Into the Woods
Lately I’ve noticed a strange trend: more and more people of my generation want to live in the woods. I can’t tell if this just happens to be true of the people I surround myself with, or if it’s a more widespread phenomenon. I was born and raised in Portland, and like most of my school-age friends, I’m getting a little restless in this particular urban environment. In our searches for excitement, many have turned to the great outdoors, and our state’s natural resources are truly great. Pine trees, mountains, lakes, and icy salt water are elements of any real Mainer’s favorite memories. But I don’t think that’s really why we all seem to want to flee into the forest.
Ever since I can remember, my peers and I have been told that the world is screwed, that this is the older generation’s fault, and that it’s our mess to clean up. This inspires a deep anger — the angst that teens are so famous for. It’s not that I hate people older than I am, or that I blame them for all the world’s problems. I think a lot of us agree that the majority of the problems in the world are the result of the actions of a few and the inaction of the many. It is inaction that I can’t stand.
The only thing I dislike about those who have preceded me on the planet is the way they’ve organized the place. Cemeteries, for example: creepy, and a waste of land, not to mention all the toxic chemicals used in embalming.
Not all of my peers around here think, I want to become the North Pond Hermit and build my own teepee, but most have at least some variation on that thought. It could be because I am a teen surrounded by teens, but there’s an almost overpowering stench of angst in the air these days. And in addition to the traditional teenage feeling of fatigue, we are all tired of our environment, built and otherwise. Like every American weathering the current political climate, we feel stressed much of the time. Whether it’s the strict social code, the enormous academic pressures that make kids feel like they’ve already failed at 14 years of age, family issues, or just being sick of the seemingly infinite supply of assholes we encounter every day courtesy of the World Wide Web, it seems impossible to feel completely at peace.
Perhaps that’s why, in 7th grade, I was sent to the guidance office for saying that the world would be better off if humans weren’t on it and, therefore, we should just bomb the whole gosh-darn thing. Luckily, I’ve grown slightly more optimistic since then, and hopefully a bit saner. It’s not that I wish for a whole new world, just a new way to exist in this one. That’s the draw of a simpler existence — going back to life on the prairie, but this time with rights for women and people of color. It’s the attraction of more freedom and fewer fiscal limits, a life of wood-chopping and cow-milking.
Of course, this whole romantic scenario ignores the fact that most young people, myself included, would be lost without a way to look something up on a whim, or instantly communicate across long distances. We like the idea of the frontier lifestyle, not necessarily the actual practice. Camping might be a better first step.
Every new generation wants to change the world it inherits. It’s hard to fully imagine living by a different system of social values than the one you grew up in, but that doesn’t mean the current system is the best or the only one. Personally, I will gladly #occupy Maine for the rest of my life — get a little parcel of land (with Internet access), and start anew.