THE MILLENNIAL WHO REFUSED TO DIE

 

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Kevin Lucbert, Méditation #3, 2019

I fired my therapist. I have been informed that because I am a Capricorn, I describe my life as a series of business transactions. I did not cancel my next appointment. I fired her. I dismissed her from her post.

The reason for the firing is as follows: I had just finished telling her a wild story. It wasn’t a heartbreaking story, or a story that would make you concerned for my wellbeing. It was the kind of story you might divulge to someone in a hushed voice as you lean over your drinks conspiratorially, a can you believe this shit?? kind of story. When I finished, she paused, as she often would, and then asked, “have you considered killing yourself?” Before I could splutter much more than a hearty “NO?” she pulled out her day planner and did the sigh-and-resettle-in-her-seat which invariably means: session over. See you in two weeks.

I never expected this therapist to be great. I had opted for a sliding-scale plan that paired me with someone with a fresh PhD and unpolished skills. Her neutral expression was like gazing into the blank eyes of a sheep. She often hit me with long, police interrogator pauses to get me to volunteer more information, even though I’m a forthcoming patient (I have a blog; I’m not exactly the reticent type). None of this was ideal, but I wanted a therapist more as a sounding board than an analyst so I was willing to let it slide. But this question about suicidality felt like she might as well have hit me with her car. Not only was it completely tone-deaf, it also hinted at a dangerous precedent.

What do we do with the millennial who doesn’t have a death wish?

The timing of her question was telling. Suicidality didn’t come up significantly in my intake interview (in fact, I’m sure I must have said that I don’t experience suicidal thoughts), nor did it come up in any of my previous sessions, which had spanned several months. No, instead it came up when I talked about something larger than life, something full of baffling but salacious details. The message, then, was “situations that you do not understand – situations that seem bigger than you and that are functioning on precepts that you have not internalized – should make you want to die.” That message in that moment might be a trigger. If I was someone more impressionable I might then wonder, is something wrong with me that this doesn’t make me want to die? Should I learn to want to die?

I don’t have any big inspirational thoughts about not wanting to die. I’m just not the type. I’m plenty sad, but I’m also hardheaded, and I live with a chronic health condition that gives my self-preservation instinct a solid boost. My father and his siblings are like this too, so much so that I’ve joked about how Too Stubborn To Die should be the family crest. One of my primary motivations might be spite.

But look, I get it! Millennials are depressed. That’s the joke! We make the shitposts! We have student loan debt! We’ve bankrupted ourselves on avocados and Juul pods and it’s all a very tired routine. If you’re looking at memes alone, of course it’s going to look like we’re all in the midst of some mass psychogenic dysphoria. But clearly, my ex-therapist wasn’t looking at memes alone. She was speaking to millennials all day, as the clientele at this office were overwhelmingly young and queer. I’m sure a significant number of her other patients do deal with suicidal ideation. But for the ones that don’t, I believe that she was leaning so hard into the Millennial As Archetype that those of us who didn’t fit her pattern of young-gay-wants-to-die were seen as aberrant. I suspect that if I continued those sessions, she would have no idea how to treat me. Clearly, her burning need to ask that question in that moment signaled that, despite many sessions, she still had no working metric for my average emotional state, and never would.

The hold music at this office was the Mii channel music, which I suppose is telling. Appeal to your clientele. Speak their language. Fit their mold. I didn’t book a session with another therapist there for lack of motivation, but I have idly wondered if they are running some kind of millennial suicidality industrial complex back there. Welcome to therapy! Want to die! No? We can fix that! Please come up with a list of reasons you’d like to die by your next session, and we’ll get to work… Jokes aside, even if it’s not the entire staff, even if it’s just one therapist seeing a handful of clients, the damage is done. It’s not analysis. It’s just wholesale stereotyping and it’s doing the entire field a disservice.

REBRANDING FOR THE END OF THE WORLD

“Hyperobjects…refer to things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans. A hyperobject could be a black hole. A hyperobject could be the Lago Agrio oil field in Ecuador, or the Florida Everglades. A hyperobject could be the biosphere, or the Solar System. A hyperobject could be the sum total of all the nuclear materials on Earth…

“According to hyperobjects themselves, who seem to act a little bit like the gigantic boot at the end of the Monty Python credits, outer space is a figment of our imagination: we are always inside an object.” – Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World by Timothy Morton


The word ‘blog’ makes me cringe. That wide-open baby bird’s mouth of an O, with consonants big enough to choke on. It’s unbridled pre-recession internet twee, from the era that brought you other unpleasant collections of plosives like ‘dongle’. It also seems like a tired ecosystem, relegated to groan-inducing retrospectives about teenagers roleplaying vampires and suburban mothers running casual pyramid schemes for Tupperware. Remember when Facebook tried to make their blogging framework, called Notes, an integral part of the site’s infrastructure but then subsequently buried them when they realized blogging was out? In an age where everyone and no one is an influencer, and everyone and no one has something important to say as long as it fits into a screenshot of a tweet, the blog is an internet dinosaur.

Blogging also makes me cringe because at one point in time I utterly failed to realize how it could trap me in a network of bullshit that I would be unable to remove myself from.

Per Timothy Morton, we are always inside an object.

I gave blogging a go when I was in my early 20s, and was hanging out in subcultural spaces that employed rigidly codified visual tropes as social currency. Interactions were encoded in your clothing, your haircut. As much as I enjoyed the idea of belonging to a community, my failure to adhere to certain visual expectations, particularly regarding gender roles, could earn me subtle social punishments from the in-group. So I decided to write about it. Filtering groupthink in cultural spaces through psychology and symbology frameworks seemed like a useful thing to do. Moreover, I was young and trying to cultivate my aesthetics for the first time. I thought I would throw up a few outfit posts, talk about presentation and sense of self, and learn how I wanted to be seen by the world.

Shockingly, putting your face on the internet while simultaneously intellectualizing a profoundly anti-intellectual subculture is an easy way to make people very angry with you.

Predictably, the hate poured in. It came from around the world and also from people I most likely knew. They crept through my social media accounts, digging up morsels that inexorably proved how much of an attention whore, a poser, and a crazy bitch I was. I closed down the blog, and put IP trackers on everything else. For years after that, one of those IP addresses would refresh my Tumblr a couple of times a day, waiting for me to do something damning. Even now, when I’m engaging in some pointless online debate, as one does, someone from that era will often step in and say: “We remember you. You’re a vain hypocrite and nothing you say can be trusted.”

In the years since, I’ve made a point of not having very much to say. The internet is an organism that has little short-term memory but endless cold storage (something I’ll be writing about later on), and to navigate it I made myself into a safe commodity, a crowd-pleaser. I’ve barely written anything and I’ve gotten bored. And now it’s 2019, the world is going to hell, and anyone who uses the internet is inexorably webbed into hundreds of interlocking networks of influence and confluence, all of them complicit in the end of the world. So, I thought, I might as well have something to say about it. My goal is to keep this space as a running catalog of Anthropocene design movements, social engineering and communication trends. I may also review an occasional album or book, if it’s on-theme.

It’s not that deep! I can hear you thinking. But that’s the thing. Nothing is deep on its own, but it’s all a part of some other immensity.

The internet barely qualifies as a hyperobject, given its relatively recent invention and a need for upkeep that relies entirely on human infrastructure. However, I like to think that it qualifies on a tiny, controlled scale, sort of like a hyperobject you can keep in a petri dish. In here, I’m just one blip in a huge expanse. Maybe I’ll enrich my little patch. Maybe I’ll get stuck in some other firestorm, but at least there’s some security in knowing that it will never be as big as the one we’re already engulfed in.


“Perhaps this is the most fundamental issue—hyperobjects seem to force something on us, something that affects some core ideas of what it means to exist, what Earth is, what society is.”