There seem to be two reasons my generation gets a bad rep: for always being on our phones, and for driving recklessly. Obviously not our best qualities, but I attribute both of them to the same root cause: boredom. Nothing takes the edge off boredom like that kick of dopamine from checking social media. Or that kick of adrenaline from taking that turn just a little too fast. And given the way our not-yet-fully developed brains work — higher reward for risky behavior coupled with lower comprehension of consequences — it’s no wonder we utilize these methods of escape as much as we do.
It is kind of ironic to live in Vacationland and feel like you need a vacation from it, but jeez, do we have some bitterly long winters. I’ve personally never felt it as badly as I have this year. I’ve felt rather trapped, always indoors, always looking for something to do. After living in Portland for our entire lives up to this point, I think most of my friends and I are starting to get a little antsy. We’ve gone over the Old Port with a fine-tooth comb, scavenged Munjoy Hill, made expeditions to all the parks and cemeteries in Deering Center. We feel out of options. This has been a winter of hopping from car to car, house to house, desperately taking advantage of any and all opportunities that come our way.
Before I or my closest friends could drive, one of my favorite activities was night riding. It was a rare treat, only possible when one of my few older friend’s goodwill coincided with that friend having nothing better to do. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as driving with a fresh, new driver. I know my mother would hate to hear me say that, but I really do believe it. As a freshman and sophomore, I took what excitement I could get. I loved having a car pull up outside my house, waiting for me. And when I’d hop in there’d be music blasting (just a notch the below the volume at which we could no longer hear the driver’s voice). We’d drive out to So Po going just under the speed limit, making stops a little too quickly, the seat belt digging in each time. Then we’d stop somewhere: a mutual friend’s house, a beach, a park. And we’d talk.
I’ve never been much of a doer, much more of a talker. Most activities hold little appeal for me. I’m terrible at making plans. I don’t spend my weekends partying hard. But I do like new things. I love things that scare me just a tiny bit, put flutters in my stomach. I like to do things that I frowned upon when I was younger. I’ve found this to be my favorite part of aging: proving my younger self wrong. Like, when I was in elementary school, the bus let off at King Middle School and my friend Sascha and I would walk past the students and make fun of the middle-school girls wearing crop tops. Then, when I got to middle school, I wore crop tops. It’s one of the pleasures of growing up: proving yourself wrong. Not that I stand by my middle-school fashion choices. I’ve outgrown them, as well. Too many bright colors.
I know one day we’ll outgrow this phase we’re in, too. Car-hopping to avoid our parents, driving too fast for a thrill, watching YouTube to avoid the work we ought to be doing. But it’s hard not to revel in it a little, because we can all remember a time in the very near past when it all seemed so out of reach.
Logically, the future is right there, almost mapped out for us. But I’m not sure any of us actually believe it’s going to happen. I can’t imagine being older than I am today, much less imagine a future further away than tomorrow. I can’t imagine moving into a dorm, going to bars, getting wrinkles on my face, paying bills. And I know the future won’t always be as fun as driving a little too fast, but I hope I can embrace new things with as much fear and appreciation as I do right now.