Editor’s Note: THE NEXT TEN WORDS is thrilled to introduce to you the ridiculously talented and equally charming Renee Brown as our newest columnist. Her space here ‘Moving Rapidly Onward’ will focus on whatever she feels like discussing from a Millenial’s perspective. We know you will truly enjoy her columns.
This column has the intent of being a millennial perspective of sorts. What I am interpreting this to mean is to more closely ponder how people my age feel about things that are happening and how we cope with life given the general challenges of today’s world. Be aware that this will be a sarcastic and occasionally ironic view, because of course everyone my age feels those things when asked how they are doing. We are millennials of course. Don’t forget the avocado toast.
The name of my column, “Moving Rapidly Onward” is a saying my grandpa often says when it is time to change subjects or plod along to another project or task. It is a saying that continues to ring true in many ways.
A bit of background, before we go any further. I am 24 years old and live with my boyfriend, Tyler, and our cat, Desty. I grew up in the suburb of Lakeville, Minnesota with my mom, Robin, and two younger sisters, Nicole and Katelynn. My grandparents on my mom’s side live in Iowa and my aunt and uncle (mom’s brother) live in Arizona. And there you go, that’s my whole blood-related family, or the ones that matter at any rate. I am telling you this because: A) my family is hilarious if you can get past our weird sense of humor, and B) they will likely be written about or mentioned in articles to come.
I graduated with a degree in Communications and Emerging Media with a focus on Journalism and a minor in Fine Arts from UW-Stout, because college seemed like a good idea and being considered an adult straight out of high school was terrifying. But too soon we had diplomas thrust into our hands and everyone was scrambling to find jobs.
Finding a job is it’s own separate story, but being close friends with a bunch of engineers who all had jobs before graduating really put the pressure on. Let’s skip past that story for now. In a nutshell I did wind up with a job, then another, then left those two for a third.
Somehow we wound up in Owatonna and I got my first big girl corporate job, which was never in my plans but the offer of stability was very tempting. There were several things that stood out to me upon beginning this new stage of life in a more professional setting. One of which, besides missing wearing yoga pants and sweatshirts to work, was acclimating to a far more structured environment than any job I’d had before. The other was the way interactions work when passing someone in the hallway.
People at my job like to make eye contact and acknowledge you in some way, so I got used to doing this automatically to others. But if it’s a coworker on your team or someone you interact with regularly, one person will usually say, “Hi, how are you” and the automatic response 99.9% of the time is, “Good, and you?”
It is the polite thing to do, and there are a few coworkers that I have become closer to so we get by with a casual wave knowing we will likely chat later. But those final “good” statements, like that covers all of your feelings summed up into one neat little word… that occasionally drives me insane. Especially since I have this awful tendency to overthink every social interaction that happens on a day to day basis. And when I am not in a super delightful mood it’s not like I would enjoy discussing that in depth with anyone, so I continue to mutter “good” and walk quickly away.
Recently, someone asked me how my day was and I made the mistake of admitting it was not the best.
“Well, when life gives ya lemons,” they said and trailed off, hoping I would agree so we could end the conversation.
This is the part of the column where I admit to everyone my strong dislike for generic phrases, especially, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It is an empty phrase. It has also made me realize the uniqueness of my position because I am far younger than many people at the company I work for, and there is a kind of discord to that at times.
If I were to say that things were not the best to someone closer to my age, they are more likely to say something along the lines of, “Same, homie.” Like, it’s an unspoken but obvious thing when someone is not functioning at 100%. And those who have actually dealt with real problems likely don’t want their depression, anxiety or whatever demons they have be referred to as lemons with which to make a tasty depression lemonade. Mmm. Depressionade.
This is why it’s easier to say nothing at all, or shrug it off and move along. Plus, I am also not the kind of person who wants people at work to know all aspects of my personal life.
But sometimes when you’re hanging out with your best friend, significant other, or family, it’s nice to have a person say, you know what? Yeah. That whole thing you’re dealing with is garbage. I, too, am dealing with garbage that has been thrown my way. Let’s be garbage buddies.
Not that I would ever wish bad things on my friends or loved ones, but there is something to be said about not whitewashing over the fact that everything is not okay all the time, and that in itself is okay to admit. And in this present mode of general anxiety and crisis in our country, it’s easy to get swept up in the corporate world where it is frowned upon to mention your liberal views at work, even if other people think the same thing.
Everyone is going through some kind of garbage situation, and if they haven’t they will. And if they’re past it, then good. I hope life is less garbagey for them in the future. At the moment, my family and I are dealing with some really not super ideal situations, and hey, if we’re going to go through a new kind of crap we might as well get a cake, right?
This is a thing that we have been doing for many years. At some point my mom decided that it was dumb to only get cake for birthdays when cake is available, like, all the time. So we started getting cake to celebrate the less than ideal situations that would arise, like when the car broke down or when general family stress just became a lot to deal with.
We also started celebrating things that most people didn’t celebrate, such as my parent’s divorce (a delicious and memorable cake, and in our case a very big thing to celebrate). Sometimes we would go a few weeks or months and if a higher than normal amount of stressful situations started to pile up, one of us would point out it was time for a cake. It evolved into a reason to
gather together to indulge in something that struck a chord of comfort when we all felt kind of miserable.
A close friend of mine once said, “When you guys told me you DON’T need an occasion to buy cake… that changed my life.”
It makes sense to get a cake to celebrate the good things, but life has a funny way of letting you forget that good things are easy to take for granted while the less ideal moments have a way of digging in deep and making sure you don’t forget them. It is unlikely anyone ever said they were stressed from being too happy.
And it’s probably not actually having the cake, but the concept of giving a crappy situation a better perspective that makes us feel better. So share the cake with your loved ones or take a hot minute to eat a piece of cake on your own. Celebrate your horrible Tuesday and catch up on whatever show you’re binging on Netflix. At it’s core, for me at least, it is a true comfort food that brings both feelings of optimism and nostalgia and has become a weird type of conditioning that forces me to step into a better mindset.
Please note, I am not encouraging everyone to go purchase and eat an entire cake every time something awful happens. It’s still a “treat yo’self” sort of thing, and doesn’t have to be cake. But whatever your thing is, it can’t be used as a crutch because if it was my entire immediate family and close friends would have diabetes.The cake is just a way we found of putting a band-aid on our problems or making crap situations into slightly happier ones. It does not fix them, but it makes us feel a bit more optimistic about moving rapidly on to the next thing.
Renee Brown is a freelance writer living in Southern Minnesota who really does have more interests than being a member of her generation, but you’d have to ask her about that. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JinjahSnap.
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