The story of a ‘creative’ but stressed-out generation
Recently I’ve seen a documentary that was both confronting as comforting: The Dutch documentary: ‘Alles wat we wilden’ or translated in English: ‘All we ever wanted’ by Sarah Mathilde Domogala. It felt confronting, as I recognized the phenomenon as a member of this particular generation the documentary is all about, and comforting as it gave me the feeling that I’m not alone.
For an impression, watch the trailer below (in Dutch), or watch the entire documentary online here (hopefully English subtitles will be provided soon as it is a must-see):
The documentary illustrates in an artistic way what I experience as the subtle struggles of a (my) generation. Artistically the documentary is brilliant, as it captures the colors (beautiful visual editing) and sounds (dreamy soundtrack) of what it feels to come of age (ranging from 25-34 years) during these ‘liquid’ times and negotiate “who you are” and “what you have/want to become”. Just as the generation itself, free-spirited, beautiful, dreamy and creative, as in the saying ‘the sky is the limit’, so are the lurking and ubiquitous anxieties and sleepless nights.
The title ‘All we ever wanted’ refers to the notion of growing up in an era where you live out and become your ideal self, you follow your dreams, you ‘make it’. Not only has this been engraved deeply in the collective consciousness of our times, but it is also ‘expected’ of us. The far reaching meritocratic ideals that lurk at night, preventing some from falling asleep. This generation grew up in a household, were parents provided a daily dose of self-esteem enhancers: “You can do it”, “You can become everything you want to be”. Higher education was (and still is) for the most of us (caution: I’m speaking for myself) not optional, but rather a natural path to take. Prolonged student years of explorations of ideas, friendships, relationships and dreams. A ‘state of the art’ study loan debt, that now has to be proven to the self and society to be ‘worth it’ every penny, as every penny was invested in the trampoline for the reaching of our fragile blossoming dreams. This generation thinks of itself as being ‘free’, and compared to other generations, can be seen indeed as relatively more free. A freedom that comes with a high psychological cost. This psychological cost materializes itself in many forms: as many experience anxieties, panic attacks at night, low self-esteem because of social comparison (comparing oneself to peers that ‘have’ accomplished ‘it’ (whatever that ‘it’ might be)), the fear of failure -one of the many carried irrational fears additional to all the myriad of “what if’s” vocations- the ever-going quest of finding one’s true self, the fear of binding oneself to an ‘ordinary life’, restlessness, mood-swings, hyperactivity, compulsive thinking, irrational sadness, perpetual daydreaming, depression, burn-outs, perfectionism, being freaking hard on oneself and the need of medication to calm all this, just to name a few of the psychological paralyzing distresses the documentary zooms in. In this sense the documentary contributes to more balance in the array of existing discourses on the new generations and of our contemporary time (late Gen X, Gen Y, MTV Gen, Gen Millenium etc.) where the positive attributes are more highlighted (e.g. greater freedoms, education for all, talents, creative, participative culture, pro-sumers) and other archetypal struggles these new generations face are left in the dark (high rate of depression, insecurities, the feeling of ‘not fitting in’ etc). Continue reading