The Pain is a Mirror

Rather than fixating on the way our adolescents dress and talk – not to mention their paradoxical willingness to use a phone for anything but its original purpose – in this book we will first pay attention to their pain because their pain is a mirror. Malcolm Harris aptly describes the asphyxiating quality of modern American childhood in his book Kids These Days: “A hypercompetitive environment sets parents up for dreams of champion children, and then for almost inevitable heartbreak. Millennials of all abilities have grown up in the shadow of these expectations, expectations that by definition only a very few of us can fulfill.”

Adolescents across the socioeconomic spectrum possess a nascent understanding of the weight of disappointment and expectation they regularly toil underneath. It’s why they have (and are) “brands” and why they graduate with GPAs nearing six on a four-point scale. It’s why they have life plans at age twelve and talk about the economic outlook for employment in the pharmaceutical field. But it’s not just them; it’s all of us. Their overextended, stressed, and desperate childhood is our adulthood.

From “It’s Not You, It’s Everything: What Our Pain Reveals about the Anxious Pursuit of the Good Life” by Eric Minton