A few days ago, I got news that my university would not be opening this fall. I’d be starting college from the same place I ended high school, my dining room table. The funny thing was, I was so excited to go to college, but when I got the news, I couldn’t even feel disappointed. This sounds concerning, but I felt nothing. It was as if I had become numb to disappointment. It was as if I had expected to be let down all along.
Although my mom has always felt, “Prepare for the worst, so you can always handle the outcome, whether it’s fulfilling or disappointing,” I never really took to that advice because I was usually someone who tried to plan as much as I could to make the best outcome occur. Don’t get me wrong, I have always worried about the worst. I would even imagine how it’d play out in my head, but deep down inside I have never expected to be disappointed in the end. I have never expected to be anything less than fulfilled.
2020 is the biggest example of those “expectation versus reality” memes, especially for my generation. Generation Z gets a lot of backlash from adults who pretend they don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid, but the truth is, most of us had never experienced this amount of world disruption. We weren’t alive for the World Wars, or Korea. We don’t understand why the nation continued to fight in Vietnam, a war that was ultimately impossible to win. We weren’t there when you feuded with Russia, paranoid that every person you talked to was a communist. Even 9/11 happened before many of us were born. I was born in 2002, and to me, that’s a sobering piece of history, that deserves to be studied, but not a piece of history I experienced. We will never fully understand how any of that changed your lives, but now we too have experienced disillusionment.
We get what it’s like for life to be interrupted, for the world to feel like it’s ending. We get what it’s like to feel helpless, to watch the world as you know it rapidly change. We get what it’s like for a generation to experience a defining moment, and become a part of history. We get what it’s like to suffer loss. We get what it’s like to be mad at the generations before us, knowing they could have done something to change the fate of the country. Remember the 20s? The 50s? The 60s? There have been people protesting for years, but it seems like many of you didn’t listen. Many of these problems weren’t started by you, but you perpetuated them by being a bystander. Gen Z knows you could’ve done something about world problems ranging from systemic racism to sexism to global warming, and you didn’t. I’m not trying to generalize because I know many of you are upset with the world right now too, but coming from someone who’s generation was always labelled as selfish and spoiled, doesn’t my generalization make you want to prove me wrong?
So, we grew up, as you had always told us –sometimes even yelled at us– too. And in some ways, I like to believe we’ve matured more than many of you ever had to. Well, most of us. We have to talk about politics because suddenly everything is political, suddenly we have to make our stance on issues known. We accept other religions, identify with parts of other religions, and use them as a point of admiration, not separation. We see color because it would dishonor one’s experiences if we didn’t. We know gender can be fluid and love is love. We encourage self-love, body positivity, and women empowerment. We know people are beautiful for who they are, and we admire each other for our differences. Some of us are stuck in the old ways by parents who wanted their children to be kept in a bubble of what they think is superiority, but there is still a chance for those stuck in that bubble to learn.
Now, maybe I’m just angry, and you can dismiss me as a teenager who seems to hate the world. But if you read closely, if you pay attention to what I’m really saying, you’ll know that is not the case. You’ll see that in reality, I care about the world. I have hope for the world. I see all of the potential it has, and I know that there can be change if we work towards it because as the poem Desiderata says, “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” All of the people my age seem to be left to alleviate the sham, drudgery, and broken dreams that have built up for centuries, and I believe we will take that responsibility with vigor. You could just brush all this off and say we’re a little too persistent, or belligerent, or even boastful. But I call that resilience, I call that passion, and I call that confidence. If we all stopped fighting, if we all really paid attention to each other, I would hope the next generation could grow up in a world where they don’t become numb to disappointment. I would hope we could teach them to prepare for the worst, but that deep down they knew they’d always be fulfilled in the end.
Anastasia Meininger, aka “Offbeat Rhythms”, is a high school student in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City. She lives with her parents and older brother, and her life is filled with her hilarious and loving Italian, Irish, Greek, and German family, as well as her wonderfully crazy, and diverse group of friends.
Anastasia is a normal, yet distinctly unique teenager who loves performing, making people laugh, and even going to school! Her favorite subject is Science, especially Chemistry, and when she’s not studying, you can find her at her dance studio, where she rehearses for her dance competitions, and vocal showcases.