You never think you’re becoming any less “cool”. You never think you’re becoming “behind the times”, or “old fashioned”. Especially at a time when the world has already changed dramatically on all fronts (social, economic, and political), you still think you’re progressive, and you still feel as though you’re up to date in current affairs. You think you know what comedy is, and what music is, and what fashion is. You think you know everything, because you’ve always thought you were smarter than those who came before you.
But…there comes a time when you realize that something’s not quite right. One day, you notice this trend towards, say, ultra-skinny jeans, and you just laugh to yourself:
"Oh man, you would have been considered the biggest dork ever if you wore those when I was in high school. How do they not realize how geeky that looks??”
Or, perhaps, you’ll find yourself rolling your eyes at the complaints of some teen over a minor inconvenience, and think back to how the thing they’re whining about didn’t even exist when you were that age. And you’ll realize that what you find to be so amazing and awesome are the same things that they’ve completely taken for granted, because it’s all they’ve ever known. You think about the fact that no one will ever need to go to a library anymore to do research, or that no one will ever have to use a card catalog to find a book. There’s no longer a need to have to purchase an entire CD just to get the one decent song on it (if it hasn’t been released as a single, which is an entire disc containing all of one song, the same, physical size as a disc containing an entire album). The new abilities available through technology that have eliminated all the issues you ever had are just a free ride to everyone born after it was invented.
It’s like coming back to an old mmorpg game, and finding out that they’ve lowered the difficulty level, and made it so one person can solo what used to be considered “end game” monsters that needed at least 18 people to beat. It’s been made too easy. All of these things are answered prayers that you’ve always wished the game had, but at the same time, the people just starting in it will never know what it’s like to spend hours just to churn out a couple of levels in a crappy party filled with newbies who don’t know not to use area attacks, or keep switching their gear while you’re trying to heal them. They’ll never have competition for leveling camps, and they’ll never have to wait until they have enough people to finish a quest. They’ll never know what it means to work for what they want.
Today’s social media has also created this environment where teens can go, and basically bleed out their brains to a like-minded audience that those of us in my generation just didn’t have at that age. In the process, you wonder if they’re becoming too coddled, and don’t understand what it means to mature as a human being. They have this constant reinforcement—this little “echo chamber”—that tells them that everything they do is perfectly fine. They have instant comfort at the push of a button when their feelings are hurt. Instead of working through those feelings on their own, they’re just being enabled to never learn how to build their own self-confidence, and how to move past the minor obstacles of life with grace and aplomb. It’s literally preventing people from growing up. Instead of being told what they need to know about life, they’re only being told what they want to hear.
And while you’re sitting and thinking about these things, it suddenly dawns on you: Your parents used to think the same things about you. And one day, all of these “weird” teens you don’t understand are going to think the same things about the next generation, ad infinitum.
As “cool” as you may think you are, you can’t stay that way forever in other’s eyes. The world just won’t allow it. You’ll always be as cool as you felt you were, but things will change. You’ll become replaced. And as much as you laughed at the “old dude” wearing checkered Sketchers, or the “old lady” wearing a Lady Gaga shirt, you’ll come to realize that you’ve been looking in a mirror the entire time.
…Growing older is existentially exhausting.