This morning, I drove to Redmond Town Center to meet a friend for lunch. On my way there, I had listened to musicians like Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat, Chris Brown and Coldplay on the radio, all the while thinking that I really ought to be listening to NPR and catching up on political news instead. When finally I mustered the willpower to leave Mraz behind, I found that NPR was also playing music; and what’s the point of listening to music on NPR when I can listen to whichever music I want? Goodbye NPR jazz, hello Mraz.
I was planning to write a column about the political apathy of my generation — of which I am a near-perfect example — when I ran into an old friend at a coffee shop before my lunch date. He is someone I met when I was 8 years old, who I went to school with for seven years and who I still see around from time to time (for example, in coffee shops). As he told me about his fifth concussion in one year and hinted at drug and alcohol use, outlined his plan to go to South America and explained to me his dream of becoming a ski instructor and owning a BMW, I was wondering, what happened to the little boy who used to play freeze tag with me? He seemed to be thinking the same thing — or some variation — because he asked, “When did we get so old?”
Rather than a simple column about the apathy of my generation, its causes and what we ought to be doing instead, I was ready instead to write a column about both growing into responsibilities (political and otherwise) and our shared wonderment at that growth. To me, the two feel closely linked: my political apathy is more condemnable now that I am at an age at which I really have more responsibility (unfortunately, this looks like it’s going to be another one of my many columns about my reluctant coming of age).
I registered to vote a few days ago, and when I had to check a box verifying that I am actually 18 years old, I had a brief moment of panic. I am actually 18 years old? Listening to NPR and keeping up on the political news, which when I was 14 was something I felt I ought to do simply because it would make me a better, more worldly and cultured person, is now a responsibility. Am I ready?
None of us — not me or the old friend I ran into or the other friend I met for lunch — have very much choice. We’re being pitched into adulthood whether we like it or not. So when I’m on my way driving home, I meditate for a moment on the fact that I will have to vote in November, and by that time I had better know more about Barack Obama and John McCain than I currently do. I am ready to listen to NPR. I’m going to do it. I’m going to change the station. But then the new Matt Nathanson song comes on the radio. And I just can’t bring myself to do it. Tomorrow, I will. Tomorrow I’ll grow up.
Hannah Joo is an Inglemoor High graduate who will attend Johns Hopkins University this fall.