My generation suffers from Disney Princess Syndrome.
I define “my generation” as the tail end of the Millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y. People continue to argue which dates are considered the start or cut off points for the Millennials, but I consider current adults in their twenties as part of this generation. So when I say “my generation,” I’m referring to the set of babies born in the mid-90s.
With Disney Princess Syndrome, I’m not saying that the last Millennials are species-crossing mermaids, dimensional-hopping damsels, or carpet riding heroines. No, in this case the syndrome refers to one particular personality trait that every Disney flowerchild has succumb to: wanting more.
Ah yes, wanting more: the physical and emotional state that Disney princesses undergo during their films’ first acts. I want to be where the people are, I want to go outside the castle walls, I want to be a mighty king—oof wait, not a Disney princess, but you get the picture.
The future buzzes around their minds like an annoying bee. Princesses want, want and want. They’re unsatisfied with the present. They want to live in a better tomorrow and escape their sucky circumstances, which is fine and dandy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting more. That is, until “wanting more” completely consumes everything people think and do.
That’s where my generation comes in. We’re just now reaching the ages where the future has become uncertain, unclear, uncharted: our twenties.
Every chapter of our lives has been, for the most part, planned out. What to do after pre-school? Why kindergarten of course! What to do after elementary school? Why middle and high school of course! What to do after high school? College of course! What to do after college…um IDK LOL WHUT DO I DO???
I’m not saying that all people currently in their twenties take this exact path in life, are fortunate enough for an education or have their decisions go according to plan. But from the peers I’ve encountered so far, this has been the general case with few exceptions.
Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1969, did not grow up with the same mental comfort that we’re used to. My baby boomer parents, for example, could not plan their lives out as much as I can. Their generation was filled with bounties of social and economic change, while information was not as accessible or available as it is today. When my parents moved to America, they didn’t have the entire internet barking out “how tos” for immigration. Mistakes were made. They were born into uncertainty, so when they reached their twenties that uncertainty was not as terrifying, they were used to it.
We might, of course, not be so different from other generations. I can’t speak with complete accuracy for them, because I didn’t grow up in the 60s or the 50s. But just from speaking with the various “adults” I’ve encountered in my life, I can tell there is a difference in thought processes. My worries about the future are met with remarks such as: “Why don’t you just take a year to travel? Take a chance, take some risks.” I’m not used to risks.
Like Disney Princesses, most of our problems up till now have been slight inconveniences or minor setbacks that could be fixed. The unknown scares us. We’re scared of living our lives without the comfortable pressure of someone telling us the next plan. We’ve lived too comfortably. Now it’s time for us to dive into unfamiliarity and we freak. We envelop ourselves in “what ifs” and we hate it. We dream of obtaining extravagant futures, but can’t deal with this unpredictable present.
So what do we do to detract from such a present? We think about the future of course! I want to do this, I want to do that! The problem isn’t that we’re thinking about the future and what we want out of it; the problem is that we’re putting so much focus on it that we’re not enjoying the present. We’re not living day to day, trying to make each day count towards a successful path. We’re, in fact, stuck. Stuck in the loop of not knowing what to do and waiting for that prince, wishing for that star, hoping for that portal to magically whisk us away into a perfect tomorrow.
Some recent texts I’ve received from my friends have been ones of doubt. “What is my purpose?” “I feel like I’m not living up to my full potential.” “I want more out of my future.” “Everything is so hopeless now.” “I want more out of my life.” “Am I doing the right thing?” “I want more.” “I want more.” “I want more.”
Tail-end Millennials circulate these thoughts over and over. They drown in them, feeling hopeless and lost. They sit watching Netflix, distracting themselves as they wallow in their seas of “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO NEXT.” It’s difficult to escape that rut. It’s difficult to just jump into life and make a few mistakes without a concrete roadway for life to follow. We’re not used to the chance to screw up. We’d rather have Google Maps tell us what to do next. But till then, we sit there, frozen, with the only comfort being that we sit by a window and wish upon a star rather than do something.
Unlike Disney Princesses, we don’t have magical plot devices that can change our circumstances and give us a clear adventure to follow to our happily ever after. We’ve got to just Mulan-the-hell out of life and fight through this war of unknown. We should make mistakes, live with them and move on. We should stop wanting more and start doing more.
We’ve grown up with the unfortunate luxury of extreme mental comfort until now. So we must go forth, work with what we’ve got and keep the future in mind. Mistakes won’t ruin our lives completely. There’s always a way to bounce back from them. We must look toward a successful tomorrow and stop obsessing over it. Disney Princess Syndrome can be cured.