There were two high-schoolers sitting right behind me—a guy and a girl. It was clearly a date, and the guy was trying way too hard to seem sophisticated. When the food came out he attempted to describe it as though he were an expert, but merely called it “rich” and “decadent” over and over. When my friend Joe Cirotti began playing music, the kid said, “It’s like we’re at a Jazz club in the city,” and proceeded to play air bass. Joe wasn’t playing jazz at all or a bass–blues or folk would’ve been a much more accurate genre to drop.
It was the cutest display of false intellect I had witnessed in months, and it reminded me of myself at that age: an utterly blatant and shameless attempt to seem valuable, classy, and dignified—to seem perfect. But his date was impressed and it immediately provoked thoughts of potential stories, where years later after being married they reminisced about their first date at Sweet Jane’s in Johnsonburg, New Jersey. That thought caused a smile to form on my face and a sense of joy to ooze throughout my mind.
I’ve always been a sucker for love no matter how dopey its origins were, and I’m particularly fond of the stories of those who seemed to have actually found it. Despite both their ignorance and naiveté, I couldn’t help but hope they would find a love that was pure and fulfilling. Granted, I realized it was unlikely. After all, the 21st century youth is not a generation where high school sweethearts turn into soulmates. Instead we are a generation of incredibly disillusioned folks, raised on fairytales and entitlement. We are selfish idealists who seem to believe that if it isn’t perfect for us it isn’t right.
We have failed to learn from the lovers before us that love is not a fairytale, but a hard fought journey. We have failed to learn that love isn’t a coincidence but a process. You find someone who is mostly compatible and you work to accept their quirks that drive you mad. Overall they are a good fit, but they are them and you are you. Love is not about being exactly the same, but being complementary. Where they are strong you are weak. Where you are strong they are weak. You balance each other out. Yet at the same time you are not the person they dreamed of. Instead, you are the person they need.
Unfortunately, we are a generation who is far too short-sighted and stubborn to realize this. We believe in instant soulmates and love at first sight. We believe in the fairytales without realizing that genuine love is not an intense spark, but a fire sustained through maintenance and diligence.
Ultimately, I think we are members of a youth absolutely confused and uncertain of what we want or what we need. Once promised success via a college degree we have learned that it’s not so simple. Many of us do what we must to get by, tied down by loans that won’t go away anytime soon. We are a truly lost generation, at a time when we are the ones the next generation is counting on to figure out this grand mess.
That is an incredible pressure. However, we do not lack any kind of technological or technical knowledge. No, what we lack is humility, selflessness, and a sense of obligation to each other. We have been bred to be the best (to be perfect) even when most of us are far from it. We have been told we can be whatever we want when in reality we can only be what we are. It is up to us to then figure out how what we are can provide value to the world.
Sadly, we have not been taught how to achieve or recognize our own value. Our upbringing has been one focused on the superficial. As a result, it comes as no surprise that in spite of technologies that should connect us we find ourselves more distant from one another than we’ve ever been. After all, there always seem to be a screen between us, a wall—virtual or spiritual—that keeps us from connecting on a sincere level.
It’s no wonder divorce rates are so high. It’s no wonder people suffer from terrible commitment issues. As a society we have become incredibly narcissistic and self-indulgent. We’re quick to fault technology as it has become so personalized it’s easy to point the blame in its direction, but let’s not forget we are the beings that developed it. We are the species that accepted and embraced it. We chose this path because deep down everyone wants to feel significant. They want to feel valuable as though their existence means something. We want to feel as though we’re perfect or great. It’s understandable. After all, life is a bizarre thing with no guarantees other than death. As much as some place faith in an afterlife, there is an undeniable uncertainty about our existence that all humans must accept. And we must accept it whether or not we want to.
That is our bond. The true great unifier. No matter what, we can never be 100% certain about anything because this could all be a hologram, just a complete illusion or a chemically-manipulated hallucination. You would think that would be enough to calm people down, but it’s not. Instead, people find ways to aggressively cling to belief systems that appeal to them on some level. The human desire to believe in something with certitude is incredibly befuddling. It’s something I will never understand. I mean, put yourselves in the shoes of a schizophrenic. The world they believe they live in is drastically different from the world you think you live in. What makes their perception any less accurate than yours?
What I’m getting at is that there’s no surefire formula to a successful or happy life. There’s no formula to perfection. Often, the rare and seldom moments of perfection we do experience are actually imperfect and unexpected. Perfection is not something that can be cultivated. Instead, perfection is random. That’s why it’s beautiful for it is so rare, so unpredictable that it defies basic logic and normalcy. After all, what is common is average—it lies near the middle—which is why I cannot understand how we became a culture that is drawn towards the extremes. Then again, when it comes down to it, maybe the reason we drift so far from the center is because we’re so obsessed with the notion that the elusive state of perfection lies just beyond it.
We forgot that perfection is not something willed by man, but a rare and unexpected surprise from the Universe or Great Force. We forgot that the idea of perfection only exists to keep us searching for the point or meaning of our strange existence. And often in that pursuit we often find ourselves misguided in thinking that perfection is the point. It’s not. The point or the meaning is meant to remain unrevealed—it is something meant for us to discover on a personal level. It is the mystery of life where the real beauty lies. It is that uncertainty and our embrace of it where the truly pure moments exist and where nothing else matters. So do not seek perfection. Instead, seek fulfillment.