The Setting: my quasi-clean apartment in South Florida.
The Soundtrack: Van Morrison.
On the Stovetop: Apple Butter.
The Scenario: Over the last several months, I've been going to the doctor with concerns about an ache in the back of my head. I grew worried as day after day, week after week, the dull, throbbing visitor showed no signs of moving on.
Recently I received a firm diagnosis:
"Do you find that you are quite stressed?" asked the doctor on my first visit.
"I don't think so," I responded.
But as the question sank in, I realized the truth was it had never occurred to me that I could be stressed.
Since I moved to Florida in August, I have had no stressful work environment to toil in, no agonizing tests to study for, no major social drama to deal with.
I wake up in the morning, watch Good Morning America as I ponder and eventually consume my morning calories; I handle the laundry (which I love) and the dishes (which I love less); and I contemplate and carryout plans for dinner. Frequently I visit Costco or Publix; regrettably less frequently I visit the gym.
I have undoubtedly the world's greatest husband, and I live in a place that hits 88-degree record-highs when the rest of the country is frostbitten and buried in snow.
How could I possibly be--or admit to being--stressed?
Today I watched Diane Sawyer say, "Good Morning, America!" for the last time, and I felt defeated.
Secretly for years I imagined success as something that would secure me an early-morning interview with Diane Sawyer. I dreamed of defending my position in front of America's breakfast club as Diane probed, "What gave you the inspiration for this incredible work?"
It was a sort of internal litmus test when I was considering worthy projects: would Diane get a good segment out of this? would GMA want to share this with its audience?
So when the show signed off today, the sentiments of sorrow I shared with her co-workers and other fans were singed slightly by the flame of failure. I had missed my chance.
Ironically, or rather, appropriately, as the credits were rolling on GMA this morning, Dr. Phil lit up the screen with a show on "Generation Me."
The new name for Generation Y highlights my generation's general sense of entitlement and expectation of easy money and fame.
The point from Dr. Phil's discussion of the subject that captivated me most was that not only does the typical GenMe-er expect to effortlessly make millions (many by way of reality-TV stardom), but my fellow GenMe-ers are also among the most stressed individuals in the population.
The reason: failure to meet unrealistic, self-imposed expectations, perhaps?
Many of us were told from birth that we could do anything we set our minds to. Our role-models were the All New Mouseketeers and the kid-rockers of Kids, Incorporated, or the teen super-heroes of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Our mottos for success were neatly packaged in a Happy Meal: "Hey, it could happen!"
But when we outgrow our mentors by age 12, McMantras can only take us so far.
I admit that if I had any musical talent whatsoever, I would probably want to be a rock-star. Fortunately for strangers, I finally listened to my mom and stopped singing loudly in public (I make no promises about the shower or the car).
While I won't be auditioning for American Idol in this lifetime, I recognize I do have certain skills. I know I am a better writer and cook than I would be, say, an investment banker or salesperson.
Thus my dilemma: do I dedicate all my efforts toward making money writing when Print itself is gasping for breath? do I work my way up the ranks of any professional kitchen that will take me even though I know my personality is not best-suited to restaurant-chefdom? I do not know.
What I do know is that setting your mind to something is not enough. You must set your actions. And worst of all for us GenMe-ers is what we might have to set aside: our egos.
My cushy-sounding lifestyle is stressful because I need to be working, and I cannot get the kind of job I want. I want to be working toward something, but it's had to know what is realistic. I want to take action, but it's hard to know which steps are in the right direction.