08 March 2016

Power To The Young

Have you ever noticed that in all those Buzzfeed articles and other assorted Facebook-clogging 'news services' posts, they always emphasize it when someone is young?

'Amazing Six-Year-Old Sings Adele Better Than Adele.'

'Worldwide Ocean Cleanup Project Headed Up By Twenty-One-Year Old.'

'This Kid's Eminem Cover Is The Most Inspiring Thing Ever.'

Why? Why are you only good at something if you're young, if you're a prodigy?

This has been eating away at me for some time now.

See, the thing is: I'm not that old. I'm still in my early twenties. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I have another sixty or so years to go on this planet. So why do I already feel so much like a has-been that I actually have flashes of suicidal thoughts? What in the world would possess an intelligent and fairly skilled college-educated twentysomething with a close family and a good group of friends to even have the passing thought of suicide?

I feel irrelevant. Like I'm too old to be of any use to anybody anymore. I don't want my name on Buzzfeed or any of those other crappy 'news' sites (then there would definitely be some suicidal thoughts going on), but I want to be needed. I want to be able to touch people's lives. But I'm already too old. I expected to feel this way when I'm in my sixties, not my twenties. I literally just got out of school and already I'm useless. I haven't even had a chance to prove myself yet. I have nothing to grow into. My life is already over and I never got the chance to live.

Please... stop perpetuating this culture of 'only the young can be good at anything' and 'only the young are worth our time.' The young haven't had time to develop and perfect their craft and/or skills. The old have been toiling for years and know exactly how to get the results they want -- but they've already been silenced. We as a culture don't give them that chance. They have one shot of shallow brilliance at age seven and then we cast them aside before they get the chance to really grow into their promise. Look at... yes, I'm bringing him into this... Terry Scott Taylor. This man has been a professional songwriter for forty years. That's twice as long as I've even been alive. And while, yes, his early output with Daniel Amos (Horrendous Disc¡Alarma! Chronicles) was pretty freaking good (unlike most people's early output), you listen to later albums such as Dig Here Said The Angel (2013), the Swirling Eddies' The Midget, The Speck, And The Molecule (2007), or even MotorCycle (1993), and you can't help but notice a rich maturity pervading the entire project -- in the choice of words, in the choice of topic, in the approach to the arrangements, the musicianship, the vocal development, the crafting of the mood... everything.

Are we really so embroiled in hipster culture that we all want to be the first to discover the next Mozart and therefore are trying to promote younger and younger people in an attempt to say 'I knew of them first'? What does it do to the kids whose skill you're exploiting before it's ripe? What does it do to the older and truly accomplished who are consistently ignored? What does it do to normal twentysomethings like me who already feel like there's nothing left for us to give and so we might as well just give up everything?

Everybody loses.

And maybe this is why art is, in general, in such a deplorable state. There's no maturity, only tricks and explosions. And when art suffers, so does society.

Everybody loses.


Anonymous said...

You make some very good points--of course I agree with them (shocking, huh?). Our culture is so obsessed with celebrating the young and in doing so they disregard the older, wiser people in society. It's really quite backwards to a lot of other cultures that show great respect for their elders (and by elders I mean both people who are senior citizens and also people older than themselves).

Sarah-Kate said...

Exactly. And I wonder if this isn't (part of) the reason why the suicide rate is SO high in cultures like ours (or even things like depression or self-harm and other addictions). I mean, if you aren't some kind of hero or star by twenty, your life is over. Why bother hanging around, right?

Piston Baroque said...

I agree with this completely. I'm 26, and sometimes think that I'm too late to do something really awesome with my life. I think we hear about this sort of thing so often because genius twentysomethings are an anomaly, and it's easy to forget that the vast majority are just people like us, trying to find our way. You're not born with greatness; you have to work towards it. It's a process that takes years--decades--but sometimes it feels like we're already supposed to be great.

My mom got her Master's Degree at 51, after working towards it for three years. The average age of a NASA astronaut is 40 years old. So we've got some time.

A twentysomething doing great work should be celebrated...but so should a thirtysomething, and fortysomething, a fiftysomething.

Sarah-Kate said...

My point exactly.

(Also, props to your mom.)