• Faith Bugenhagen

The Age of Eternal Living

Recently, I was listening to Stufjan Stevens’s album, The Age of Adz, when I noticed Stevens sing, “This is the age of eternal living.” Eternal living, a concept I had never heard before, now stuck out to me like a sore thumb. The resonation within this term resonated towards what was going on in the news. With the virus featured on almost every news channel, directly after the impact of the Australian wildfires, it simply felt like the world was crumbling underneath me and I had no control over it.

I remember sitting in the back seat of an Uber on my way to a friend’s apartment not too long ago. My usual tendency is to talk to the Uber driver and see if they are willing to have a conversation to dissipate the awkward fact that they are temporary chauffeur. During this particular ride, I had a driver who was quite conversational— a middle-aged graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). He knew all about Emerson, and we drew from similar experiences attending artistically-driven colleges to fuel the conversation we had.

As I am sure of any conversation had in this day and age, we arrived on the topic of politics. We discussed our personal opinions and political policies that we believed would be best to implement within our country’s contemporary infrastructure. Most importantly, we discussed the pressing issues of existence today. The problem we talked about the most was the climate crisis.

We targeted our conversation around the fashion industry, as he had majored in design at RISD, and I had shared my interest in the industry as well. I explained my preoccupations with going to design school, as I saw no purpose in trying to create beautiful things, if these creations would slowly have detrimental impacts to the earth.

“Have you heard of Iris Van Herpen,” he said looking back at me, as I jumped up, the name being one of my favorite designers. I answered back that I had, how surprising I found it that this Uber driver would happen to have known the one designer’s work, I most wanted to emulate.

“In spite of wanting to make work as interesting as this label, I could never do it without serving a purpose,” I told him, regretfully. I could never come to terms with myself if I were to indulge in such an endeavor and I tried to make him understand why.

“I feel like my life and what I wanwas stolen from me,” I explained to him as he looked towards me through the rear view mirror, astonished to hear this and filled with concern over the statement I had made. His reaction confused me. All along we had been agreeing. How could he have not anticipated a response like this from me? He wanted to know why I felt that way, and why I had felt as if my life was taken from me before I truly got to live it.

I tried to formulate my thoughts into a clear, cohesive statement he could understand. But, how could I consolidate the major issues of the world into a sentence that was digestible? How could I begin to even try to convey how all those issues and their unsolved resolutions feel like they are suffocating me slowly?

Some would probably say I have anxiety and I don’t discredit that assumption, but this situation is different—people of my generation read headlines on the news throughout major publications about how their world is slowly dying on a daily basis. To claim ownership over the world, as ours, is a bold statement. But it is the truth, this world is ours, and we have the responsibility to care for its fate is within our hands.

But we never asked for this.

As selfish as it sounds, this responsibility should not be entirely ours, but it has fallen in our hands and taken away all opportunity of living an “eternal youth.” I know that each generation had cares and concerns that they had to attend to as well, however, now it seems as if every problem lies within our laps. I am tired of carrying this weight. I am tired of having to grow up and claim ownership over issues that I did not create.

I don’t have this choice. No one has this luxury, not anymore. We don’t have the ability to relax, we don’t have the ability to think about the leisure aspects of life because we are too busy trying to save it. We literally have the weight of the world on our shoulders.

It is not just my responsibility, it is not a me thing, it is something that everyone within my generation has had to come to the realization of. We no longer have a life that’s about existing in the present, our lives now exist within the future.

So, I circle back to the eternal living to describe what I have lost. I have lost the ability to think simply about the way I live, I have lost the ability to enjoy the little things in life. Maybe it’s just me, and it could likely be, but now every time I try to make these problems dissipate they instead exacerbate. Every time I have a good day I remember how issues will one day make it go away, every day I exist I remember how limited time truly is.

I am tired and I am sad, I hate feeling limited. I hate the way that my generation has to exist on a day-to-day plane, that we are constantly looking towards the next crisis to fear. It is not fair, we should have had our opportunity as “eternal youth” but the world got in the way and created an entirely different path for us. Now all we have left to do is radically embrace the fractured future we are given, despite the challenges that may precede. Maybe it’s selfish, but my biggest wish is for it to have never gotten this way.

photo found on Pinterest

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