Stressed Out?

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our mama sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

Millennial neuroticism and nostalgia are perfectly captured in “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots. I realize that it’s an older song (came out in 2015), but lately, it’s been played on the radio every five minutes on every station, and there’s probably a reason for that: we can relate.

As millennials, we’re always getting teased for being that lazy, entitled generation, so why should we whine about being stressed out? All we do is couch-surf and binge-watch the old Nicktoons in our pajamas as we’re munching on avocado toast, right?

In the song, the sources of stress seem to be needing to “wake up and make money” and caring about what others think (also, a lack of mothers to sing us to sleep—instead, we have the Twenty One Pilots). Sounds kind of strange for a famous band that probably makes millions of dollars a year to be whining about having to make money, but at least they’re keeping it real.

As for caring about what others think, these lyrics bother me:

I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink
But now I’m insecure and I care what people think

Indeed, your childish fears do shrink, but they are replaced by different kinds of fears. It’s no longer the monster under your bed: it’s the IRS. It’s no longer being bullied at school: it’s being laid off from work. However, when you’re a child, you are less able to do something about your fears. As an adult, you have a little more control over your own destiny than you once did. (But make no mistake: no one is ever completely in control of anything.)

Feeling “secure” in oneself is supposed to come with age and time, so I’m wondering why the main character in the song is still worried about what others think, more so than when he was younger. Perhaps it’s because of that major stressor affecting millennials: social media and the resulting comparison of oneself to others based on very limited and biased evidence.

My advice to the people my age: Keep doing what you love. Don’t use social media to excess. Find some way to express yourself in a constructive way. Come back to church. Do some soul-searching. We do have a mama to sing us to sleep.

 

Little Ways and Simple Lives

CAUTION: Spoiler alert!

I am a huge fan of Rod Dreher’s column on The American Conservative, and I’ve read a couple of his other books, so when I saw The Little Way of Ruthie Leming at a used book sale, I grabbed it with glee. The book didn’t disappoint. In short, it’s a memoir about Rod’s younger sister Ruthie, who passed away at age 40 from an aggressive form of cancer. Ruthie wasn’t wealthy or famous or “worthy” to be the subject of a memoir in the way that celebrities are, but she indeed seemed to live a saintly life, and the definition of sainthood was what Rod came to grips with throughout the book.

Rod lived a vastly different life from that of his sister; he escaped the small Louisiana town of their childhood in favor of a journalist’s worldly life in the big city. Ruthie, on the other hand, was content to remain in the little town, marry her high school sweetheart, and become a teacher. In a sense, it was like the city mouse/country mouse story from childhood and made readers ponder the question: Is it better to have a “big life” or a “small life”? The answer is honestly either one, just as long as you live according to moral standards.*

As I read the book, I found myself relating to both Rod and Ruthie. On his blog, Rod echoes a lot of my own views on various subjects, but he often comes across as pretentious and privileged. Ruthie enjoyed the simple things in life, as I do, but she didn’t seem to value learning and books in the same way Rod does. The difference between the two siblings reminded me a lot of the division where I live. On one hand, you have the simple Southern people who have lived in North Carolina their entire lives. They tend to enjoy the typical Southern life, which is slow-paced and involves close ties between family and friends. North Carolina natives tend to be good, honest, “salt-of-the-earth” people, but they also can be ignorant or intolerant of anything that goes against their way of life or beliefs. This was how Rod described Ruthie and other Louisiana natives in the memoir—as quite close-minded—but of course, that’s not their fault. That’s how they have been raised and they’re satisfied that way. They are content with what they have and don’t see any reason to broaden their horizons.

The other part of North Carolina is taken over by “Yankees” who recently moved from New York and other Northern states. If you ask the native North Carolinians, the Yankees have totally destroyed North Carolina’s culture with their high-class, fast-paced ways. They’re forcing new roads and highways and homes to be built, which is ruining the environment, and they’re in favor of upscale stores like Whole Foods and niche boutiques that are causing the prices of everything else to go up. Houses are going for outrageously high prices, and who can afford them but the Yankees? Many of the Yankees work in the Research Triangle Park area and tend to be highly educated and current on the latest technologies. Because they’re not native, many of their family members live elsewhere. Thus, family may not seem like it’s as much of a priority to them as it is for the native North Carolinians (but I’m sure it probably is).

I did come from New York, but that was in the mid-1990s when I was a little kid, so I find it hard to relate to the newest wave of “Yankees” who have arrived in my state. I love the native North Carolinians I know, and they do tend to have a better and more fulfilling lifestyle in that they value what is truly important: family and friends. But I, like Rod, tend to get impatient with them because they don’t seem to value education and “book smarts” in the same way that I do. They are very set in their ways. However, I’m constantly aware that my impatience with them may make me come off as pretentious and high-falutin.

Ruthie Leming’s “little way” (i.e., doing small things with great love, also espoused by St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta) is a simple faith that anyone can live by. From what I gathered from reading the memoir, Rod is still coming to terms with this “little way” and how to reconcile it with a world that seems focused on the things that don’t ultimately matter. Like Rod, I have issues with trying to follow the “little way” and reconciling it with what I know (from education and being a native New Yorker) and what I value (from my parents, my religion, and the aspects of the Southern life I admire).

The book can be read for the enjoyable and inspiring (although obviously very sad) story, or for a more in-depth study of culture and faith if you’re the kind of person who, like the author (and me), tends to overanalyze everything.

*What is “morally acceptable” and what is a “good person” are extremely subjective these days. I personally believe in objective morality, but many do not, and that’s a topic for another post.

Thursday Three #40

  1. I found the coolest thing: 4thewords. It’s a combined video game and writing tool. Basically, you write your project on their website, and the number of words you write allows you to create weapons and battle monsters. The only issue with it is that it’s only free for the 30-day trial. If you want to keep using the program, it’s $4 a month, which isn’t too bad. The idea is so cool that I’m actually considering it as a motivational tool.
  2. I’m reading Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis because I had heard good things about his writing (and because I got the book dirt cheap at a book sale). The genre is black humor, which often tends to go over my head, but I have been getting a few chuckles out of it. It’s about a man called John Self* who is (obviously) obsessed with money and (obviously) self-indulgence. The book seems like it’s a critique of the consumerist culture of the 1980s, and its lessons are still relevant (maybe even more so) today. I’d recommend it if you can stand some pretty X-rated sex scenes.
  3. I’ve resurrected an old project because I can’t not write fiction. (Come on, everyone needs a hobby, right?) Lest I jinx myself, I hesitate to say anything more about it, only that I’m really excited about it and hope to one day share it with you on here.

Hope everyone’s projects are going well, and that you’re reading some good books! 🙂

*The really weird thing is that John Self reminds me very much of Harvey Weinstein. It’s kind of creepy.