Half Empty – Sep 5, 2005

By Ariel Leve.

Most people think they're ahead of their time. Not me. I was born three decades too late. If only I had been born in the 30s, I would have thrived. It was the era of the Great Depression. Everyone was miserable, unemployed and depressed. Does it get any better?

Here's why I would have loved living in the 1930s: buying an apple was seen as an accomplishment. People had low expectations; I like that. Today there's way too much pressure on things like potential. Back then no one would care if I wasn't fulfilling my potential. Someone could ask, "what did you do today?" and I could respond, "I baked a potato". That would be enough.

Recently there have been surveys showing that today we're materially richer but emotionally no better off. Maybe if I were materially richer I wouldn't mind. I'd drive my Mercedes out to my country house, listening to my iPod and wondering why surveys exist in the first place.

But given that I have all of the stress of modern-day life and none of the perks, I find it only confirms I was born too late. At least if was materially richer, I'd have an excuse.

Research shows that living in the 30s, life was a lot easier. And I agree. I'd be much better off owning one dress, one pair of shoes, one lip-gloss, one cell phone and one pair of sunglasses. Plus, today, life expectancy for women is an excruciating 80 years old. This means, I have more than 40 years more to go. But in the 30s, life expectancy was a more manageable 63. Who needs to live longer than that? Once you hit 30, you're middle-aged! I'd love it. I feel middle-aged now but nobody takes me seriously.

From everything I know about the 30s, there was a lot of anxiety about day-to-day life. Again, an ideal situation. There were all sorts of things to be worried about: fascism, poverty, disease ... I could complain all I want and no one would find it unusual. I'd have good reason. Now if I complain about a disease people tell me to go to a doctor. But what they're really saying is "leave me alone". Back then, I bet they'd listen.