Suffering as a prerequisite for happiness?

Introducing! Yourself at 22…currently known as Taylor Cotter.

She hasn’t struggled, and she thinks that is going to limit her ability to be a well-rounded human being. The Internet has responded as the Internet responds: she has been condemned as stupid, immature, and ungrateful. She’s been analyzed, assessed, and assigned adjectives according to the author’s own history of struggling, or not struggling.

She got singled out, too. The Quarter-Life Crisis is a series of pieces at Huff Post College by Gen-Y writers with titles like, “Success or Happiness”, “Growing Up, Not Getting Older”, “A Not-So Rosy-Colored World”, and “How to Get Over Yourself…”. Cotter’s piece has 280 comments; the others have 0.

Cotter is 22. She’s in big girl shoes that didn’t cost her an entire paycheck (smart), and she has achieved her entire life’s goals in one fell swoop: graduate college and get a job…check (ok. now what?). But that she’s 22, young, and lamenting responsibility isn’t what I perceive to be at issue with the Huffington Post article (neither, incidentally, is the fact that she didn’t get paid for this piece).

We only need to read sentence one to see where the issue begins: Like most female journalists, I assume, I only grew up with two real inspirations in my life: Carrie Bradshaw and Harriet the Spy. Her real inspirations are fictional characters, rather than their creators, Candace Bushnell and Louise Fitzhugh, award-winning  female authors.

What I see is a real problem: struggling + struggling = happiness carte blanche.

She isn’t alone. We’ve been raised to believe that life can only be considered a success if the price was suffering:

  • Snow White had to leave her home and hide as a servant in a blue-collar dormitory before being poisoned into a coma to get her Happily Ever After
  • Cinderella was orphaned by the death of her parents, forced into domestic slavery, a victim of child abuse, and was forced into deceit to get her Happily Ever After
  • Belle was forced to choose between her freedom and her father’s. She lived as a captive slave to the temper of her master, under constant threat of her family’s lives to comply with the wishes of a monster to get her Happily Ever After
  • Tiana was born in poverty, raised in poverty, and served her dreams in poverty. She was tricked, taken from her comfort zone, and forced to live an existence even lower than lady-in-waiting to NoLa’s Mardi Gras daughter to get her Happily Ever After
  • Fiaona was locked away by her parents since she was a princess and all princesses must be locked in a tower, and then summoned to be a child-bride by the King, before she could get her Happily Ever After

Disney Princesses aren’t the only ones suffering this image:

  • Nemo was kidnapped and held captive, and faced certain death to escape only to struggle more to survive the open ocean to return home and get his Happily Ever After
  • Littlefoot is orphaned after witnessing the demise of several family members and is forced to fend for himself at a very young age to get his Happily Ever After
  • Charlie was born in poverty, raised in poverty, and fought temptation for immediate riches to ultimately choose his family over fame to get his Happily Ever After
  • Fievel lost his family when they immigrated from Russia to America and has to learn a new language, culture, and country to get his Happily Ever After
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog: Clifford’s Really Big Movie (2004), has a song singing that one must get lost to get found. Clifford song – YouTube The sun only rises from a dark, dark sky. (Tho literally true, not logically so.)

Character’s lives are plotted to happen in a very specific order and end with a very specific result. Their lives are outlined and revisable in a way ours aren’t. Just imagine if we could backspace over that ignorant comment, that ignorant mistake, or that ignorant year…but we can’t (and even when we can, like the comment thing, there are delete servers just waiting to resurrect our indiscretions at the click of a link).

We don’t have to suffer to come into our own. Struggling through poverty, rejection, and failure isn’t a guarantee for happiness. If it was, the Buffett 1% would be reversed. If it was, I’d be the happiest person alive.

Taylor Cotter may make more than .10₵ per word and have to eat noodles from a box rather than a bag, but she’s only 22 and there’s still time to lose it all. At 22 I was bartending, making near $50K, buying one-of-a-kind dresses that I only wore once, living in a coveted zip code, and driving my own car. I ordered pizza at 2am, slept til Noon, and paid all my bills. At 34, I’ve lost my family, my children, and my way. But I do have a job, in my field, and I drive a car I can afford to pay for each month.

My struggle of struggling may make me mighty, but not happy.

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9 comments

  1. The song “Cry Me a River” comes to mind after reading her piece. What a douche bag! (Yes, if a female can be called a douche bag, this girl epitomizes it for me.) She should stick to social media community management and not writing. Wow! She attended the best journalism school in the country and she dreams of becoming Carrie Fucking Bradshaw!?! I’m sorry.

    When I was 22 years old, I was a college drop-out with 2 years of college under my belt and zero debt. I traveled the country and met people and aspired to nothing! I loved my life because it was carefree and easy and I certainly wasn’t comparing myself to anyone else my age. People do that at 22 these days? How sad. My life became competitive and not-so-fun when I returned to college under pressure from family worried I was wasting away my life living so cheaply. Can you believe it?! I gave up a debt-free, easy life just so people would say, “Look at Paula. She’s so responsible.” How twisted! I was more responsible in choosing NOT to cave and follow the pack.

    And like you noted, let’s see what real struggle means to her in 10 years. Aaaah! Her story is non-sympathetic and non-inspiring. It makes me worried about young graduates and what they’re expecting from a career these days. There are no guarantees in life, not even with a 401k at 22. 🙂

    1. Taylor is a grad of J-school, so she knows how to write a lead sentence that makes people react and keep reading. But her choices for inspiration baffle me. Why fictional characters? Did she really make it all the way thru University that way, or was this Word Choice? But, you’re right, Carrie fucking Bradshaw? Jeez, talk about the anti-hero.
      By 22, I also had what probably equated to 2 years of college, and zero debt. I had a PhD in Road Trips, too. I could, and did, pop up to Chicago, over to Kansas City, or down to Memphis almost any day I wanted, as long as it wasn’t Friday, Saturday or Monday during football season. I travelled Ohio, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, and once clear across Missouri just to have something to do between breakfast and lunch, and ended up missing lunch because I saw this nuclear-looking thing on the horizon and I wanted to know what it was. Once I found it, around dinner time, I saw this nuclear-looking thing right in front of me. I never identified it. It was more the story of finding than the finding itself.
      I’ve been lost on a straight road and in love with scenery. That is what Taylor thinks she’s missed. Except she hasn’t…well, some things she has, but not everything. It’s perspective, or hindsight. Journalism can take you around the world, if you go.
      By 24, I was in college, but I didn’t stop traveling. I went because I didn’t want customer service as a career. I went because I heard of this thing called Study Abroad. I stayed an extra semester to do a second study abroad and graduated with $40K in student loans. But I had finally done what I was supposed to do: get an education, some debt, and absolutely no more direction than I had when I started.
      My journey into adulthood has been expensive and I have struggled along the way; now more so than ever. I’d like to think I could be just as happy, well-rounded, and fun-loving had it been easier for me.

      1. Hahaha! I did the same study-abroad move that you did. (I was actually able to talk the program director into allowing me to attend as a senior, so i didn’t have to do an extra semester, but I would have if I couldn’t have gotten around the requirement.) It was through my traveling that I realized writing was something I wanted to do, but I couldn’t just write about anything, especially something as superficial as “suffering from not suffering.” It’s twisted thinking. And customer service (barteding, waiting tables, making cold calls, etc) ain’t exactly living. I needed to get out of it. But now, after having lived 10 years beyond my graduation, I wish I could drop my career and write for a living. But I have that unfortunate disease called “student-loan debt,” too, that makes dropping out a bit more difficult and VERY irresponsible. 🙂

        1. My travels have taught me so much. Little things like drinking fountains aren’t everywhere, and most countries serve water with bubbles; and big things like respect for cultures and I’m not the only one on the planet.
          Customer service ain’t living. Maybe that’s what led me into an abusive relationship? I never knew any better than being treated like shit because I wore an apron.
          But whatever struggles I had, and whatever struggles I didn’t have, I hope I’ve never written anything as flippantly disrespectful as the Struggle of not Struggling.

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  5. […] far from all of it. I have talked about abuse in entertainment here and there. I have put together some essays, talked about books, and once I did a poem. Now, it’s time to grow this […]

  6. Annie Chace · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Parrots, Prose, and Poetry.

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