Released in 1994, Reality Bites spoke to me as a film. I’m not quite certain why I loved it so much.The soundtrack was, at that time, the best since the soundtrack to ‘Singles’. (only to be surpassed by the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction). The stars of the film were all young, up and coming actors. It likely helped that at the time, I had been mildly obsessed with Wynona Ryder since Beetlejuice. Really though, it could have been anyone playing the roles.
Generation X coming of age
Reality Bites captured for me the difficulties I had coming of age. It was released as I was finishing university faced with zero chance of employment, advancement or hope for my future. The reality at that time was that people graduating at the top of their classes were faced with jobs at fast food restaurants. Little was available to anyone. The reality of that situation was terrible.
Generation X reality
I’m a proud, card carrying member of Generation X. Douglas Copeland captured something essential that I knew right away: Companies really don’t give a shit about me. My life / lifestyle was likely not going to be an improvement on that of my baby boomer parents. I understood then that my work was probably going to go nowhere and my opportunities for advancement would be hard fought and minuscule at best and likely thwarted at every turn by some baby boomer progress stopper.
Knowing reality helped
This version of reality, jaded and contemptuous of the systems has served me well thus far. In my twenties, I lowered my expectations for myself in terms of income and impact. I focused instead on just experiencing life as best I could with what I had. There was a time in the late 90’s I worked just one night a week at a bar, practiced yoga daily and spent the rest of my time walking extra slow in a city that seemed hell bent on constantly rushing.
Generation X in middle age
Funny thing happened while Douglas Copeland was telling us all that our futures were hopeless. Hoped slipped in. Hope that we could have a career. Hope that we could have a family. Hope that we could make a difference. Hope that we ‘should’ continue to improve. I find myself, surrounded by friends who put the mask of happiness, of agency and efficacy on social media, all the while dwelling in mediocrity and the misery of unfulfilled hopes and promises.
The tyranny of the ‘shoulds’
Frequently we expect our lives to be different than they are. We ‘should’ be further along in our careers. We ‘should’ get our financials in order. We ‘should’ take better care of our health. People ‘should’ treat us better. Reality check? ‘Shoulds’ are a fantasy. ‘Shoulds’ are not real. Moreover, when we don’t embrace the reality of our situation, we become slaves to our ‘shoulds’. When we can’t embrace what is real, we don’t feel the pain of the truth of our existence and change becomes more difficult
Make a change now
Write down three things in your life that you think ‘should’ be different. What’s the desire behind the this? What’s the truth of the fantasy of ‘what should be’? How can embracing this reality be the first step for you to make a change?
Leave me a voice message here in the Anchor app, or reply to this to tell me your three shoulds and the reality beneath them.