This closing out of 2019 feels different than other end of year introspections and new year goal settings. Pensive reflection is a byproduct of any transition, however arbitrary the time markers are. we’ve become accustomed during these times to delve into ourselves, grab handfuls of who we think we are, who we want to be, who we think others think we are, and feel this down to a pulp in the hopes of improving ourselves the next circle around the sun. (Many, I am confident, do this exercise all year. But new years recharge this).
This year is the end of a decade, too, though. It’s personal introspection for me as I dip a first toe into my late twenties, and slough the last residues of childhood. I could write entirely separately about this profanity, how I feel I’ve learned more about the world and who I want to be in it in the past two years than all ten years combined. (Mid-twenties, huh).
But, what I have started to sense, in an animalistic, ears and eyes on my skin kind of way, is the collectiveness of this new years’ self-examination. This brewing fierceness to change as a society. To reckon gracefully with the damage that we’ve inflicted and that we’ve taken part in. It’s racial, it’s environmental, it’s transparency and technology-oriented. It’s a sense of disgust and this unbridled knowing that what we’re in right now, it feels significant.
And of course, my immediate reaction to even writing that last sentence is that each and every generation, every moment in time, feels significant. To everyone, across time. Because, of course, it is.
But then why does this period feel different, even still, despite that? Adults who I know to have experienced many cultural, political, and social shifts describe this moment as though it’s somehow darker, somehow indicative of an impending reckoning unlike any they’ve known. The very planet we stand on — the only real stability we have been able to depend on since birth — is uncertain.
A few days after Trump was elected in 2016, Valerie Kauer delivered a message — “A Sikh Prayer for America.” Responding to a broader sense of doom, she framed the fear of the unknown as perhaps not a “darkness of the tomb,” but a “darkness of the womb.” A sign of the rebirth to come, rather than an extinction, or a blotting out of what once was.
It’s this convergence between the societal self-examination and my own that I’m writing about. People coming to age right now are uniquely positioned, in that they’re witnessing a global coming to age. Running parallel alongside their own. society is shifting through astounding amounts of information. Information that is demanding an honest assessment of the bodies, institutions, and principles that make up who we identify as. And information confronts me, too, as an individual. I also feel it demands a similar honest probing of what it is I am and why.
It’s this information / honesty scale that saturates both my and my country’s identity formation right now. The individual/collective corollaries.
It’s exceptional, really.