I walked home after work today, sort of gingerly put down my bag, and immediately plugged my receiver into my computer to listen to the NPR stream of M. Ward’s new album A Wasteland Companion. As M. Ward slid back into his shadowy folk roots, I laid down, my bare feet stretched over the sofa arm with the soft gray light of the prolonged spring evening pressing down on my wide open eyes, and he sang,

When I was a younger man I thought the pain and the defeat would last forever

but now I don’t know what it would take to make my heart back down

Because I only have to wait a little while 

Before I get my clean slate

The album opens with a quiet, searching question with no answers. But he seems to have gained the knowledge, earned the knowledge, that it’s normal that life continues in these relentless cycles, and cynicism and rearview mirrors have no place at the end of it.

At the close of a long day, what feels sometimes like the longest young life, knowing he knew as little of the answer as I do made my back muscles relax and my shoulders sink into the couch. My eyes closed, pink light, hazy and diffused through my deeper breaths.

I feel so lost sometimes. I can’t get a handle on what happens in my own heart, and so often I want to blame it on the world I’m in. Because, frankly, the time we live in is a less than idyllic one.

I hear so often, from myself included, that the world we live in is a ruined one. We are a young generation looking hard backwards over our shoulders toward a time we think is better. Times with polaroids and paper publications and hand carved things and…well…time itself.

I am ostensibly of that school of thought. I plant my own garden, I go into thrift stores, I love Anthropologie for all its overexerted nostalgic whimsy.

I am here in this 2012 world, and I often don’t want to be. If there was a filter to make it all really rewind (without sacrificing a good wifi connection), I would.

But I can’t.

And while M Ward sifted through all his existential muck with pretty aplomb, I realized that my generation, including myself, is bunch of whining quitters.

We are young people full of expansive kinetic energy talking like we actually lived to do the foxtrot at our debutante balls, like we were around when Edwin Land released his first accordion bodied camera, like we miss these things.

We are wasting our time when we live in an important age. We are getting bogged down in the past, whether it be the photos your ex had up on Facebook las week, or how everyone on Mad Men looks better than all of the people out on Capitol Hill on Friday.

It’s not a bucolic time. It’s not very nice to look at (have you seen Snooki?). It’s not particularly charming. It’s fast and loud and bright and disconnected and lonely and hard like flint.

But it’s ours. And we still have the time to make it what we want. So what are we doing longing for something that never belonged to us?

We own this. We were given it. We inherited from those same people who got to bandy about with their handcrafted things, and then die of polio pretty soon after, or have to deal with racism and oppression and even if they didn’t have Facebook’s perpetual bile, they didn’t have Downton Abbey either (except for real British aristocrats but let’s not start on what they had to deal with around inbreeding).

There is stuff to work with here. We’re a crafty bunch. We can do it.

And no, I don’t think “going off the grid” is a good way. Frankly, if I ever get enough sleep to walk through my front door at night and not want to let midnight soaked blues calm me down into a stupor, I’d like to jump on that grid and make it work for me.

We’re smart. We’re educated. We have a lot of half informed opinions and the information to make them fully informed. We are connected, sometimes too much so, and we live in world so close it can almost fit on a pinhead. We can take these things we ignore in favor of misty-eyed romance and make them into an age we can be proud of handing off, instead of watching our own kids sigh and rummage for relics of our own young, wild times.

Like that iPhone you’re holding.

Vintage. So cute. Only 30 dollars at Goodwill in 2032!

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