This past Friday and Saturday night I got a taste of the next generation of artists. A good friend of mine, a few years younger was performing in a play. I remember when I received his text telling me he'd auditioned for the part and was cast. My heart swelled like a proud Mama (or big sister).
So I returned to my old stomping ground to watch a few plays as a part of the One Act Play Festival the theater department was hosting at City College. I was very impressed by the talent and professionalism. You could tell they took their art seriously. After the show when every one gathered outside the theater in the hallway I was reminded of their age. I wondered who out of the bunch would go on to pursue acting as a career. Many were surely talented enough to do so.
"It's been a minute since I've been to the theater. Very inspiring."
"I'm glad that the City College could provide that for you," he said tongue-in-cheek.
I had my share of flashbacks to school plays and assemblies I was in and the classes I took at Harlem School of the Arts. I've come a long way.
Saturday night, I was invited to an event in Harlem at the Black Ink Gallery. I was one of the oldest people in the room and that's saying a lot. But I didn't feel old. I was surrounded by artists, entrepreneurs and world travelers. I soak that stuff up! While exchanging contact information with one of the attendees, I spelled out my email address. "You have your own domain name? I wanna be on your level one day!" she said. I later find out she's 19 years old and getting her feet wet in the networking that masquerades as partying. She's dealing with parents who don't quite understand what her goals are or who think her goals aren't "right".
My mother always reminds me to put some money away for retirement. Huh? I asked my mother what she was doing at my age, what her daily life consisted of in 1970's Brooklyn. She worked low paying jobs, rented rooms then apartments, went (back) to school (foreign degrees not recognized). Not so different from what I'm going through or from what I'm witnessing. There are tons of expats planting roots in other parts of the world; my mother did the same coming from Jamaica to the U.S. The difference I do notice is with her generation, they worked to save, to build something, to have something to show for their efforts. I know many people my age willing to live out of a suitcase if it means they can do things their way.
My last 2 years of high school and first 2 years of college, there was all this hullabaloo over Generation X. According to sociologists we were ethnically diverse "latch key" kids who were very independent with a disdain of authority in the workplace; we work to live, not live to work. I must say, I am surrounded by a lot of freelancers who's mission is to never work for anyone but themselves. I gain a lot of inspiration from my self-sufficient peers and I think about how long I've gotten by by just getting by.
Thinking about this past weekend, being their age seems so long ago. I bet that's how the older generations view me. And like the 19 year old who aspired to reach my level, I'm drawn to the 1968-1975 generation. There's that experimental free spirit that many of them exhibit that I admire. How did I become a member of the "past" generation? I can actually impart wisdom on someone. I could counsel and mentor someone on the "struggle" if need be. Yet I know I'm still a baby myself and have a long way to go.
What advice would you give to the next generation?
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