The Legitimacy of the Millennial Experience

I recently received an email from someone who has been following me on Instagram for a while now, and had some great questions he wanted to run by me. He asked about a lot of the things people in their twenties– and especially in this generation– think about. I wanted to share the back and forth because I’ve dealt with a lot of the ideas he’s wresting with, and hope that my experiences can help others deal with these big questions.

It’s easy for older generations to look at us Milennials and say, “they have it so easy” or “back in my day I had to…”, but the truth is, everything is relative. Just because we are lucky to live more comfortable lives on the surface these days, that doesn’t mean we don’t have problems, struggles, and legitimate challenges to overcome. In a world where we have more work, love, & life opportunities than ever, choosing becomes one of those key struggles.

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Hey Paul! 

I have been following you on Instagram for awhile and am so inspired by your photography and by the life that you’re living. 

I’m currently in this really incredible place in my life where I have no idea what’s next. I recently graduated from college and was supposed to move to Africa with The Peace Corps, however, I changed my mind last minute. I knew that I wasn’t ready to make that commitment, so instead, I’m staying in Charleston, South Carolina for a bit longer. I am taking this time to reach out to what motivates me, and soak in what Inspires me. So far, that has included: art, poetry, music, writing, and creators. 

You posted a quote a few days ago by Randy Komisar, “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all -- the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” This quote has inspired me a lot and it made me want to reach out. 

I am so concerned with not choosing the right career path and I fear that I have put so much work into my degree (Psychology), when I really have no desire to work in that field. I want to create, while also having the opportunity to see things that pull me to say things that make a difference. Where does this balance come from? 

I’m not sure if reaching out to other humans like this is protocol, however, If I want to be committed to this period of my life, I have to really commit. You seem like someone living the seemingly ‘dream life’ from my eyes and I would love some wisdom, my friend. 

Thanks so much!

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Hey!

Thanks again for your email! I finally have a minute as I'm waiting for my car to get an oil change here in Seattle. So, I totally relate to your concerns and, although it may seem like I'm living a "dream life" I'm just as lost about my future as anyone. I'm currently traveling for White Claw as you probably know, but at the end of these 6 months, I'm not sure at all what's going to happen – where I'll live, what I'll do for work, etc. Just like you, I'm seeing this as an incredible opportunity, but it can definitely be a little overwhelming when you have seemingly endless options and need to make a choice. My favorite quote ever (and the most relatable for me) is from Sylvia Plath's book, The Bell Jar. I think it might help here.

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

For me, this quote sums up the challenge of this time in our lives. How do we chose the right path to lead us to the life we want? What if we miss out on something amazing because we choose the wrong path?

What you said about trying to focus on what motivates you and delving into your interests seems like the best course of action to me.  My best advice is to try a ton of different things that interest you and stick to them for a good amount of time (I struggle with this but I am going to try, too). We're young and we have time, so take a job that sounds interesting somewhere totally new, take an online course in something that interests you (I use MasterClass to learn about music, writing, etc.), or join a local group that lines up with your interests. Being surrounded by people in similar situations and with similar interests can lead to helping you figure it out, and even potentially amazing collaborations.

As for your Psychology degree, I majored in Sociology with the same problem– I suddenly had a degree that was interesting, but not in a field I wanted to work in. That's totally ok! In today's world, I know so many people who work in a field totally different than that of their degree. Lucky for us, the internet makes it possible for us to learn new skills and share our creative work for free or super cheap. 

Life obviously requires money though, so we can't just sit around working on creating all the time (unless it's an income stream). I think the best way to find the balance is, as my Mom always says, to choose what kind of lifestyle you want and find a way to make money to enable that. For example, I want a life full of friends, family, beautiful places, a comfortable place, adventure, and creating. To make this possible, I need to figure out the best way to make money that also enables me to have the time for all those things. I'm still figuring this out but it looks something like creating content with brands and people I like.

So, if you keep looking at this time as an exciting period of your life filled with possibilities, you'll be just fine. Just the fact that you took the time to reach out, shows that you're serious about finding your path. I'm confident you'll find something great!

If you have any other questions or just want to chat about ideas you have, I'm more than happy to keep in touch. I really appreciate you looking to me as someone to consult about this – it's really cool for me to realize that people are out there (other than my family and friends) following my journey and thinking about this stuff – so thanks!

Best,

Paul

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Hope this dialogue sheds some light on the problems a lot of people I their twenties are dealing with. If anyone else has concerns or questions, I don’t claim to have any answers but I love thinking and talking about these things, so feel free to email me, DM me, etc.!

Introduction

MY STORY

My story begins in the fall of 2012 – well, technically, my story begins in Portland, Maine on March 3rd, 1993 at 4:01pm… but that is a far longer, far less interesting story. This particular story, regarding my love of travel, begins in the fall of 2012.

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I had just completed my freshman year of college and, though I enjoyed my friends and studies at school, I found myself lost among the manicured hedges and arbitrary deadlines of the collegiate experience. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in or what career I wanted to pursue post-grad, so I opted for a year off to travel, work, and figure it all out.

I traveled everywhere from the dusty honky-tonk bars of the American South to the humid jungles and desolate beaches of Eastern Costa Rica. From the cool, green rolling hills of Ireland to the blazing hot sun and bioluminescent waters of the Virgin Islands. Yet, after all this, what I figured out was that I had figured out nothing at all, and I was just one year older. So, I (somewhat reluctantly) returned to college to continue aimlessly “moving forward” and eventually earned my B.A. in Sociology.

Despite its ostensible uselessness, this gap year planted within me a seed. A stream of questions that I’d never though to ask began to flow, visions of innumerable life paths I’d never before considered appeared. Had it not been for this time when I stepped off the fast-moving treadmill of the modern-day school-college-job track, I would not have thought so deeply about these questions, or likely even considered the innumerable possibilities my future held.

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Now, it is 2018 and I’m twenty-five years old. I work for myself and I travel the world, meeting amazing people and constantly creating: photographs, videos, music, and more. It took me a while to get here – and I still haven’t “figured everything out”, and probably never will. But that’s okay. I find life is much more exciting when you don’t know what tomorrow holds anyway…

I hope you’ll join me and take what you can from my life. I’d love to have you along for the ride.

“Don’t fear death, Fear the unlived life” – Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

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SOME BRIEF NOTES

This blog isn’t meant to self-promote or to say, “Look at me! My life is awesome!” ­– it’s meant to inspire others to think differently and go against the grain. To introduce the different potential life paths out there and to share what I learn along my way.  It goes without saying that I am extremely privileged to be in the position I’m in (living, working, and traveling this way). I couldn’t lead the life I do without the help of my family, friends, and the “invisible knapsack” (in the words of Peggy McIntosh), which I possess. However, my aim with this blog is to help others move towards the life they dream of, regardless of where they start out from. So, whoever you are – wherever you come from– I hope you’ll come along on this journey with me.