I thought this was a beautiful observation by Hugh Lemmy in his strange but thought-provoking newsletter about Frasier:
It’s a state usually attributed to teenagers. This weekend my boyfriend and I took the dog for a long walk in the mountains that surround the city we live in. Realising, at one point, that we had taken a wrong turn, and our hike was going to be longer than planned, we stopped at a mountainside restaurant for something to eat. Sipping a beer on the terrace, we watched as families pulled up in cars for their Sunday lunch: mothers in discretely expensive coats, fathers in the Catalan middle-class uniform of button-down shirt and duvet gilets, and then their children, dragged along to maintain the family unit, to be presented to their grandparents. Watching the teenager kids I was struck by how intense it was to be a teenager; you feel so driven by your own emergent desires to be who you are, and so excited by the opportunities. Yet so many teenagers lack almost all autonomy, and find their feelings of adulthood suppressed at every turn by actual adults. We watched these teens go through this same moment and, we both agreed, it was terrible to be a teenager.
It suggests a mismatch between dawning autonomy and situational possibilities for the realisation of the autonomy. A vague sense of all the possibilities just beyond the horizon, coupled with a visceral awareness of the immediate constraints on reaching them. All those things we could see, do and become tantalisingly out of reach. In this sense I wonder if the condition of the (middle class and millennial?) teenager is one more broadly shared as we leave neoliberalism and enter something worse.
The state of autonomy in which we might float freely in our bubble increasingly seems fleeting or entirely foreclosed, though that doesn’t prevent us affirming it on a fantasistic level. In fact the sense of a life we were promised slipping away as we enter a world of endemic crisis (climate breakdown will be the mood music as we transition beyond this crisis, until the next zoonotic disease makes its mark on the human world) might lead us to compulsively affirm that promise, performing it insistently in ever more morbid ways as we in fact feel its fragmentation but are unable to accept it.
In case this seems bleak I’d refer you back to this post from a few months ago on post-pandemic hedonism.