Written July 21, 2015
Misery invites Exhaustion, Apathy, and a Stifled Sense of Wonder over for dinner. Misery only smiles into their cup of whiskey and (a splash of) Coke, but looks at their friends with drooping, thankful eyes. Exhaustion enviously eyes the cat sleeping next to the stove, Apathy pushes food about their plate, and the Stifled Sense of Wonder desperately flicks around the world on their phone. A disheartening scene at first but, then again, Misery does love company.
I’m tired. I’m not the type of tired that eight hours of sleep and a hearty breakfast can fix. Whenever anyone asks how I am – regardless of how much I’ve slept that week – the answer is always tired. I’m the-skin-on-my-face-feels-like-it’s-about-to-slide-off-my-skull tired. I’m very-few-things-excite-me-anymore tired. I’m what I like to call “Gradgrind Tired.” This phrase was inspired by my AP English class (the year I believe the tiredness officially set in), when we read Hard Times by Charles Dickens.
Hard Times is, I think, Dickens’ most underrated work. So much of the author is present in his characters, as it was undoubtedly inspired by the three months he spent in a child labor warehouse at the age of twelve while his father was in prison. If there ever was a champion of the #GrowingUpPoor hashtag, it was Charles Dickens (although he may have a little trouble with the character limit).
Dickens lived in Victorian England while the Industrial Revolution was rapidly shifting the socioeconomic landscape. The boom in industry produced drastic divides between the classes, causing increased international trade, massive expansion of local government/centralized state, the exploitation of workers, deplorable living and working conditions, horrific child labor abuse, and eventually the rise of an established middle class.
Factory and business owners knew their workers were lacking basic human rights but, instead of helping, they exploited them. English workers (referred to as Hands in Hard Times), were forced to work inhumanely long hours from a young age in garish conditions with little to no pay. This theme – which Hard Times revolves around – resonated with me so deeply I can still remember the intense look on my AP English teacher’s face as she desperately waited for this passage to wake us up from our societal slumbers.
At the end of the third chapter, Lousia and Thomas Gradgrind (approximately 15 and 13, respectively) are caught looking at the travelling circus through a peephole by their father.
Why is she so tired? Well, this is what her childhood was like…
If we can put all of that information aside for one second and remember that she was only fifteen in this scene, and her father is already wondering who he’s going to marry her off to, and in fact does a few pages later…to a man closer to his own age than hers. Fifteen! Can you see the look of incredulity on my teacher’s face now?! I can still see it as if I was sitting in class typing this out right now.
So why am I Gradgrind Tired? While I’m not as oppressed as Louisa, Dickens’ societal allegory is spot on and his depiction of this weariness from the constant grind is much more eloquent than I could ever hope to pen. I have so much creative energy building up and – with the outlet of academia suddenly ripped out from under me – I have nowhere to direct it. The older I get, the more questions arise that I cannot answer. It’s a cruel sort of modern Hydra – once I’ve exhausted myself answering one question, six more pop up in its place. I’m no Hercules, but maybe I can try to attack my person Hydra one head at a time.
Why is there such a widespread sense of apathy, distrust, and hopelessness when it comes to our government? Where do twenty-somethings get off on that, on not using their privilege to cast votes, just because we’ve dismissed the act as “meaningless“? Why do white people get so angry and defensive whenever a POC simply tries to share their valid feelings or stories? Why are people so enraged over something as harmless as gender neutral pronouns?
How do I answer the thousands of massive, sweeping political questions that get hurled at me over family dinners, when I don’t have the proper publications and search engines infused directly into my brain? How come people don’t understand how to analyze statistics/studies to determine whether they were framed to get the desired result, or at the very least know the basics of evaluating/fact checking their sources? What does the “truth” even mean anymore, with countless media outlets and outside agencies skewing it to meet their own agenda? What’s going to happen to the environment and our perception of it now that the same guy who owns FOX News owns National Geographic? Where’s the line between nodding to/referencing another artist and plagiarizing/infringing their rights?
Why are the humanities being suffocated in favor of STEM, and what does that mean for the future of humankind? Why do my student loans cost more than my rent and utilities combined?! Are they even going to be paid off by the time my future children (if I’m ever able to afford their existence) go to college in 30ish years? Is Jon Snow really dead? And what, in God’s Good Green Kingdom, counts as a proper relationship these days and, more importantly, why does everyone care so much? Why do people get so mad about selfies? I mean, what’s so terrible about people taking pictures of themselves when they feel nice and building up some self-confidence?
If Hillary and Trump actually end up running against each other, are they going to show the election on CNN or E! News? Why do people act against their own interests by thinking Bernie’s “socialist views” are soooo radical, when he’s actually just vying for basic human rights? That being said, how much power does POTUS really have? If I text my mom or read some articles while I’m walking to work is some asshole with a fancy camera going to photoshop my soul being sucked into my phone? How am I supposed to pay for grad school when most days I can’t even figure out how to pay for lunch? Why is applying for unemployment so infuriatingly difficult? And does anyone actually know how to fill out W-4’s????
I’m not sure what the answers to any of these questions are. I’m not even sure if some of them can be answered. The only thing I know is if I don’t at least get them out of my head sometime soon, I am going to explode. So that is the goal of this page. To all the lost, confused twenty-something’s out there looking for answers, something to do when you’re bored at work (or bored searching for work), or trying to comprehend the world while making sure your own basic human needs are covered…this one’s for you.