Young Man Blues

But you know nowadays, it’s the old man

He’s got all the money

And a young man

Ain’t got nothin’ in the world these days

-Mose Allison

THE SIGN

(originally published on Xanga August 21, 2012)

Walking through the city I see a lot of things that might strike one as “unusual”. In general, I pay no attention. The other day, however, I developed bit of an inquiring mind upon the sight of a certain scruffy lad I came upon outside of Ogilvie. There was a sign hanging from a lanyard around his neck which read, in block letters, “I AM DEPRESSED”.

“That’s an interesting sign you got there,” I said.

“Yeah, I figured I should probably be proactive,” he said.

“Oh?”

“I’m prone to depression and I thought it might be a good idea, when it gets bad, to wear the sign. That way people will better know how to act around me.”

“I see. So, let ‘em know that you’re feeling low so they can adjust their personality accordingly.”

“Yeah. I realize that when you’re depressed you really have to put yourself first but I’ve always been the kind who always thinks of others, which is probably part of the problem. Anyway, I think it’s important to let people know where I’m at and if I act irrational or inappropriate they need to consider what I’m going through at the time.”

“I’m sure they appreciate the warning.”

“Yeah but there’s always a few self-centered assholes out there who refuse to see where I’m coming from.”

“Well I guess sometimes you just have to accept the bad with the good. In the end you can’t change how other people think about you, just how you think about them.”

“There’s nothing to change. They’re selfish assholes who don’t see that I fucking hurt.”

“Well, I can see that you hurt and I’m sorry.”

“Thanks man.”

“So what’s gotten you so down? What are you so depressed about these days?”

“What’s not to be depressed about man? The polar ice caps are melting. Millions of children go to bed hungry every night. People are dying everyday cuz they ain’t got health insurance and can’t get medical care. The Republicans have declared war on women, the poor, and the gays while making sure the richest 1% of Americans don’t have to pay their fair share of taxes. Crime is out of control. Gun violence is everywhere cuz people can’t let go of some outdated bullshit some stupid old men wrote into the Constitution hundreds of years ago – stupid old men that owned slaves, mind you. And the economy is fucked cuz Bush got us into some stupid war over oil then de-regulated the financial sector and gave all sorts of tax breaks to corporations who sent all the jobs overseas.”

“That seems like a pretty heavy burden you’re carrying on yourself. I try to take life day-by-day and not worry too much about the things I can’t control.”

“Yeah well, I wish I could. I guess I just care too much.”

“There is a difference between caring and being so obsessed with the state of the world that you let it ruin your everyday life.”

“Maybe but I wouldn’t know. My parents never taught me things like coping skills. All they ever did was order me to do this and do that –  ‘take out the trash’, ‘clean your room’, ‘do your homework’, ‘get a haircut’, ‘go to bed’, ‘do better in school’. It was a total power trip for them. Instead of raising me with love and understanding and tolerance it was all about rules and conformity. No wonder I grew up so fucked-up.”

“Well I think everybody can pretty much relate to that. Growing up we all reach that point where we see our parents as a real hassle but when we get older we realize it’s because they loved us and they wanted us to be safe and to instill in us the sense of discipline that we need later in life.”

“No man, you don’t understand. They were total fascist assholes. Let me tell you, when dinner time came around and they called for you, your ass had better be at the table in the next couple of minutes or there’d be Hell to pay. It didn’t matter if you were in the middle of a video game or your favorite TV show or chatting with your friends on Facebook. As soon as dinner was ready you were expected to be in the kitchen and ready to eat. That might not have been so bad on the nights when dad ordered out for pizza or when mom was bringing home McDonald’s but on the nights we were having meatloaf or liver . . . And God help you if you didn’t eat every last bit of broccoli. You could sure as shit forget about dessert. That shit just ain’t normal.”

“I guess you can at least be grateful you weren’t one of those kids going to bed hungry every night.”

“Fuck that shit. I probably would have been better off if I was.”

“I’m sorry for all you’ve had to suffer.”

“Believe me,” he said, “you don’t know the half of it. Pray to that god that doesn’t exist that you never have to go through the kind of shit that I’ve gone through.” He then rolled-up his sleeves to expose a series of scars, scabs, and lacerations up and down his arm. “These are the scars of my pain,” he explained.

“You attempted suicide?” I asked naively.

“No man, I cut myself.”

“You cut yourself? On purpose?”

“When you have my kind of pain sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“It’s like when that razor tears into your skin it takes all that pain that’s built up on the inside and moves it to the outside where it’s easier to deal with. It’s like you bleed it out.”

“Wow, that seems pretty extreme.”

“Maybe but there aren’t a whole lot of options for someone like me. These scars also serve as a kind of warning.”

“Oh?”

“They say ‘I hurt and you better notice or there’s no telling what I might do.’ ”

“I see. So, do you work?”

“Work? How the fuck am I supposed to get a job the way things are now? The greedy, piece-of-shit, douche bag, one percenter CEO’s have outsourced all the jobs to India where they can pay people three cents an hour then make millions off their labor.”

“Well I’m not quite sure they’ve outsourced all the jobs. I mean I ride a train every morning that’s packed with people on their way to work. They’ve managed to find jobs. Have you applied many places?”

“I gave up on that shit a long time ago. When I graduated the only things I was getting callbacks on were for shitty call center jobs for like thirty grand a year.”

“Odd, I used to think call center jobs were the ones they tended to outsource. You know though, thirty grand ain’t really a bad place to start. It’s certainly more than I started at straight out of college.”

“That was a long time ago when the dollar was worth a lot more.”

“It wasn’t all that long ago. I mean I’m only in my thirties.”

“That’s pretty old dude. Anyway, I actually got an offer that was for a little more but they wanted me to move to Overland Park, KS. Can you believe that? Who the fuck wants to live in Kansas?”

“I’ve been to Overland Park and it’s actually a pretty nice town. It’s also really close to Kansas City which, grant it, isn’t quite the metropolis this place is but it’s a decent size city and you can definitely find lots to do there during your off time. And the cost of living is pretty low. Rent would sure be a lot cheaper than here so your salary would actually go a lot further. Of course it might be difficult to get the money together to cover your moving expenses.”

“No, they were gonna pay for all that shit. I was almost ready to throw in the towel and go for it too but I fortunately came to my senses. When they told me I had to take a drug test I basically told them to go fuck themselves.”

“Most employers these days are pretty strict about that whole drug-free workplace thing.”

“I wasn’t gonna be doing any drugs in the workplace but, after a long day, you bet your ass I’m gonna spark up a bowl or two and frankly it’s none of their business what I do outside of work. That shit should be illegal.”

“Marijuana is illegal.”

“No, I mean telling someone they have to test negative for weed before they’ll hire you. It’s discrimination. Oh, and they also had a dress code. Can you believe that? They wanted me to wear a jacket and tie to talk to people on the phone!”

“Yeah, a lot of companies are moving towards business casual but there’s still quite a few that expect to you to dress up for work.”

“Fuck that shit! Steve Jobs didn’t wear a suit and tie and neither will I!”

“I see. So, um, what did you go to school for?”

“I got my Bachelor of Science in Human Sexuality.”

“I bet that was an interesting program of study. Especially the lab work.”

“Yeah. My dad was really trying to push me into something like accounting or engineering but I wasn’t interested in that shit. I wanted to choose something I actually like. Like that old saying goes, if you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life. I really like sex, ever since I lost my my virginity – even before, so that seemed like the perfect major.”

“I see. I guess the market for human sexualogists really took a nose dive though when the economy went bad.”

“That’s ’cause Americans are so fucking sexually repressed. It’s really pathetic. Over in Europe they laugh at us over that shit. Laugh at us!” With annoyed, rather than humored tone, he uttered “Ha-ha.”

I looked at my watch and noticed the time. “Looks like I’ve got to get back to the office,” I said. “It was good talking to you. You really gave me a lot to think about.”

“Glad I could help you understand my pain.”

I came away from the encounter I had with that fella outside the train station that day a changed man forever. For the first time I felt there really was no god for, if there was, this young man surely would not have been born into such suffering.

A lot of people view the current generation as nothing more than self-entitled crybabies and slackers. I too, at times, have fallen prey to this misconception. The reality, however, is that young people have a lot to be depressed about these days. They didn’t have it easy like us Gen. X’ers or the babyboomers before us. They grew up with an American dream that promised them everything but delivered on nothing. Many of them were also emotionally scarred by their parent’s unreasonable expectations. As young adults they graduated into a competitive job market that demanded they sell out their individuality in order to procure even menial employment. When they did so, they were generally offered paltry starting salaries while the corporation’s executives took home six and seven figure incomes. Those brave enough to not sell-out found themselves with no employment and under constant threat of having their government assistance stripped from them by right-wing politicians. I thank that god who doesn’t exist that I’ve never had to face the kinds of challenges and hardships that our young people face today. Let us, the fortunate generation who has never had to struggle, turn our thoughts to them and to what we can do to meet their needs.

Life is so demanding

Without understanding

I saw the sign

And it opened up my eyes

I saw the sign

-The Ace of Base


3 Comments

Amen.

Posted 8/21/2012 at 12:25 AM by DrummingMediocrity

holy shit that’s long

i don’t know. i think our generation’s struggling too with their own set and subsets of miseries

but i agree–the young has a load i worry about because i have a young daughter who already takes on so much, feels so much more than i did at her age

Posted 8/21/2012 at 12:51 AM by bonmots

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One thought on “Young Man Blues

  1. Run until it hurts, slow down and wait for the pain to subside, then return to running…..But alas is it the return to stupidity or the runner is convinced that eventually his body will get used to it?

    The body gets used to things to a certain extent. And to another extent sometimes we shelter kids too much from the pain or the sense of wanting to enforce their own discipline?

    I sort of have a discipline to push a point. Some people push too hard in some areas and be more lax in other areas.

    Are the young being rewarded in pushing in certain areas? The amount of sympathy and empathy is hard to measure or quantify but basically the feedback circuit is there, rewarded behavior will cause people to continue to do certain behavior.

    Let me restate what is happening to the current generation: some are lucky to have the right connections and are doing really well. Others are not doing well and are doing the best they can to cope. One nephew of mine, I worry about his status. What good is being a political science major? Probably the makings of a politician which is saying his future is too up in the air.

    How can people determine if the current generation losers are real losers? Do they lack discipline? That quality can be seen if they drop or lose attention quickly.

    Do the loser generation have that “rationalization”? If they have an excuse for everything that maybe the case.

    Send them to a “boot camp” or tell them to join the military certainly looks like the best solution to change a “spoiled” child.

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