Gen why?

The trigger can be anything. Maybe it’s that billionth time you’re asked: “so, why are you studying _____?” Maybe it’s that half-baked essay spawned out of yet another all-nighter — fueled mostly by caffeine and terror.

Between these moments, you stop and ask yourself: “what am I doing?”

Welcome to the quarter-life crisis — the trademark of Generation Y. It doesn’t happen to all of us, but since entering Queen’s, I’ve noted the frequency of these confused and guilt-ridden conversations.

It’s easy to subdue feelings of unease by answering the infamous question of “what am I doing?” with society’s over-prescribed formula: finish high school, choose a career path, get an education, make a living, breed, retire and die. This seemingly straightforward individualistic progress is considered normal.

But is “making a living” and achieving personal success everything? Is that how I’m expected to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life? I struggled with myself over these questions for some time. I think, most of us would intuitively answer “no” to them, but may not be able to say exactly why.

Sometimes we respond to this uncertainty in extremes. On one hand, we can turn into dragons who sit on piles of gold until they corrode away. On the other hand, sometimes it seems like the only way to contribute in a meaningful way is to drop everything and ship ourselves off to a remote Liberian village.

Western society pushes individualism, but we aren’t independent beings. Not only are we constantly interacting with others, but we are constantly benefiting from what others contribute — socially, economically and technologically. So, why is our personal growth and society’s growth considered mutually exclusive?

Think about the brilliant minds that have revolutionized technology, international relations and culture. Their love of knowledge and constant desire for excellence resulted in major changes for society.

It’s time we re-evaluated the purpose of our education, and what our goals are. Are we simply here to better ourselves? Or are we using our education to develop our own capacities so that we can better contribute to society?

It all sounds very utopian, but I refuse to believe that all everyone is capable of is “making a living”.

Anisa is a Copy Editor at the Journal. She’s a third-year English major.

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