I’m scared to tell people what I do. Last year, I graduated from Holy Cross, where everyone gets a job right out of school—either at a big finance company or investment firm or teaching disadvantaged youths in some cool city. Or they go on to grad school, somehow, at a school better than Holy Cross.
But what do I do? I write for a blog (trying to resuscitate a dying medium). When some older adult—because yes, Ryan, you are an adult—asks me about post-grad life, the conversation goes something like this:
“Hey, Ryan, so what’re you doing with your life now?”
“I’m, uh, writing for this men’s magazine.”
“Oh, wonderful, which one?”
“It’s called the Good Men Project.”
“How often does it come out? What’s the circulation?”
“Actually, it’s an online magazine. So, it gets updated every day.”
“OK, so, like, a website. Where’s your office?”
“We, um, don’t have one. I work from home … and Starbucks.”
“And they’re paying you for this?”
Writing for a blog? Working from home? Living at home? My parents paid all that money for this? Wait, am I a slacker?
Kay Hymowitz would probably say yes. But is that necessarily a bad thing? In the same issue of The Wall Street Journal that Hymowitz’s story appeared, Nathan Rabin, head writer of The Onion‘s A.V. Club, wrote an op-ed praising the so-called modern slacker:
No one would suggest that the antihero of Knocked Up is the apogee of masculinity, but he does possess an admirable quality shared by many members of his generation: He creates. He creates because he’s too young and naïve to realize that the odds are stacked against him. He’s also too green to realize that he’s creating something (a database of celebrity nudity) that has already been created (a website called Mr. Skin), but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s showing real initiative.
Men in their late teens and 20s have historically accomplished great things. They have started record labels and newspapers and zines and social networking sites that help other men in their teens and late 20s accomplish great things. It’s telling that the most talked-about businessman in the world right now isn’t Warren Buffett or Bill Gates—it’s Mark Zuckerberg, a 26-year-old, scruffily dressed Jewish kid who started a cultural revolution in his dorm room and inspired a movie that just may win the Oscar for best picture.
It’s remarkable what you can achieve when you’re too young to realize your limitations, or even to know that limitations exist. Men who put off marriage and fatherhood and home ownership until their 30s might be immersing themselves in work or they might be trying to extend the college experience as long as possible. Is that necessarily a bad thing? People do a whole lot more in college than down shots and hit bongs. College is also a place for experimentation, for reflection, for figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life. Those kinds of issues and questions shouldn’t end with college graduation.
If men are getting married and having children later than at any time in human history that’s probably because men in their 30s are almost invariably better prepared to tackle the responsibilities of adulthood than men in their 20s. Do we really want more generations of 23-year-old men who drink themselves to sleep every night dreaming about what they might have done if they hadn’t gotten married and had kids right out of school? Do we want to repeat the mistakes of our fathers or learn from them?
The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with either path. Whether you’re immediately jumping into the corporate world, writing from home about video games, or traveling the world, there’s no right way to do it. What’s best is different for each guy. As obvious as that sounds, it gets lost in all of the “End of Men” talk. If you’re doing what’s best for you, who cares?
At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
And hey, it got me an editor gig at 23. This slacking thing is pretty cool.