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July 2022

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Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
All of, us collectively, as a society, who are fed up with the expectations that we just work work work.

In a nutshell:
Author Petersen explores how the Millennial generation has been put into basically a really shit situation.

Worth quoting:
“This isn’t a personal problem. It’s a societal one — and it will not be cured by productivity apps, or a bullet journal, or face mask skin treatments, or overnight fucking oats.”

“Just because middle-class parents decided that a certain style of parenting is superior doesn’t mean it empirically is.”

“By cloaking the labor in the language of ‘passion,’ we’re prevented from thinking of what we do as what it is: a job, not the entirety of our lives.”

Why I chose it:
Although I’m a Xennial, I can definitely relate to the feeling of just being completely exhausted by the world and the expectations of all of us.

Review:
Author Peterson has written an interesting and important book, though in the end, I’m not sure it is telling us anything we don’t already know, at least those of us who are paying attention.
This book was written before the ‘Great Resignation’ became a thing, which makes it quite prescient.

She starts by looking at how we got here – essentially the values and pressures put on people by their parents. She’s not blaming the previous generation exactly, just discussing how their lives were different than the lives of their children. It reminds me of something I’ve read elsewhere – Boomers love to belittle Millennials for demanding ‘participation trophies,’ but the Boomers are the ones who taught them to expect those trophies – so why are the Millennials the ones being derided?

From there, the book focuses on what so many of us know – how for many of us, our lives have been a constant hustle. Get the best grades you can while also playing a sport, learning an instrument, and volunteering so you can go to a good university. Get the best grades there, along with perhaps some unpaid work experience (though only for those who can afford that), and then get a job. Which will pay you very little, and take up so much of your time that you have no time for living.

So yeah, folks are burnt out.

Peterson explores a variety of things that contribute to this: the digital age forcing work into every aspect of our lives; parenthood and how much energy that requires; unfair and unequal division of labor.

There’s so much in here and I think a lot of people would benefit from reading it. And while there are loads of reminders in there about the lives we all live individually, Peterson make a point to not offer specific solutions. There’s nothing here that a better time management method will fix – this is a problem with our society. Demanding people work eight or more hours a day, five days a week, commute 2 or 3 hours a day, raise children, with insufficient pay and very little support is a society that needs to be overturned at a systemic level.
We collectively need to take control back from the people who think its just fine for us all to work ourselves beyond exhaustion.

And until then, we definitely need to stop judging other people who might not go to university, or who might not parent the way we would, or who are living their lives in ways that we might not (but perhaps that we wish we could). The system is fucked up and people are doing their best to survive it.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep & Recommend to a Friend

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