I don’t know about any of these things

I am a 24-year-old, college-educated, middle class, caucasian male. I graduated from a private University in 2011 with a Bachelors Degree, and I have a little gold sticker on a fancy piece of paper that says “Cum Laude”. In other words, I went to school, studied hard, worked hard, and received a good education like the millions and millions of others just like me. I am writing this post as a representative of a well-educated, accomplished, and motivated slice of the U.S. population. I am concerned right now because I have come to realize that I know very little about the world I live in. I am preparing myself to become an independent, to move out on my own and start taking care of myself without the safety net of parental guidance. As I ready myself to embark on this fateful journey, I am starting to discover that I don’t really know anything.

Despite my education and social standing, I remain more or less in the dark about a lot of things. Here are some things I do not know about; what is going on in Libya, what an Investment Bank does, how Healthcare works, the problem with Social Security, what is going on with the Housing market, what a Mutual Fund is, the conflict in Israel, the conflict in Iran, the consequences of my own college loan debt on the Economy, and plenty more important issues going on in America and around the world.

 

I am not proud to admit that I don’t understand these things. Some of them I even know a little bit about, but if you asked me to explain them to you I wouldn’t be able to. These are questions I would definitely get wrong on a test. As I have said before, though, I am not uneducated, and I am not ignorant. I watch the 6 o’clock news, I read magazines, I surf the web. I am also interested in many other subjects. I spend my Saturdays watching College Football and I study the BCS Rankings like a pollster studies election results. I could recite to you the history of Dave Matthews Band without taking a breath. I could effortlessly rant for twenty minutes about why Tom Brady is better than Peyton Manning. I know all of the details of the Lance Armstrong case. I  know far too much about Kim Kardashian. I can name off the top of my head, less than two days after the story broke, who David Petraeus had an affair with. I know all about Don Draper and Walter White, but please don’t ask me about Bain Capital or the Private Sector.

David Petraeus – The newest household name courtesy of news media.

My question here is, where is the disconnect? Was it our education system, are schools focusing on the wrong subjects? Are we learning too much advanced calculus and not enough current events? Was it on me to take Economics, Finance, Government, and International Business courses as a Communications major? Perhaps, instead, it is the media’s fault. The news media doesn’t report on these issues, they report on scandal, disaster, sensation, and celebrity. Maybe I should be reading Time magazine and watching MSNBC, but I’m not sure that will even help. I have been watching the news for the past two hours and so far I have seen reports on David Petraeus and Hurricane Sandy. Two hours of news coverage dedicated to two topics. As a woman once said in a viral YouTube video, “Ain’t nobody got time for that”, and she’s right.

This is what Twitter deemed most important in 2010. The only 2 news stories were disasters.

In our everyday lives we don’t have time to read about or seek further information on all of these complex issues if they aren’t spoon fed for us. Instead we learn about the things that trend on Twitter and get shared on Facebook. We spend our free time debating sports, listening to music, and watching TV shows. I have learned more about current events by watching HBO’s “The Newsroom” than I ever did by watching the actual news. We live in a technology driven and celebrity obsessed world in which important issues fall by the wayside in favor of the latest sex scandal, celebrity breakup, or slanderous political statement. As I become an adult and head out into this terrifying “real world” I’ve heard so much about, I am doing so with a paper thin knowledge of real world issues and a rock solid understanding of pop culture. I am concerned about which information I will be calling on in a few years time and I am worried it will be the former. I am worried that I am going to be scanning bullet lists I find on Google when it comes time to find health insurance, buy a house, or file my taxes. Most of all, however, I’m worried because I know that I’m not alone.

Advertisements

Experience makes the world go ’round

I just finished listening to deadmau5’s newest album “>album title goes here<“. I really enjoyed it for a number of reasons but one in particular was worth actually writing about. Although I’d already heard 75% of the music, which had been published on deadmau5’s soundcloud before the album came out, I felt like I was listening to each song for the first time. Sure listening to a track that has been fully mixed and mastered as opposed to a low quality YouTube rip is going to sound much better, but my enjoyment stems from much more than just better sound quality. The number one reason I liked listening to this album was the experience of it. The fact that I listened to it through headphones rather than computer speakers or my car radio, having no way to escape the sound, forced me to really listen to each track. The track order, album title, cover art all added on to this experience that led to my enjoyment. I won’t go into the all of the details, but I will say that this experience that I had is something that deadmau5 has pioneered and perfected and is one of, if not the main reason why he is the face of electronic dance music today.

Deadmau5 has always preached experience as being the most important factor in marketing oneself and even explained this through the difference between a roller coaster and an amusement park. People will enjoy riding a roller coaster the first and second time, but eventually they will get bored. “What you need is a theme park” deadmau5 says, because a theme park is an entire experience. The reason people listen to music, or watch a movie over and over again is because of the experience they have. It’s what keeps you coming back.

You want people to come to your theme park and feel like they’re a part of this world of yours.

-deadmau5

Furthermore, if we take this beyond just deadmau5 and beyond marketing, into our own lives we find that experience controls just about every aspect of our lives. When I see my favorite artist, Dave Matthews Band, in concert and I hear Dave Matthews screaming into the microphone during “Don’t Drink The Water” I get goosebumps over my entire body. When I go to a Tampa Bay Lightning game and Marty St. Louis expertly guides the puck into the back of the net with an effortless wrist shot, the arena assaulting my senses with the horn blasting, LED screens flashing, and the crowd roaring. When I go to a movie theater and sit in those comfy seats next to a few friends and watch Christian Bale don the Batman armor and race through the streets of Gotham City in the Bat mobile. All of these things are experiences. They are experiences that I remember and that I enjoy and would gladly have again.

Whether we know it or not everything we do is an experience. Of course, that may sound like an obvious statement but some things we experience without really taking the time to understand. An experience separates Applebee’s from a five-star restaurant from a food truck. They are our high school graduation or an awkward moment with a pretty girl. Experiences can be monumental like a wedding night or a baby’s first steps. They can be mundane like driving to work or watching the news. No matter what you are doing at any given time, your senses are taking it in as an experience and pairing that experience with an emotion. Depending on how intense the emotion is that gets paired with the experience often determines whether or not we remember that experience.  This is why holidays such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day are so commercialized. It is about delivering an experience. An experience we now come to expect on these particular days because it is something memorable and a time when we feel something distinct. It is why tickets to a Broadway show or a reservation at a resort are so expensive, because consumers are guaranteed an experience. We are willing to pay to be guaranteed positive experiences because those emotions and memories are important to us.

Anyway, before I get too off track, my point here is this; whether or not something is memorable or creates a distinct emotion in our lives does not change the fact that we are always experiencing these different moments. To use a cliché; life is an experience. Too often people forget this and stop paying attention to these experiences. Life becomes routine and our appreciation for the little things, and even the big things, is lessened. It can be hard to always appreciate the finer things but that’s not even what I’m trying to inspire. What I think is more important is that this ever present experience be always in the back of your mind. Everything we’ve done, are doing, are going to do, is part of this big picture that is our experience. Our amusement park if you will. Remember this fact the next time something really embarrassing happens, or when you’re really angry or have just been dumped. From moments of despair to total bliss it’s all part of the experience. Whether it’s going from track 1 to 16 on deadmau5’s album or going through an entire lifetime, all we can do is try to take it all in and experience it for what it is.

Mr. America

Well, it’s an election year. With Decision 2012 looming large, this means an assault of campaign attack ads, self-proclaimed political experts clogging our Facebook and twitter feeds, and my favorite question in the world, “who are you voting for?”.  The answer to the latter is—and will remain—“I have no idea”, probably up until the moment I enter the voting booth, so don’t even bother asking.  As a matter of fact, this post does not actually have anything to do with politics.  I for one don’t know the first thing about politics and I don’t want to sit here and pretend to while preaching about which candidate I think is better and why.  This post is about elections and the observations I have made during the few that I have witnessed.

In the last election many people, including the candidate himself, made comparisons between Barrack Obama and John F. Kennedy.  Both were charismatic, both were good-looking men, and both were making history just by the simple fact that they were running for President.  However, I believe the connection runs deeper than that.  When Kennedy ran against Nixon in 1960 people forget that he was a significant underdog.  Kennedy lacked experience, he was new and different and controversial.  Kennedy won over the American public by revolutionizing the way presidential campaigns were run.  He changed the format of the debate by changing his camera angle and using makeup to make him look more powerful and more confident than his opponent.  He ran cool television advertisements with a catchy jingle.  His speeches were compelling and he was youthful and energetic.

JFK changed the way candidates appeared on TV

When you compare Kennedy’s 1960 campaign to Obama’s 2008 campaign there are many similarities.  Obama also lacked experience, he was different, and somewhat controversial, all things that his opponents used against him.  Obama, however, did a great deal to help himself.  He too, changed the campaign format forever by using a website to attract small donations from supporters to help raise about $1 million per day for his campaign. He used posters, logos, and slogans that were catchy and trendy.  He had viral hits on YouTube, which gained popularity among the young voters.  Obama was loved by young people, I was in college during the 2008 election and it was impossible not to have Obama fever.  Celebrities visited our campus and gave presentations on his behalf, people skipped class to see him speak at rallies, there were booths handing out Obama stickers, buttons, t-shirts, you name it.  Obama was everywhere.

Obama’s Hope poster was a popular sight in 2008

Contrast Obama to his much older, granted more experienced, opponent John McCain.  Using traditional, archaic, campaign methods—and then trying to contrast his experience and age with the younger, let’s say perkier, Sarah Palin as his running mate—McCain was crushed at the polls.  The rest is history, but it leads me to my next point.  What Kennedy and Obama did was extremely interesting when you look at it from a point of view that is free of political bias.

When I was a freshman in high school we held class elections during the first month of school.  As socially awkward 15 year olds a month into high school, we hardly new one another, let alone who we wanted to elect as class president.  Yet there we were in the auditorium listening to these strange guys and girls preach about how they would lower prices in the school store and how their idea for a 1980s themed dance was not only original, but was guaranteed to be life changing.  Then up came some goofy looking kid with a guitar.  This kid sang some song I can’t even remember, about world peace and staying away from drugs; he even had an awesome rhyme at the end.  I don’t need to tell you what happened next.  I can only imagine how the other kids felt upon seeing him get up there with a guitar while thinking to themselves “Well I’m screwed”.

Now there is no doubt that high school elections are nothing more than a popularity contest, and I am in no way trying to insinuate that presidential elections are popularity contests.  That being said, you can certainly feel for Nixon when he watched that first debate again and saw Kennedy with his cool hair and tan skin and thought to himself, “Well I’m screwed”.  Then again in 2008 when McCain saw Obama’s fancy website and campaign posters and YouTube videos and thought to himself, “Well I’m screwed”.

The fact of the matter is, although presidential elections are an extremely important matter in our country as well as the rest of the world, they don’t have as much to do with politics as one might think.  Sure Democrats are always going to vote for Democrats and Republicans for Republicans, and then those crazy people who get bent out of shape no matter who’s running.  For the majority of voters, however, politics is not even in the picture.  The candidates will give speeches regarding stances on issues using words even the highly educated can hardly comprehend and if they can, who’s to say the candidate will keep to his word anyway?  No, a lot of voters don’t know and won’t bother to know what they’re in for when they elect a candidate into office in November.  Thus the reason why presidential campaigns are the way they are.  Campaigns must appeal to everyone, not just those who understand the politics behind them.  This is what makes the Kennedy and Obama campaigns so interesting, they were able to appeal to a larger audience using unconventional means, which eventually accomplished their goal: to win the election.

I understand this post may be blasphemous to some of you and thus the reason for my disclaimer at the beginning and my restating it here that this is not a political rant and I am not a political commentator.  It’s just interesting, is all that I’m trying to say.  You may disagree with me on all of this.  In fact, most of you probably do, but then again that’s why we write our opinions in the first place isn’t it?

Let go of the Hand

” If you are not willing to risk the usual you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

– Jim Rohn

First off let me just start by thanking you for reading my blog, you have many choices when you blog and I am honored to have you as a customer.  Second, I would like to make one thing clear right off the bat; I have not entered the blogosphere so I could add my two cents about the most recent twitter war between Kanye and one of the Kardashians.  I am not here to argue about why Tom Brady should be crowned King of the Universe, however true that may be, this is not Us Weekly or Sports Illustrated so you won’t be getting any of that stimulating analysis here.  This is a blog for intellectual thought and social commentary and whatever else is on my mind at any given time.

Now, with introductions out of the way, let me get to writing my first post.  You may have noticed two things before reaching this point, one being the title of my blog: “Couch Surfing Chronicles” and the other being the title of this post: “Let go of the Hand” and there are reasons behind both.  For those of you who don’t already know me, and some who do, I spent the first year after graduating from college hopping between apartments, my old house, my new house, and friend’s couches.  I have lived in Boston, Tampa, and Raleigh since July 2011.  This may not seem overwhelming if not for the fact that the majority of that time I was not sleeping in my own bed.  While I was in Tampa I lived in the living room of my friend Chris’s one bedroom apartment and spent my days, nights, and weekends on his sectional.  I did this in order to cut down on living expenses while I worked an internship with the hope of earning a job that two months later I would quit for reasons which are neither here nor there.

This experience has left me with a new understanding of the “real world”.  This mystical place that was preached about in the college lecture hall and manifested by the media.  This understanding of the “real world” brings me to the title of this post.  While in college I was a Founding Father of the Iota Lambda chapter of Delta Tau Delta fraternity.  People always ask me why I joined a frat, which is a word that makes me cringe to even write.  You wouldn’t call your country a cunt after all would you?  My answer is always difficult to explain but I like to believe I joined a fraternity not only to make friends on my campus, but to help prepare me for life after college.

One of the most important lessons I learned from fraternity life came early on at a Division Conference when one of the alumni gave a speech about the difference between Generation X and Generation Y; the Millennials, my generation. Generation X was a nightmare on paper.  They were a generation that, as a whole, partied too hard and didn’t concentrate nearly enough on what was supposed to be important, like school and their careers.  However, when Generation X graduated they were able to break into the job market and become successful with more ease than anyone had expected given their wild behavior.  The Millennial generation is the Yin to Generation X’s Yang.  Us Millennials work extremely hard at the important stuff, we’re straight-laced, motivated, and career driven.  We are making all the right moves except for one major flaw, and that is when we graduate and go out in search of jobs we are failing miserably.  The experts equate this to one thing; we are too used to having someone hold our hand.

The Millennial generation has grown up a bunch of sissies, myself included.  Throughout our lives we have always had someone showing us the way and making sure we didn’t get hurt.  We are a generation of trophies for 5th place and helicopter parents.  We grew up with moms and dads doing our science projects for us because it would be too upsetting to receive a poor grade.  We went to school where teachers and professors and advisors told us what to do and when to do it.  We are good at taking orders and following directions.  We like to be told what to do because it is easy.  The only problem is that in the real world all of this hand-holding ends.  There is no one who is going to guide an adult through life telling him what steps to take and making sure he doesn’t make any mistakes along the way.  The real world is exactly that, it’s reality, not reality TV.  A director doesn’t yell cut when you don’t pay rent on time, and mommy and daddy can’t do your job interviews for you.

The Millennial generation is a generation full of entitlement.  Millennials believe they are owed a job, and an apartment, and a perfect life.  They have a right to these things because their whole lives they have been told they were the best even when they weren’t.  Now all of a sudden, the economy isn’t great, jobs aren’t growing on trees, and we don’t know what to do because we have never truly faced adversity.  Well I have an idea on how to fix all of this, go do something.  Stop waiting to be shown the way and take a risk. Go live on a couch and let yourself fail, for once.  Who knows you might surprise yourself and succeed.