I just saw a Facebook post that made me angry. In trying to figure out why, I’ll first tell you what the post said. “I’m trying to come up with a niche marketing site, so I don’t have to get a job. Does anybody have any ideas for me?” This was on a Chiang Mai travel blogger Facebook page that caters to the needs of the self-described Digital Nomads, the postgraduate set who are hanging out in the developing world, living as cheaply as possible on their trust funds or parental allowances. They’re big into TED talks and having coffee together, are never seen without a laptop or notebook, usually Apple, and are somehow convinced they’re the cutting edge and avante garde of some movement or other, though they’re not sure what.
I remember being young and lazy and vaguely feeling entitled, and if I could meet myself now I would cuff that long-haired loser about the ears and tell him to stop getting stoned, hanging out in coffee shops drawing the same psychedelic swirls with his thin-point Flair pen. When I taught college I would try to counsel young people who had obviously never been obliged to really work a rough job, and they would want to know my opinion about going to graduate school. I’d ask “What are you especially good at?” and they would answer, “I dunno. I was thinking about English. Or maybe Art History?”
The only advice I could offer them is the same my father told me. Graduate schools are suspicious of people who want to hang out and hide from the real world. A good graduate school will only take applicants who show promise to catch fire and really do something. To these, they will find a way to support by letting them teach or do research. A bad graduate school will let you in and take your money, while letting your delude yourself a little bit longer.
I responded to her query, biting my tongue as best I could, suggesting that she “find a need and fill it,” and in the time it took me to write these paragraphs, she responded. “I was just hoping for links to sites that could help me clarify my thinking.” OK, sorry, I let my prejudices get the best of me. It just seems to me that if you’re not on fire about something by the time you’re in your late twenties or thirties, visiting a web site probably isn’t going to help.
Maybe my emotional response comes from the fact that I, too am living the Chiang Mai, spending most of my waking hours on my laptop, and wondering what I should be doing with myself. But I’ve got social security to keep me going here, so I can hang out a little bit longer, maybe a lot longer, drifting along without purpose. Easier to pick on her than to face myself.
God knows I wasted enough of my life waiting for work that would prove easy and obviously profitable to come along and grab a hold of me. Helen Keller, born deaf, dumb and blind, had this to say. “Life is either an exciting adventure or it is nothing.”