Dear millenial, growing up in a fame-driven society fucked you up, big time. It fucked me up, too.
All around me I can see people struggling from a well-ingrained idea basically destroying them from the inside like a bad Chinese buffet. My fellows and I are part of a generation born and raised with the Hollywood fantasy, mass media, and dead ideals that still linger until they finally find a place into the dead dreams trash bin.
Andy Warhol must be recognized for its fortune teller’s abilities as he once said: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. And look around you now! Thanks to Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, a lot of people are becoming famous, some even become famous without even trying: they go “viral”, like a whooping cough you never wished for. But the myth of the immortal artist — the one whose art and influence mark the centuries to come, has barely been replaced by this digital age phenomenon and fantasy. We’re not sure yet if people with millions of followers on Instagram will actually be remembered and recognized in future times as our era’s most prominent personalities. But we all want to grasp a piece of fame.
Everyone around me aspires to be something more than what they presently are. I am surrounded with ambitious people who are struggling with the reality of their lives, barely overcoming the fear of being a random person lost in a sea of random fishes. Most of these people live in Paris, a world-known city recognized for its fancy everything and its picky snail-eaters. Everyone in Paris is looking forward to being “someone” to the point where some of us just literally get sick from it. Frog legs (which, to be honest, are very seldom eaten by normal French people nowadays) have become bitter to the ambitious in the French capital.
I am surrounded with ambitious people who are struggling with the reality of their lives, barely overcoming the fear of being a random anchovy lost in a sea of random fishes.
I have found myself in the most recent months having the same conversation with different people from very different backgrounds and with very different histories. All these people are intimate friends, and if at first I thought myself to be the only one struggling with an ego the size of the Louvre, which required me to do everything in my power to grasp social recognition everyday of my life, it recently was confirmed that I am not alone enduring the urge to “do something great”. Something that would bring me fame and immortality. We are young adults having a hard time coping with the idea that we may very well be as mediocre as the rest of our acquaintances.
I just had the realization today that there are actually only two ways to live life as a human. Just like playing cards, or participating in any game or activity, some people play the game and tell themselves that no matter what, what matters is to be part of the game, that life is worth living and should be praised solely for the amazing experience it truly is. On the other hand, another philosophy could be described as one of a “win or die” kind of guy. A philosophy, unfortunately cultivated all around us in a capitalist and individualistic society where people from other countries are still regarded as rivals, and where the education system makes a point at separating the “good” students from the “bad” students very early on. But what I am talking about is not even about the fantasy of the “successful businessman”, or the “self-made man”. It goes far beyond that. I have people around me who dream of being artists, who want their whole being to be recognized as truly inspiring and want to mark the timeline of humanity with their existence, soul and personality. We want to be heroes. Some of us would die for that, literally. In an economic state of things where we’re not really given any opportunity to ever be comfortable, own a house, and have bourgeois hobbies, what is left to some of us is to become legends and martyrs.
Just like playing cards, or participating in any game or activity, some people play the game and tell themselves that no matter what, what really matters is to be part of the game, that life is worth living and should be praised solely for the amazing experience it truly is.
We’ve also been raised in a society where death has become estranged from life. Humans have become so obsessed with health and longevity — in a paradoxical way though, when looking at what we do to stem global warming and the upcoming apocalypse — that our ultra-medicated, ultra-monitored, “born-under-the-nanny-State” generation is prone to high levels of anxiety. We live in a society where we literally REFUSE to die. Basically, in Western countries, “dying is for losers”. It’s even more true in the United-States, so-called empire of the modern world, where health insurance is so shitty and where medical care is so outrageously expensive.
Death, in our world, is not dignified, but is, in some cases, still weirdly glorified.
I am about to turn 27 and the thought that this is my year to enter the 27 club is significant. We all know legends die at 27. Or 33 like Jesus and Balavoine. In some way, I would like to picture myself as one of the French cursed poets, too sensitive for this world, bleeding words like they were bleeding feelings, and dying early of cirrhosis for drinking too much absinthe. But at the same time, I find myself living through states of deep hypochondria, telling me that I really do not want to die and disappear from the surface of the Earth.
I have no real solution to what me and my friends are experiencing. Somedays, I find myself thinking that my life is not worth living if I do not make up to my unbelievably high standards and hopes as a writer. Somedays, I also think about H.P. Lovecraft, or Edgar Allan Poe, two authors I deeply affectionate, and how both of them lived miserable lives and died either as thorough alcoholic or dorky writer only to be adored by the next generations of humans. I rely on that hope, unable to detach myself from the demons of my ego.
Life is mysterious in its own ways. And so is its meaning. And so is fame. We will not all be famous or great. We won’t be legends. We might not even change the world. We’ll be forgotten. But we will have lived on this earth. And that should be all that matters.
Stop playing the game like you want to win: you’ve already won by taking part in it. And most importantly, start playing for yourself, regardless of what this absurd society tells you.
A song to go with all that : The Growlers — Chinese Fountain