Does the title of a first blog entry set the tone the subsequent posts? I fervently hope not, because this first post is a rather contemplative, melancholic entry.
“The young, the lonely, and the inarticulate” is a phrase in Joan Didion’s Slouching towards Bethlehem that resonated with me. It’s not that I particularly liked the book. In fact, I have not finished it and I don’t really plan to. Other than one disturbingly beautiful yet unnecessarily woeful chapter defending her choice – or rather, visceral need – to keep writing in notebooks, I sadly could not relate to other anecdotes, characters, and references. As I had somewhat high expectation on the book, this put me into self-doubt mode, as often the case when I don’t feel like finishing a supposedly good book. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to understand it. Maybe I need more practice reading essays. Maybe I quit too early. Well, I think of all of these frequently. But I console myself with a thought that at the end of the day, if life if ever is too short for anything, it’s for books I don’t enjoy.
Now, going into explaining the context or the period of time in which Didion used this phrase is likely not beneficial. I am using three adjectives in isolation, imposing on them my own meaning, relating to them without regard to the author’s original intention. After all, what other three adjectives may identify millennials betters? Even though I, like many other in my socioeconomic group, suffer from the same acute, illusory yearning for uniqueness in my character, a sense of singularity in my whole being…begrudgingly, I feel like I have to admit to myself that when you meet me at any given point in my life since adolescence till now, I would be characterised rather appropriately with one (or more) of these three adjectives.
There was an incident that perfectly evidences the aforementioned statement, occurred few months back. It was the first face-to-face encounter with a new client with whom I had corresponded probably once or twice. The client looked at me from head to toe while we shook hands, unable to hide the bewilderment, or disbelief, or contempt, or any other emotions that compelled someone to produce such demeaning facial expression. The client then unsurprisingly chose to converse exclusively with a senior colleague of mine. After about only five minutes, the discussion took turn into to their company’s doubt on our company’s extensiveness of experience and expertise, given the relative infancy of the enterprise and of the employees.
“I mean, look at you,” the client let out subtle sigh and smirk while looking at me, a perfect example , “you’re too young to even be in this discussion.”
Urgh. Those young’uns.
While I would congratulate myself for maintaining a professional attitude, I can’t shake off the feeling that my muteness was mostly attributable to the initial shock of being at the receiving end of such statement, rather than as a testament to my mature emotional composure. Worse still, I didn’t put forward any word or action defending my youthfulness or my overall general existence there either, embodying The Inarticulate.
I did not expect that during that encounter itself anyone would come to my rescue, especially not a colleague. If I ever get placed in that kind of scenes again in the future, I still won’t and can’t hope for any comrade’s support (I wish by then I will have built up enough ammunition of quick wits to equip me precisely for these situations). Even so, I cannot deny that at that very moment of the incident and some moments afterward, The Lonely had taken over me.
There are more offense and pain that come with being associated with The Young than it is with The Inarticulate and The Lonely. In a way, the latter two are self-produced and reactive, direct results from being labeled as The Young. I have control over both: I can work towards defending myself better. I have since come to embrace and derive pleasure from certain solitude, while still trying to maintain and expand human connections that are worthy preserving.
But The Young is different. It is a throwaway identity affixed on me by others, and in this case plastered on me with a degrading connotation. Ironically, feeling young is something that I cannot remember ever truly experiencing (not in substantial level, that is). When I said before that this word may appropriately describe myself at many random points in my life so far, it has more to do with actual youthfulness in my appearance, cognitive ability, temperament, and social conducts. But the soul – if it indeed exists as a separate entity from the body and mind, mine is definitely not young and never was.
And while I sometimes envy those that represent The Young in positive light – their seasons in the sun, decibel level, carefree attitude, and naiveté… They always seem at least few light years away from me. I can’t say I have come to accept the ‘me’ who never identify with youthfulness – how can come accept something I have never rejected? How can I, when I have unconsciously been molding myself into The Adult long ago, before I even discovered the allure of The Young? (Whether or not I will succeed in this ‘molding’ process is another matter altogether – I may never fully be The Adult, but again, who is?)
At last, I want to kick off this blog with an expression of hope that the time will come sooner rather than later when I am disassociated from those three labels. And the hope that I will abandon this style of writing in favour of a more engaging one.
In the meantime, my quest for The Adult, The Accompanied, and The Eloquent shall begin.
Jumbled and sincerely yours,