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.