I celebrated my birthday in New York this past weekend, an occasion which lends itself to talking about all the ways in which our worldviews have evolved as we logged more laps around the sun.
When we’re young, we expect to design our lives according to certain blueprints. Hence my somewhat-ironic verbing of the noun ‘architect’ in the title. I’ll save a more in-depth diss track for this saccharine pile of hashtags later.
Up to a certain point, these blueprints are somewhat accurate.
We graduate from high school, then college, and maybe grad school. We then move to ‘the city’ – wherever that might be – and endure the indignities of whatever entry-level job we copped to make our debut into adult life.
We spend a few years single, or, at least, unmarried, while we navigate the finer points of self-discovery: how much cheap tequila can we consume at happy hour before running the risk of becoming that sick passenger on public transit the next morning, perfecting the roommate interview, discerning the optimum amount of produce to purchase so that bushel of heirloom tomatoes doesn’t metamorphose into a bag of sludge we unearth three weeks later.
We figure out how not to get ripped off in taxi cabs when we visit third-world countries. We learn to drink for the taste, not just for the effect. We discover that sparkling white wine pairs well with fried chicken, but we also learn (perhaps the hard way) that our prissy book club friends won’t eat it if we serve the chicken without first removing it from its sad cardboard containers. Plate it! On a bed of decorative lettuce! And tell them it’s from ABC Kitchen! Not from that knockoff KFC on Avenue C that Yelp reviews lauded as the “MJ of Hood Chicken”! You can’t get members of the Colony Club to eat Hood Chicken!
Then, we end up in a relationship. After a few months of to-fart-or-not-to-fart, we realize we’re sick of rolling sans plus-one to, say, The Young Fellows Ball at the Frick Collection and decide to make a go of it. After enough of our sorority sisters/grad school cohorts/ex-roommates opt for legalization, we signal our impending nuptials to the world with a diamond ring, because nothing demonstrates romantic commitment like a clear hunk of carbon with negligible resale value.
Along this evolution, we also started to consider commuting to work as one of those grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it parts of adulthood, much like regular exercise or mortgage payments. For some, a commute is unavoidable. An OB-GYN cannot deliver babies remotely, nor can Broadway stars perform anywhere but on their stage.
But, for the rest of us who perform most of our daily tasks on a computer, how necessary is a commute? From a few friendly conversations with old friends, I learned that it’s not just wanderlust-stricken freelancers that crave the remote life. A single father with three children shared with me how he recently started his own consulting practice, which would grant him the flexibility to be both breadwinner and caregiver. Another friend in the middle of a job transition disclosed that she wouldn’t consider any role that wouldn’t allow her to at least work remotely on Fridays.
A February 2017 article penned by The Independent defined Generation X as the work-hard, play-hard generation:
We walked around with phones the size of rucksacks and sent the first halting text-messages. We knuckled down and worked hard and now we write books and make TV and direct movies, we get up early to go to work, we come out in the middle of the night to fix your burst pipe…. Generation X was breast-fed punk and invented indie, and grunge, and techno, and any bloody musical genre of worth that you care to name. We transformed the Eighties and we owned the Nineties. We had alcopops and ecstasy and we were fearless and stupid and happy, but we still got up for work on Monday morning, no matter how bad we felt.
Gen X wore it as a badge of honor to get up early for work on Monday morning and slog through a soul-breaking commute to endure 9 hours a day surrounded by four taupe walls. And despite the transgressive contents of their breastmilk, they’re likely the same people who co-opted Iggy Pop’s drug anthem, Lust for Life, to hawk cruise holidays on Royal Caribbean.
Or, has something been lost in the transition to a more advanced age?
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