I Crave the Absence of Functionality


They never had enough to fulfill  us.

Our parents went to university to escape the factory. But when we came, the factory was gone. We never considered it. And so, the defining choice of our generation wasn’t if we’d go to university. Of course we’d go. The question was–how good would we decide to be at it?

For our generation, education was a duty. Your parents thanked you. Thank-you for being such a good boy. Thank-you for having the discipline to not spend your twenties backpacking through Asia and to do something sensible with your life. Thank-you.

It was much easier than we expected. Walk to the bus-stop for a few years, write essays, and at the end you’d end up, somehow, with a plump house in the middle of leafy urban streets. Our parents believed it. Our teachers taught it.

We bought it. We bought a lot of it.

The debt meant nothing. It was abstraction. Money is abstraction. The good careers, they are abstraction. The best and the brightest yell at Stock Markets, analyze data, buy mortgages, sell mortgages, program apps and sell them in a store that doesn’t exist.

You had to tap into the system somewhere, pull into that flow. And you could. Anyone could.

This is the seat the university sells. A perpetual way out. A perpetual way to escape from the reality of minimum wage, dirty apartments, and a life of conscious bad mistakes.

You can run your life in any different direction. It doesn’t matter. Drill oil in a Northern wasteland for ten years. Wait tables, live in Thailand, and then roar a motorcycle across America.

When it all ends, show up, enroll, and return four years later back to the comfortable arms of your parent’s middle class.

And so, what you crave is more than escaping the factory. More than returning to your small town a teacher, or lawyer, or scientist. You crave the absence of functionality altogether.

And why shouldn’t you? Your parents believe it. Your grandparents worked for 30 years in the government and got paid for 60.

It’s been seven years. And you still haven’t left the campus.

In a bar, somewhere, your old friend discovers that you are still in university. “It was years ago you started, right? You are still in school?” And suddenly he feels ashamed of his own life. For whatever reason, you’ll be better for staying. He is stuck in a job. And you could end up anywhere.

Because you are a stock market of potentiality. The State University is good. Harvard is stratospheric.

That’s why the good ones don’t settle. They stay and keep investing in the system. They stack potential.

Grad school. The ultimate upsell for the ambitious. We don’t want to leave because leaving would mean you’d end up in an office, like everyone else.

And if you leave there is a chance it might not actually work out. You’d have to stop attaching the university to your name. You’d have to stop saying you were going somewhere and admit to where you are. You’d have to become whatever it is you do.

One day, it changes.

You sit across from an employer. And they say,  “Tell me your story.”

Where to start. What have you done? Why are you special?

And you begin to speak. You are clumsy. Then you are surprised. Maybe not here. But elsewhere, another interview, you get it. You move in. Buy new clothes. Move to a new city.

And now, you are drinking a martini in a loud downtown restaurant. You are making money now, buying vacations, rolling with the debt. Education seems a long way away. It’s just an item on your tax return.

This job won’t last for many years. You’ll find another. You wouldn’t want it to last.

And your parents, they don’t even know if they gave you the right advice anymore. Was it college that got him the job? Despite of it? Because of it? And the university doesn’t call. They don’t know. They just keep selling the seats. And everyone is hoping that this isn’t the end of the Recession because it doesn’t feel like an end. It still feels here. And we want it back. Right up to the moment before it broke.

And you want to keep moving. All directions.

Because anything could happen.

*  *  *  *  *


Give me 126 Days. And I’ll show you how to break down big goal of finding a career into smaller, manageable daily actions.

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