Running the Rat Race


Depending on the situation I was faced with,  individuals from the previous generation have looked at me with alternating expressions of pity and wistfulness. Pity because society has accelerated the pace of life to near breakneck speed and wistfulness because of the opportunities now open to the youth to pursue any number of career and life paths.  Yet beneath both looks, there lies an undercurrent of fear and apprehension for the young persons who now have to navigate through a world overrun by challenges and pitfalls left over from the glory days of generations past.  This last emotion is what best encompasses the life awaiting today’s youth.

If we look at any aspect of life today, we will realise that being young requires us to have a certain level of naivete and hope for the future while being very aware of reality and all the soul crushing disappointments that await us.  We are encouraged to enjoy our youth for when it is gone we will never have it back, yet simultaneously we are told to plan for the future and remember that what we do now will determine what kind of life we will have later on.  The young are pushed to break all previous records of intellect, initiative, sportsmanship, diplomacy and tolerance while still being a ‘kid’ and not forgetting to have fun.  Yet the youth who ‘have fun’ are accused of being lazy, unfocused, unambitious, delinquent and a liability for their parents, communities and countries.

In some states a 16 year old can legally procreate, but any student/young person who becomes a parent at that age will bear the stigma of that decision to their dying day.  At 20 we find young people who have completed undergraduate and even graduate studies; but these same youth do not know the first thing about taking care of themselves or functioning as a member of society. We push the young to be married with families by 25, but shake our heads in disappointment when they are unable to achieve this as well as complete a full university degree and possess all the material comforts of a ‘successful’ life.  The youth are also expected to not only complete a university degree, but to have 5 years work experience in their chosen field as well being involved in a veritable smorgasbord of extracurricular activities and interests which they are aggressively pursuing before their first entrance into the working world.  We expect the youth to have a plan for the future and possess a picture of what they want to be at age 30, 40 and 50, while still remaining open to any opportunities which may present themselves.  The expectations of life and those who came before us, have left the youth with little space for being themselves, making their own decisions and living the life they choose.

Youth are faced with a collapsing eco-system, over population, restrictive and antiquated policies, wars they neither understand nor wish to fight, and ideologies which go against the very essence of what is needed in the world today.  In short, the youth are asked to create their own glory days by fixing the negative consequences of the actions of their forefathers; and they are expected to do so before they are even considered ‘adults’.  Growing up, the young are sometimes overwhelmed by a feeling helplessness and terror. They feel stretched and pulled in so many directions that when they come to their senses they have lost sight of who they really are.  They find themselves in a constant deluge of society’s expectations and requirements; thwarting all their efforts at floating or swimming, dragging them along life’s currents and carrying them to situations they had fervently hoped would never be their reality.

Generations before may yearn for the possibilities now open to us, but they do not factor in that the open pathways are only available to some but the need to earn a high income, and be ahead of the rest is a burden for all.  In the end, many are just surviving, no longer dreaming. Some simply following the paths which will land them the highest grossing positions while others put on an armor of apathy and acceptance that this is as good as life is going to get.  Others are fighting, struggling against the odds stacked against them and daring life to pry their dreams from their firmly clenched fists.  But whichever way you look at it, today’s rat race has sunk into the very marrow of our youth and taunts them with every step they take; leaving them to question the very meaning of life and their role therein.

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