Dearest Rachel –
To say that the events of the past few years have upended my plans would be rather a gross understatement. Hey, look, kids, check it out – it’s the latest installment of the adventures of Marvel’s newest superhero, Captain Obvious!
Or would he be a DC type of character? I don’t know… he’s colorful enough to offset the grimness of the likes of Batman, say, even if the circumstances he deals with (at least in my personal life right now) are somewhat dark and unpleasant in their own right.
I’d say I’ve been reminded of the changes in my life just this past week, when it was announced the tickets for Vidcon were going on sale (to be held in October, now that even California is being allowed to open up). But of course, most of the changes in my life have been well and truly in front of my face literally for the past five months. Why, at this point, I can barely muster any enthusiasm for the possibility of going there.
Because at one point I thought I was going to make my mark on society through YouTube. I still remember the four of us (I’m including Erin, here, since I had planned on recruiting her as an artist) sitting in Brandy’s Diner in early 2018, just after the last session of Awana Clubs for that school season. I had just thought up the character of Pascha the lamb (since ‘Paschal’ refers to Easter, you see), and I was brainstorming with the three of you as to how we could make that into some kind of educational series that kids might get interested in. The basic premise would’ve been that Pascha would be the wandering sheep that would cause her shepherd to find the Dead Sea Scrolls (yes, I know it was a goat and his herder that found them, but it’s not that much of a stretch). From there she would ask him questions about one or another of the Scriptures they would find there, and he could explain it to her and the others in the flock – even as they would have certain adventures that would tie into the passage in question.
I’m pretty sure I was partially inspired by the fact that you and I had just gotten back from Israel ourselves, so we knew what the terrain looked like. It seemed like an inspired idea, and a pretty inventive framing device. It didn’t hurt that the church had just gotten through a series about the old Sunday school stories, complete with clip art type drawings in the bulletins that both Daniel and Erin would color in enthusiastically during the sermons, even as they took notes. I needed to get them both on board, as I recognized that I was no artist. Even then, I acknowledged that this was a pipe dream, because at the time, I was still locked into my job with no real expectations of going anywhere. Erin, too, was – and still is – committed to her job at UPS, although at that time (if I recall correctly; I’m sure she could confirm or correct me on this), she had recently left her part-time position at Legoland, so this method of reaching out to kids seemed to catch her fancy as well.
But given the timing, and our lack of freedom at the time, it never really got any further than that. I borrowed some artwork in the style of My Little Pony for the character concept, while Erin drafted up a few concept drawings herself. But I don’t think we ever even got as far as writing a script.
On the other hand, I did manage to get a few scripts written for another YouTube iteration that I referred to as THEO-Ed, which was meant to twig off of the TED-Ed educational animation series. But I never commission to Erin or Daniel as far as coming up with artwork for any of those scripts. So again, that concept never really went anywhere.
Meanwhile, Daniel was still wrapping up his college career, getting his bachelors degree in psychology at Judson University, and coming home on weekends, to my mild displeasure (not that I minded him coming home as much as I objected to him not staying there and socializing with his peers – we arranged for him to stay in the dorm for that very reason; he could’ve easily commuted there on a daily basis if we wanted him to stay at home).
At one point, he was taking a course on the psychology of different generations. And it struck me that the premise of the course was that, naturally, different generations thought differently. Certainly, we’ve been aware of generational clashes all of our lives, starting with the history of the boomers in their rebellion against the society that was sending them to fight in Vietnam and the like.
But I disagreed with the course’s basic premise. Oh sure, each generation has their own set of experiences which color their worldview; that I can accept. But the fact of the matter is, I see the generational clashes as being a conflict between “kids these days” versus “you don’t understand me, old man!” I don’t care what generation you’re from, but those two reactions strike me as fairly timeless and universal. I’m pretty sure there’s a quote from Socrates out there about how the young people today are all full of themselves and don’t listen to what their elders say, and so on and so forth.
In particular, Daniel was starting to take umbrage of news reports about how Millennials were killing this or that business or industry, how they were such slackers, not wanting to buy homes and what not. I agreed that the assessments being made of Millennials at the time was quite unfair. After all, the baby boomers were the ones who once embraced the slogan “turn on, tune in and drop out,” among others, so what right had they to get mad at a generation that was trying to distance themselves from the same rat race they once eschewed themselves?
I should note that this was before the phrase “OK Boomer” became a thing, but that was just the responding salvo in this war between generations.
Meanwhile, my own generation (and yours, by extension) were keeping our heads down and out of the fray. For all the fighting between Boomers and Millennials (and eventually GenZedders – I hated that name for being unimaginative. After all, it’s too closely based on ours), generation X was being completely ignored. Which we’re used to, and kind of prefer. But I thought it might be instructional to go through the novel that gave us our name, and see what Daniel‘s reaction would be to it. The story was one that, once upon a time, I considered doing with a couple friends from college if we were unable to make our way in the world after a period of time – just move out to the desert and drop out of society. Of course it didn’t happen that way – Dave got a job with the JET program, and continues to teach English in Japan; Cheryl stopped talking to me after I sent her a copy of this book (she really didn’t see her self in Claire’s role); and as you know, I was employed before the year was out. But it might be illuminating to Daniel – and if we made an animated podcast out of it, to a lot of people his age and younger – to learn that that was the life his old man thought of as an ideal back when he was his age.
Among my other theories of generational relations that I thought we might discuss along the way was that of that the “defining tragedy.” Each generation, at least here in America, suffered something universal, that we all were aware of and felt, in a specific instance of time, that changed our outlook on life forever. The boomers had JFK, We Gen Xers had the Challenger disaster, in the millennials had 9/11. At the time, Gen Zedders hadn’t had there defining tragedy.
Well, the year 2020 would’ve rendered anything we might’ve done previously completely obsolete. So maybe it’s for the best that that plan never got off the ground either. But I’ve got to admit, I really wish I could reach out to these generations, and let them know that things will be okay, that we’ve been here before, and made it out alive. The trouble is, your departure put lie to that assertion, and now I really don’t know what to do with any of these ideas.
I was planning to make the tagline of my proposed channel “you’re never too old to have a happy childhood.” I still believe that. However, I don’t think I will be able to attain that for myself. I’ve said it before, that I shouldn’t pin my happiness on someone else’s existence, but it seems I can hardly help myself. I won’t say, like the old song, that “I’ll never smile again,” but having lost you does damage my ability to be happy. I’ll also admit – and I’ll probably have to cover it in another letter, because this one is getting pretty long – that some of the advice that I planned to dispense sounded all well and good when I came up with it, but it’s turning out harder to follow in practice than I thought. Imagine having to apply it at their age, when you’re dealing with hormones and peer pressure and the thoughts that this thing – whatever it is they’re dealing with at the moment – is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to you or will happen to you, all the while not knowing that over time, there will be bigger things looming in the future that you just don’t know about.
Yep, it’s scary stuff. And I can’t be all that reassuring to them. At least, not unless I find some kind of resolution to what I’m going through. After all, how can I say they’ll be okay, when I’m not okay?
That’s not okay.