Issue #106 – “Ambivalents” – April 2nd, 2007

-For generations, twentysomethings have asked themselves, “What am I doing with my life?”  Historically, the answer came after much introspection – you determined your interests and goals and figured out a plan to pursue them.  Over the past few years, however, I have begun to encounter many peers who are unable to follow this age-old path.  Why?  Because they have absolutely no interests or goals.  Mind you, these people are not stupid or lazy, but, for whatever reason, they never developed a calling for anything other than, well, just sorta hanging out.  Every day, more and more twentysomethings discover they have a passion for not having a passion.  I call these lost souls the Ambivalents.

-Ambivalents can be easily spotted.  In high school, they had a tough time coming up with a topic for their college application essay (and usually defaulted to the pedestrian “I was sad when my grandma died” angle).  In college, they couldn’t choose a major because they couldn’t fathom anything they’d possibly like to study.  And older Ambivalents can be identified by the comically vague “interests” they list on the bottom of their resumes, typically: Working Out, Travel, and Spending Time with Friends.

-Fortunately, Ambivalents have an organization that allows them to congregate with like-minded individuals – grad school (or as I call it: the get-out-of-life-free card).  I love that grad school actually gives you a countdown to when you have to start making decisions again.  My friend is in some crazy eight-year Ph.D. program so when she started in 2001 she was assigned an email address with her graduation year – 2009.  I also love when grad school Ambivalents encounter classmates who actually care, and then complain that these “dorks” actually do all the reading.  I mean, you can rightfully bitch about that when you’re a snarky undergrad, but if a married dude getting his Master’s wants to constantly raise his hand in class, I say just let the poor guy be.

-Of course, it is possible to be too enthusiastic about your interests.  For instance, my buddy Shappy, a music aficionado, once went to 100 concerts in 100 days.  I’m sorry, but that’s sounds horrible.  You couldn’t pay me to do anything, no matter how amazing – fuck, party, sit in a luxury box at Yankee Stadium – for 100 days in a row.  It’d be exhausting and I’d miss too many episodes of “Heroes.”

-But why then have so many of us become Ambivalents?  Perhaps it’s because life is so much easier than it was only a generation ago.  For years, the hardest decision I ever had to make was whether to shave through a pimple or around it – that’s not exactly passion-forging experience.  Or perhaps in our egocentric culture people have become more self-conscious about their career decisions.  Who wants to work for a company that no one has ever heard of (and when you explain what you do, have people respond tepidly, “Oh…uh, nice.”).  I know that, personally, I never feel comfortable doing something that I’m not already an expert at, which is why I avoid gambling or ordering first at a new restaurant.  The same could be said for trying a new job.  Or maybe my fellow twentysomethings are just lazier than I give them credit for.  Whatever the reason, the population of Ambivalents is growing rapidly and they need passions and goals.  They need someone or something to inspire them.  I’d do it, but, eh, I’m not really interested.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-Went to the gym the other day and there was a half-full water bottle on the shelf of the only open treadmill.  It was just enough to signify that the treadmill might still be in use but not enough to signify that someone was definitely coming back.  I looked around vainly for the culprit, then headed to the free weights where there’s less gray area.

-What’s with customer service reps trying to commiserate with me?  Lately, when I call tech support and explain the problem, the rep replies, “I’m very sorry to hear that; I understand it can be frustrating.”  Shut the fuck up!  I mean, do you really understand?  Really?  Because if you did, you’d know that every additional second I spend on the phone with tech support is pure unadulterated hell so quit the bullshit scripted sympathy and try to fix my fucking problem for once without getting disconnected first.

-Valerie Plame is surprisingly hot.

-My buddy Claudio recently told me that he and his roommate – both heterosexual males – share the same bar of soap in their shower because it’s more convenient and soap is inherently clean anyway.  I argued that it was still disgusting, plus they’re using the same total amount of soap.  Eventually we agreed to disagree, though we all know the real winner was the one of us not sharing a bar of soap with his roommate.

-Ever notice that the Employee of the Month plaque in every store you’ve ever been to hasn’t been updated with a new winner in at least half a year?

-Here are my five rules for making medical shows on TV: 1) All injured female patients must also be pregnant.  2) The first diagnosis is always wrong.  3) There are only six doctors in the whole hospital but they’ve all been trained in everything.  4) Pagers must communicate way more information than is actually possible.  5) If a fellow doctor of the opposite sex does his or her job correctly, instead of offering congratulations like a normal human, they must nail each other.

-I’m not sure why, but it struck me as strange when I noticed last week that there are female cheerleaders at women’s college basketball games.

-And, finally, a couple of years ago, I realized what I believe to be the key to life: “In the long run, you will always be happier – and make more money – doing something that you love.”  It may seem like an obvious statement but I’ve found it to be quite profound.  After all, I am not one of the Ambivalents that I described in this column because I have a passion – writing and performing comedy.  I believe that many Ambivalents, deep down, have a passion as well, but they’re just not sure what the hell to do with it.  And that’s where my key to life comes in.  Something you try on the side can some day become your full-time gig.  And if you really enjoy it, you’ll excel at it, and eventually surpass your miserable investment banker friends.  OK, so perhaps that’s a bit of rationalization on my part, but it keeps me going and it might do the same for you.  In the end, if you’re really, truly Ambivalent, I just want you to know one thing: I’m very sorry to hear that and I understand it can be frustrating.  Fuck me.