“Is this normal?” I get asked this question frequently these days. Often this question is posed by young-adults, people ten or so years younger than me, sometimes people my age. Young people who are looking at the speed we are expected to operate in, and the violence, destruction, and loss we are experiencing on the planet. Emerging adults who realize they can’t quite keep up. Millennials who are getting the sense that something has gone horribly awry.
I’ve seen these emerging adults trying to balance work, school, expectations, social media, mainstream media, self care, emotions, and preparing for the future (and, and, and). I’ve seen them come to the realization that there’s no way to balance all of this in the system we are in.
More and more, younger folks are experiencing situations their developing-hearts aren’t prepared for—peer suicides, mass shootings, sexual assault, psychotic breaks, constant bullying, a broken political system, social injustice, and massive environmental destruction. Every single one of the young people I mentor have had personal encounters with these. These things are happening regularly at this point, they are common, a given. (Let’s be real though, this has been a given for a long time for many people, many communities, who have been and are continually exploited by the kyriarchy—it’s just now effecting privileged white communities.)
So, they—the young ones—rightfully ask me, “Is this normal? What is this? What do we do?” Here’s what I tell them, “No, this is NOT normal. And, yes, unfortunately, this is normal. It’s fucked up. I am sorry. What we do is sit here together and feel this. We support one another. We organize and try to protect the things that matter most.” That’s the only honest answer I have right now.
Sometimes I do something when I see these pains, these injustices, happening. Sometimes I march at the Capitol, stop and honor an animal’s death, donate money to someone doing needed work, call someone out who is perpetuating violence and inequality, engage in really uncomfortable conversations, or write the truth about what’s happening in these troubled times. Sometimes I just sit and cry. Sometimes I help build spaces where we can come together and be vulnerable, where we can grieve.
What’s ironic is that I started writing this months ago and I had only a closing paragraph to finish before I posted it on my site. Yesterday, I was talking to my mentor, a man a few decades older than me, a man who’s deeply honest about the planetary crisis, and I found myself saying to him, “You’re older than me, have you ever seen anything like this before?” Basically, I was asking, “Is this normal?” His answer, “No, this is unprecedented.” The speed at which this is unraveling is hyper-disorienting.
Right now, it’s imperative that we’re all vigilant, informed, honest, and engaged. We have to be willing to have the difficult conversations that we have been avoiding personally and collectively. When we are willing to look at young people, really any people—when we are willing to look at each other, and say, “This is not normal, this is not healthy, this is scary, and I am so sorry,” it helps us all step into our adulthoods and take right action. And, these are very adult times in which we are all being called to stand up together.