie in. I just won’t lie in that much.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Light, The Voice, & The Sword

I would love to dramatically refer to my under-productive morning as a episode of writer’s block (and use that excuse to spend my day devouring classic American Literature at the beach with a bottle of wine.) However, that would be a lie. Writer’s block is non-existent in my world. I always have something to say. And more than I love talking about my thoughts (no one can argue this), I love to write them. (And how cliché is it to write about writer’s block when struggling with a medium upon which to write? Here I go anyway.) 

Let’s call it what it is: Fear-based procrastination. 

This is new for me - writing as a career, I mean. And while I have some enigmatic belief in my ability to one day be “successful” in my creative work, at the moment I have no proof. And somehow I know that having that proof would still not calm my fears of failure or, well, sucking. 

I know full well that my issue is not isolated to myself or my art. It’s human. More so, defeasible and human. Whether it be a finishing an engineering degree, or training to run your first 10k race, the protraction of the steps needed to achieve such goals is most often linked to fear. If we remove the isolated goals we do not actively desire to achieve at the moment (i.e., that RRSP account you keep meaning to open or the baseboards that need a new coat of paint) and examine only those which excite passion in us, what are our reasons to put them off? Time? Hard work? Laziness? Those excuses are simply that – excuses. And untrue.  

Most often we know what it takes to make our visions become reality, but somehow actively pursuing them becomes a deed worthy of distraction. Why? Fear. And not rollercoaster type fear where your body’s rhythmic senses come into play and adrenaline surges; I’m talking about the less recognizable type. It’s sly, and verges on subconscious. It’s usually based on low self-efficacy and lack of confidence. Or simply put, as mentioned above, fear of failure – what’s the point in trying if I don’t believe I can succeed? 

In my context, I can write for days on end without break under the assumption no one will ever judge my work, or with the understanding that it will not be marked as pass or fail. But the minute I must write to achieve (whether for finances or simply accolades), fear sets in. And I pick up a book. Or call a friend. Or play piano. Or scroll Facebook. 

I’m such a coward. I would love to continue lying to myself as I sit down at the keys and attempt to convert my mind to ink. No one will ever read this. It’s not a representation of me or my work. I’m a phony - not really a writer. I just like to write. Because that’s easy. Because those safely gift wrapped thoughts hold no risks. 

Thus, this very blog I’ve written not out of a “block” or to be cliché, but to combat my fear. To say, “actually, I will write, it will be judged, and it will not stop me.” 

It is the light that shows me the fear, the voice that says “you will not stop me”, and the sword I will forever hold to procrastination's throat.