All You Can Eat
I am definitely a child of the 80s. We are not from the generation where every kid received a trophy, but we were from one that was mired in the imagery of excess.
The 80s were very much about big and more - whether it was hair, shoulder pads, booming synthesizers or metallic riffs from New Wave and "hair bands", or the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The message was unabashed - we are here to succeed and succeeding means winning and winning is about getting as much as you can - of everything.
I still remember the classic poster titled "Justification for higher education." It wasn't an image of someone knocking on doors to move the social justice movement forward. It was a photograph featuring a series of high-priced sports cars in a multi-car garage that belonged to a luxury home at the edge of the Pacific ocean.
Luckily, many of us also had parents that insisted on keeping us grounded or as my grandfather would say, from "not getting too big for your britches", though I wasn't really sure what britches were at the time.
Today, though many of us are learning to have a more nuanced understanding of what true success actually means, it is still largely defined by money, things, status and now, "experiences", at least in Western cultures. We are living in an "all you can eat" culture.
Another fixture of the 80s, or at least as I remember it, was the proliferation of the "all you can eat" salad bar and hot bar. It was a staple in places like Ponderosa, Sizzler, Wendy's and diners and still is, to this day.
Notice, it is not called "all you want to eat" or "all you should eat".
There is an overwhelming expanse of messages and exposures on a daily basis that trigger all that we can acquire, can do, can learn, can become and can work toward. Apparently, I can have single-digit body fat after the age of 40, realize my creative dreams, develop relationships that have alluded me up until now, generate wealth in ways that "the insiders" don't want me to know about, learn how to cook and eat healthier, conquer my deepest fears, learn a new skill in 40 days and my personal favorite, stop procrastinating and take the next step to overcome what's been holding me back.
Yikes. That's some salad bar. I think I'll take a double order of fries and "veg out" in front of Netflix for 48 hours. Herein lies the problem. Is this really all I want to do or am I feeling pressured to always strive for more? I am pretty minimalistic in my "things" but if I am just substituting that for "personal growth", I'm not much better. Sure, I can define success on my own terms but if it's always at the expense of acceptance, that's not very successful at all. I can eat all I want but it's not going to feel very good an hour from now. It's time to find the "all you want to eat" salad bar.
I think about my own kids, who are now young adults. There are so many "all you can eat salad bars" for every facet of their life, that it's hard to distinguish when they might be full. My only consolation is that the one thing they do possess that is so much more immense than when I was their age isn't their parachute pants or gelled up hair - it's their perspective. They're more focused on what they want to achieve and why than what they can achieve. That's important because intention matters. Maybe that is how we get back to "reasonable portions" in the first place.
Until next time,