Surfers, Simple Living, & The Future of My Generation

30 08 2011

I learned something new about myself last night:

I shouldn’t watch surf movies with my husband before going to bed.

Hm. When I say it like that, it seems to imply that I had an unfortunate liquid-related incident in my bed last evening. That’s not the case.

To be a bit more precise in my explanation, I shouldn’t watch movies that portray a relaxing, nature-embracing, simple-living kind of lifestyle–one that seems to be favored by most surfers. Because after watching only fifteen minutes of a surf documentary about a surfer and rock climber who took six months off of “real life” in between jobs to explore the world on a sailboat, I was ready to sell everything I own and buy a boat and sail out to Easter Island, like these two did.

Fine–if I’m being honest, I want to hang on to my jewelry, handbag, and art collection. Oh, and my iPhone. That’s it–everything else can go.

It’s interesting, really, to think about living such a simple lifestyle. I think it’s one that my generation will eventually embrace.

I read voraciously, and love studying generational theories (I can thank my program director, Dr. Ross, for introducing me to this topic in college!). From what I’ve read on my own generation–the “Millenials”, or “Mosaics”, as we’re sometimes called–it seems that we’re the most egocentric and entitled, but informed and socially-minded generation in history.

We constantly post status updates about ourselves on Twitter and Facebook (and have the gall to think that anyone actually cares what we’re eating for lunch), a Wikipedia article about anything under the sun is accessible to us at any moment, and we dabble in thousands of different interests at once.

At the same time, however, this is the generation that rethought new ways to contribute to the welfare of the underprivileged, as evidenced in companies like TOMS shoes. We’re the generation that invented a way to make a contribution to others via text message donations, whether it be starving children in Africa, AIDs relief efforts, or donations to help earthquake or tornado victims. And we think nothing about spending extra on bottled water or kitschy t-shirts, if it helps others.

We’re also under more pressure and balancing incredibly heavy expectations, compared to any other generation in history. I feel dizzy when I think about the pace of my day-to-day schedule–and it’s nothing compared to the bevy of activities I was handling in high school and college. 18-hour days crammed with multi-tasking every moment until my head hits the pillow at night have been a constant since I was fourteen.

And it’s only gotten worse, as I look at the students I work with. They simply can’t keep up with their increasingly demanding schedules.

You know what sort of comments I’m hearing from today’s teenagers?

“I hate texting. I hate keeping up with everyone all the time and always having to respond to them. I hate that stupid dinging, that tells me that someone wants to talk to me. I wish I could just get rid of my cell phone for good.”

“I’m so over Facebook. I’m sick of watching everyone pretend like they’ve having the time of their lives, all the time. It’s just a brag-book. I hate it.”

“Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be Amish? I mean, to just live simply and provide for yourself and not worry about anything else? It must be great.”

I’ve read that every generation rebels against their parents’ generation. It seems to hold true–the Baby Boomers definitely stood for the exact opposite of everything that their parents embraced and instead turned to mystical influences, free love, and relaxed and fluid lifestyles. And, in turn, their children chased status and wealth and stability in their careers. Just look at the rise of labels and Wall Street in the 1980s alone–that gives you a picture of what they craved.

So, what will our generation rebel against? What will we look like in the future, and how will we affect the world?

Maybe, as history unfolds, it will prove me wrong. But I think that this fledgling generation will give up status and wealth and success in favor of living more simply.

I think we’ll rebel against our frantic childhoods, crammed chock-full of piano lessons and football practice and student council meetings and find our stride in embracing just a few activities we really enjoy as adults.

I think we’ll see more and more people giving up the idea of owning a massive home and a closet full of designer clothes, and living like the surfer and rock-climber in the documentary I watched last evening–where, instead of saving money to splurge on tangible “status items”, they’ll choose to invest in intangible experiences like traveling the world on a boat.

I think this generation will care more about connecting with friends and family than having thousands of friends on Facebook. They’ll give up the concept of texting dozens of people at once, and will instead choose to share their lives fully with a select few.

I think this generation will give up the idea of conformity in a corporate-based world, and will instead celebrate diversity as they unite in their beliefs that we’re all out there to help each other. Don’t forget–we’re the kids that grew up with teamwork ingrained in our very souls from infancy, as we ran laps together for soccer practice and shared Valentines and cupcakes with everyone in grade school. Individuality will be less important, because the overriding idea will be that we’re all one big team. Hence, the passion for social justice and the idea that we should take care of everyone on this planet.

I think our short attention spans will influence everything around us, from television shows to literature to trends. But I think we’ll enthusiastically bounce from one thing to another, and a plethora of newness will spring from our generation, as people throw themselves into something they truly love and are inspired to do, no matter what sort of paycheck it affords them at the end of the month.

Of course, the inevitable outcome is that our children, someday, will rebel against us.

And thus, the chain of history continues.

To paraphrase one of the insightful comments I heard from the surf movie I watched last night, “The greatest lesson in history is that men never learn from the lessons of history.”

I think these surfers definitely had that right.

And if they had that right–then maybe they’re right about this whole “live simply” idea.

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One response

3 09 2011
Dan O'Day

Some prophetic stuff in here….

It’s nice to hear something positive about a generation coming from the Church for a change. Granted, every generation has their failings, but each also has its own unique strengths. I hope this comment finds you well 😉

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