Sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote. The past few weeks have been traumatic. I’ve realized I’ve lost myself. I don’t know what’s true anymore. I don’t know what’s good. I have nothing to anchor myself to. How can I be authentic? I authenticity even possible anymore? What does authenticity even mean?
I’ve had these feelings for a while now. When Arcade Fire won a Grammy, I knew we were entering a new age. But the things that have happened over spring break have really changed the way I look at life. Last weekend, I visited some friends from high school at a state university a few hours from where I grew up. I realized I could see myself there living with them, partying with them, studying with them year round. It felt too right. And I met a girl. She was unlike anyone I’ve ever met before. I felt like we instantly connected. But we only had one night together before I had to go back home. We live thousands of miles apart. And yet for one brief night, I felt so at home. I may never see her again. I don’t know.
And now I’m back home in an empty shell of a town. I lived my entire life here until moving off to college. Every street I drive down has a thousand memories. This is the road where the afterparty to my eighth grade graduation was.
And also where I first hooked up with my now ex-girlfriend one year ago. This is where my friend crashed his car while driving drunk and had to spend the summer working on a construction crew to pay for the repairs. This is where I went to eat before prom junior year.
But now there are no more stories left to write. There’s nothing left for me here. At every corner, there are shadows of my past. But we’ve all moved on, moved out. We’re all just visitors, constantly reminded of the past we shared. Everything we do in this town is just a reflection of the times we once had.
Which leads me to post-authenticity. I don’t know what it means to be authentic. Is it about being true to yourself? I don’t know myself well enough. Is it some sort of abstract quality possessed by tribes in Papua New Guinea or Pabst Blue Ribbon? I just don’t know anymore. The hipster generation fetishized the authentic while at the same time undermining its meaning. They were the post-ironic generation. But the hipster died circa 2010. We’re in a new generation. The hipster generation exposed the meaninglessness of authenticity. We can never regain true authenticity. We are the post-authentic generation.
Remember those meaningful times we had as a kid?
Remember pretending that a cardboard box was a spaceship?
Remember the pain of losing your first tooth?
Remember having that growth spurt in junior high and finally being good at basketball?
Remember the first time you shaved? Your first kiss? Prom night?
The first time you got drunk? And how your friends took care of you as you threw up in the hedge?
Remember sneaking home past curfew and trying not to wake your parents?
Remember your first day of college when your sister helped you move in and you met your roommate for the first time?
Remember freshman orientation and meeting the people that would become your best friends over the next four years?
Authenticity is dead. But we still feel pain, love, joy, sadness. Even though we can’t claim to be true to anything, even ourselves, we still have our emotions and our memories, even if they’re tainted with age. With the hipster came the death of authenticity. But with the death of the hipster, we’re left with post-authenticity. Post-authenticity is more than just post-hipsterism. It’s more than just a resurgence of meaningfulness. It’s a new generation born out of the death of the hipster, the economic recession, the state of technology, and the changes in the production of cultural goods.
Over the next weeks, I’ll continue to develop this idea of post-authenticity, exploring what it is and what it means for our generation. While my observations are certainly limited by my own position, hopefully what emerges will be a broader picture of the state of our culture in the years to come.