We owe a lot to the comic book writers who invented the notion of the normal, mild-mannered person transformed into a remarkable mutant by freak accident. As a result, our generation must do extraordinary things. We have to! It would be absurd not to! "Average" is the temporary state before fame and fortune! Yet, these dreams seem ragged at the edges, gnawed on, incomplete.
In our younger years, we're concerned only with how to spin world-class brocade from the working-class cotton of our days, obsessed with going from "nothin' to somethin'." But what fails to penetrate our nacre-colored daydreams is the actual work needed to reach that level of success. And, once caught up in all that navel-gazing, we're already dormant, stagnant. We don't even realize we're not making progress and end up losing years like buttons or pencils. Look no further than the little kid who starts sentences with, "Momma, when I'm rich, I'm gonna buy you a..." But how many of those youngsters ever put their momma in diamonds and furs? We appreciate the sentiment and leave it at that, when what we should be saying is, "That's great, kid. But how?"
This immobility happens for several reasons. To begin with, our generation—more so than any other—grew up being told that we could be anything. We were given trophies for showing up, graded on inflation curves, coddled when we failed and told it wasn't our fault. Another culprit is the conspicuousness of people leading the lives we wish we did, or, more accurately, believe we eventually will lead. Cribs, gossip rags, Keeping Up and Johnny Football's Instagram are all to blame in equal measure. Being able to tweet at our idols and double tap their pictures has given us a false sense of proximity, when what's really happening is that we're making them more successful, and, in the process, making ourselves the butt of the joke. Yes, these lives of the rich and famous are somehow never closer than arm's length, yet, at the same time, hold us too.
Problem is, most of us aren't used to working hard or, even if we think we are, we don't know the real meaning of it.
All this would be more pathetic (less scary) if not for the fact that it's suspending many of us in the amber. We don't work as hard because our favorite heroes seemingly had their spots blown up overnight, when, in reality, overnight success takes a long, long time. We think fortune finds people, and not the other way around. So we sit by the phone, rather than doing things that make people want to ask for our number. And when the phone doesn't ring, we don't know what it means and there's no cockle-warming cliche in the entire world that can help.
But the condition can be reversed because the path out of the basic bitch briar patch isn't hard to find, it's just disguised as hard work. Problem is, most of us aren't used to working hard or, even if we think we are, we don't know the real meaning of it. Yes, it's never the changes we want that change everything. Because to test reality, we have to see it on a tight rope. It's only when the truths and delusions become acrobats, that we can judge them. And while many of the people who know this are afraid of failure—i.e. not reaching the zenith of their potential—with more hard work their lives as a whole would be much happier. They'd still experience the sweet success that is eventually being embarrassed of this version of yourself.
So, yes, our problem has never been dreaming up what we would do with all that guap and notoriety once it falls from the sky. It's that we're expecting it to fall from the sky. We're exposed only to, and consequently interested in, the cushy celebrity aftermath of honest work and, as a result, don't know that's the price of admission. Because what the comic books don't tell you is that the radioactive spider that turned Peter Parker into Spider Man took a dozen scientists countless weeks to develop. And we don't know a single one of their names.
Rick Morrison is a writer living in North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter here.