Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Here's the thing, as Asian-Americans (and non-Asian Americans), we're mostly brought to this country to do one thing: make a living. Our parents sacrificed their lives to give us the chance at a better one. It's the American Tale, the immigration story. So what do they want us to do? Assimilate as Americans (educationally, financially, socially) but also maintain our Asian morals and traditions. To them, America is a great place; Americans, eh, not so much. Thus we're instilled with conflicting goals right from the get go. Assimiliate (and beat) the Americans, but don't become one.
Term: Asian-American. I'm speaking to mainly Generation 1.0 through 2.0 Asian-Americans. If you don't know, how the "generation" thing works for Asian-Americans is this: If you were born in another country (for me, Taiwan) but moved here in your formative years, you're Generation 1.5 -- or F.O.B. Your parents, who were presumably born and raised overseas and only came here as adults, would then be Generation 1.0 Asians. If you were born in America (ABC), then you're Generation 2.0. It's a bit different than the other ethnicities way of counting generations. For them, generation-one is the first generation born and raised in America.

The term "Asian" I'm also using is technically any Asian Pacific Islander, stretching to include Indians, Middle Easterners, etc. Basically, for me, any immigrant culture that moved to America so that their children could get some education (in order to achieve success) would know what I'm talking about. We about mass appeal, no segregation; got Black to Asian and Caucasian sayin...
For most immigrant children, you're a failure unless you what? All together now: "Become a doctor or lawyer (maybe computer person)." That's it. Business isn't a bad Plan-B, but if you want to be a humanities, arts, dance, anything creative, etc major, your parents will shun you -- probably publicly. It's embarassing for them to have to compare your unemployed A+ Psychology majoring ass with any of their friends' children who are pre-med or um, economics majors.

So their American dream is for you to study, go to an excellent school, dominate, and leave with the resume to acquire a cushy job in corporate America. Corporate America meaning working your way up the ladder -- despite being better and faster than anyone else on your level. The talent gap isn't just narrowing people, it's obliterating the experience gap too. Think about poker. You used to have to live and breathe poker to become a Doyle Brunson. Now you can became a grandmaster in three months with the help of the Internet. Weak.

But here's the other thing: traditional corporate America is also too slow (not to mention shady right?) to keep up with us. The sweet security of twenty years with one company is evaporating faster than the ozone. Many of the giants of American industry are collapsing; from internal or external pressures, they're collapsing. What's replacing them? Fast moving, mobile, young, tech companies. Or people who are bringing fresh ideas and mixing them together with old business ideas to create a golem company. Fast Company, it's not just a magazine, it's the way of the future. The near future; who knows what's around the next bend? Moore's Law is changing everything so fast -- even itself -- nothing can be built on a stable foundation. Venice is sinking? We're all sinking.

Why join the old guard when you can revise/reinvent it for bigger bucks, bigger acclaim, and dress casual all day? Plus work from home. Why should the sins of the fathers be visited upon the sons? The current company structure is collapsing; why rush to join a dying herd?

That's what everyone is starting to realize. I think.

Generation X was the generation a few years older than me. The now early 30-something young professionals who were the first of the slacker generation (see, Singles by Cameron Crowe). Generation Y? Nobody really dubbed us/them that, but I guess that's the obvious follow up to X right? Generation Why was, I guess, lost? See, Reality Bites by Ben Stiller.

But I realized something this weekend, we're not X or Y, I think we're more Generation Z. Z as in sleeping; Z as in Zenith. I mean, we're equipped with degrees (or intelligence anyway), with the world is our oyster mentality, but we're not sure what do with our pimped out rides. I mean, we literally have nowhere to go. So we wait. Because we've been taught to not drive unless there's a destination. The journey is the destination but gas is hella expensive isn't it? Plus, our parents will fight us every step of the way unless it's toward the sanitized version of success they gave up their lives for.

See the problem here?

Well, the good news is, everyone this generation is a Renaissance (Wo)Man. Think about it. We're not designed to just do one thing for forty years. We need more stimulation; we have more skills; we want motivation and inspiration, not a job. The problem is, we need to maintain our bank accounts too. What happens when you graduate? You're shoved (begrudgingly, happily, desperately) into a job where you start from the bottom and do one thing -- for me, it was filing. If you do that well, you then get to do two or three things. Ten years later, you get to manage people who each do two or three things apiece. Whoopee.
The Graduate. I'm sitting next to a guy right now, literally across from me (I envy his MacBook), who's writing screenplays -- which he just quit his job to do. He used to be a gourmet chef. He was a corporate headhunter. His hobbies include guitars, (real) reading, photography, surfing, and a slew of other things. He has a healthy dating life. He's a year younger than me. He graduated with a psychology degree. His first job out of college? Construction crew working to tear down the bar he used to hang out at as an underclassman.

I met him a few weeks ago so there's an iceberg of other talents to discover but already, he's more talented, qualified, and capable than most 35-year olds, wouldn't you say? I'm staying at his house the next couple of days courtesy of Brian-X -- who's equally Swiss Army knife-like and just moved here from New York to pursue writing and stand up comedy. They're having a wine and (grilled) cheese party this Friday. Fun eh?

That's just one example. Me, you, and everyone we know is like this, right?
The only thing our generation does slower than our parents' generation is marry. Some of us anyway. For the most part, we're slower to get married and thus have more time to devote to our individual pursuits. And even now, the people who do marry young, do so as a partnership; both parties are building separate lives but together. The speed bump here is that waiting so long to find "the One" also creates excess drama and baggage, which can really slow us down. But that's another story.

Every person I know has 5-15 top quality skills (defined as above average with the potential to be really above average). At least. They could literally do anything given the effort and time. Not everyone can be a rocket scientist; but not everyone wants to be one anyway. But we're all capable of doing something; many somethings. The problem is, we're not sure where to focus our energies, because we're constantly wondering "Will this make me happy?" So we attempt a dozen things at once while focusing on nothing; except maybe relationship, friends, clubbing, vacations, (corporate) career. We might also lack confidence because where would we gain confidence if our parents are against us and we're not exactly sure what we're doing either?

Thus, we take naps, we sleep, we wait. We wait for the Garmin to tell us where to go. From Zenith to Zion, to infinity and beyond. We know where we are trying to get to, we're just not sure how. And nobody can tell us, because our parents and peers are all just playing it by ear too.
Mike: “I went over her head. Oh God, I said Age of Enlightenment like a Las Vegas waitress is going to get an obscure French philisophical reference. It’s like I’m trying to show off to her. I might as well have said let me jump your ignorant bones.”

Trent: “Mikey don’t even sweat it, we’re gonna meet our honeys soon allright? You know that Christie’s friend is going to be money.”

Mike: “Excuse me, we’re in kind of a hurry.”

Waitress: “Hang on Voltaire.”

1 comment:

Online Onslaught Host said...

this is very interesting. i wish you had more of a conclusion tho :) what do we do with talents we don't excerise? with a law degree we're pursuing but very uncertain will make us happy? with all the toys money can buy including a macbook? are we happy as long as we have someone even if we're independently chasing separate careers? do we even have a dream anymore? someone smart once told me that the problem with us is internet culture, we want everything and we want it now.

found you via your link back to me athenamat.com