You're living my point. Here, it's a pyramid:
- You can be anything you want, baby!
- You can be anything you want, child, so long as you want it enough!
- You can be anything you want, kid, so long as you want it hard enough and apply yourself!
- You can be anything you want, teen, so long as you work hard, get the right grades and line up the correct afterschool activities!
- You can be anything you want, young man, so long as you do nothing else, are in the top 1% of your class, know all the right people and have a rich uncle to pay your bills until you make it!
- You can be anything you want, graduate, so long as you have the education to back it up, the connections to get you the job, the lack of obligations that might distract you from the path and the time to wait until you get your chance!
- You can be anything you want, man, so long as you have a pile of cash from your previous successful career, a bunch of friends who can smooth your path, a family that can take care of itself while also taking care of you and an unlimited amount of time for lightning to strike twice!
The argument of the article, to bring things back to where we started, is that American culture is predicated on the idea that if you do everything right, everything right will happen to you. Mary Roach has a great book called Packing for Mars in which she points out that the average American astronaut spends 20-30 years prepping for a 1% chance of working in space for 20 minutes. Look at it like the Olympics - your entire childhood is spent in preparation for a single footrace. I have a friend who spends maybe $25k a year so that his daughter can do a single 2-minute routine at the nationals.
As we age, we calibrate our goals to our efforts. I am not a Navy SEAL because I didn't want to put in the back-breaking amount of physical labor necessary so that I could exchange my freedom for the right to shoot strangers in the dark. Where you're at is the acknowledgement that the effort you put in didn't accomplish the change you'd hoped.
And I'm sorry. Thanks for trying. Thanks for not studying computer science and going to Google. But please - do me a favor.
Look in the mirror.
We're neck-deep in a philosophical discussion about the meaning of life here because the Wall Street Journal found some normies who didn't want much but didn't get it anyway. You? You're arguing that they didn't deserve it in the first place because they didn't dream richly enough. That's a different discussion and one that we can certainly have but it doesn't change the fact that all these schlubs with their West Hartford split levels are experiencing the exact same jaded disillusionment you are... they just didn't ever intend to change the world.
It's hard to change the world. It's admirable, but it's hard, and many are called and few are chosen, and don't fucking give up on that. Jack Nicholson used to say "it took me 20 years to become an overnight success" because while Chinatown made him a household name, Little Shop of Horrors did not. George Clooney starred in two series called E.R. and in between, he was the lead in Return of the Killer Tomatoes. The bigger you dream the more setbacks you can expect. Period.
But we're here talking about people with truly minuscule dreams. They've settled. Their biggest goal is New Car Smell at some point in their lives. And they're not getting that.
You are expressing big dreams. This is good. This is vital. This is something that took you a while to get to. And you are expressing big frustration that there's sympathy in the world for people whose dreams were curtailed long before they got their diplomas. I get that, too. I bailed on the world of TPS reports about fifteen years ago, but I did it kicking and screaming, and I did it with no safety net, and it was fucking terrifying. I am an accidental success. I know exactly how much fear and caution keeps you in your cubicle.
What you're missing is that in order for you to dream big, a whole nation has to dream small. You are the tip of the spear. You are the NGO mutherfucker venturing forth and making something for everyone else to donate to so they feel like they're contributing a little. You are the adventurer beyond the wall whose tales of daring-do inspire the Walter Mittys of the world. but without a healthy and satiated populace of Walter Mittys, Free the Children Equador has no budget.
Not everybody wants to build schools in Afghanistan and that's okay. The guys building schools in Afghanistan are either (A) independently wealthy or (B) dependent on the fundraising abilities of an army of nebbishes arrayed at their backs. The issue at hand is that you can't even dream of being a nebbish anymore. Your boring-ass computer science gig now includes a third of a million dollars in debt.
In short, those guys who didn't even dream as big as you are facing equal disappointment.
And that is bad for society.