Life expectancy

The future needn’t always come at the expense of the past

The grasshopper played in a band with two crickets
  • The grasshopper played in a band with two crickets

Dear Hipster:

Sometimes, I worry about this generation of hipsters and millennials because it seems to make such rash choices with no regard for the future. How will you feel about those ironic tattoos in thirty years, when the ink has faded and the joke stopped being funny? Sure, part-time barista leaves you plenty of opportunity to play in bands, or, more likely enjoy an active and entertaining social life; but what happens when you realize at forty-five that you need good health insurance and more than a week’s paycheck in the bank? Life’s a beach, I get it. And you want to have fun; but don’t you ever worry you’re making choices now you’ll regret in the future?

— A Concerned Party

This reminds me of the old fable about the grasshopper and the ant. The ant was an industrious little dude, working super hard all the time, building hills out of sand, foraging for food that would sustain the millions of fellow ants in his colony, serving the will of the queen, etc. Because he labored in concert with his entire colony, the ant accomplished truly great things.

The grasshopper, by way of contrast, lived in a modest apartment he shared with two crickets. They played in a band (most of their songs were just obscure buzzing noises you’ve never heard before). The grasshopper worked part-time shifts at a local dive bar for bees, where he specialized in mixing up a cocktail called a “Royal Jelly” that included no less than four housemade bittering agents.

One day, the grasshopper was chilling with his cricket friends in the park, hanging out and doing whatever it is crickets do to make that crazy buzzing noise. They were minding their own business, indulging a little light day drinking, when all of a sudden the ant cruised by pushing a huge chunk of bread that must have weighed ten times more than he did.

“Damn, bro,” said the grasshopper, “show that bread who’s boss!”

The ant paused in his labors. “You know, you guys might want to think about putting away something for a rainy day yourselves. Summer won’t last forever. Although, with all those tattoos I’m not sure anybody’s going to hire you into the bread-hauling business. It’s a tough industry,” he said.

But the grasshopper remained unfazed. He told the ant about how he planned to enjoy his youth and freedom, knowing full well he would sacrifice certain conventional goals and values for the sake of greater personal autonomy. It wasn’t like life was a zero sum game, where every day spent not working towards some distant goal was a day otherwise wasted. With just a little change in perspective, and a reevaluation of what one expects out of life, the future needn’t always come at the expense of the past.

“At the end of the day, it’s more important for me to be me; not who society thinks I should be. I mean, you do you, ant-man, and don’t let me stop you, but, from my perspective you guys don’t always look so happy, toiling away just to keep the queen in the egg business. At least, I wouldn’t necessarily be happy if I were in your shoes,” he said.

The ant muttered something about hipster doofuses and went back to work. Both insects remained firmly convinced they were right, but each envied the other just enough to keep society from getting in too much of a rut.

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