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Visitors at "The Beach" at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Visitors at "The Beach" at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Anadolu Agency/ Getty

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Instagram Keeps Me Young

How social media, and everyone else, made it okay to never grow up

A couple years ago, if I told my friends I’d be hopping a three-hour train to Washington D.C. to spend a romantic weekend wading in a germy ball pit or taking the morning off to ride an underwater-themed baby ride, they’d give me Mr. Robot-level crazy-eyes. Yet, in less than a week and a half, I’ve been on two carousels. I dove into multiple ball pits. I’ve also barely gotten out of multiple ball pits, because yipes, it’s difficult when you’re an adult.

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Everything is.

If life is the internet, and internet is a photo series of people holding out a green juice over a white-sand beach, then it makes sense that we’re all ready to rebel. These days, there’s a premium on novelty that’s eclipsing the show-offs. I don’t have the tolerance to rosé all day. I don’t want to sit at a formal dinner party when I could be spinning inside of tea cups. Instagram has made quirky fun child things cool again and I am all for it. I am a kidult, and I’m no longer apologizing for it.

Seeking joy is an escape from the doldrums of responsibility that come with this post-college disaster, pre-Googling "401K help" lifestyle. For the past few months or so, I have been living in what one could call a swamp of malaise. Winters in New York are brutal, sure, but summers are almost worse. (If everyone runs away from a city on the weekend and it’s not because of a Godzilla-like movie scene, something’s clearly wrong.) I am deeply ISO joy. And, often, that feeds the urge to run towards the shiny pillars of happiness, whether they’re an underwater-themed glass carousel, or a newfound obsession with all things Disney.

why wasn't the carousel-riding option presented at career day??

A video posted by c a r l y e w i s e l (@carlyewisel) on

Life has become chaos incarnate. The vision of adulthood we were raised with is completely different from the one we’re living day-to-day. When I graduated college, a mere six years ago, I bought skirt suits and tape recorders and headed out on a path that would lead me to run a record label or a magazine by the time I was 40. Now, over half a decade into my professional life, I’m typing on a computer filled with stickers while texting from my hamburger phone and eating handfuls of granola from a feed bag that has served as both breakfast and lunch.

Thanks to technology turning the whole world upside down, we have no blueprint for how we’re supposed to be behaving like in this new millennium. I went to overnight camp for work. My grandma has asked me "if I’ve found a job yet" for the past four years on repeat. People are making cotton candy and peanut butter for a living, for christ’s sake. Things are truly insane.

It often reminds me of freshman year of high school. With too many kids about to cram into our already-stuffed building, a bunch of adults got together and thought it would be a good idea to have us attend a separate freshman campus. Yep, my first year out of junior high was spent not ogling celebrity-status senior boys and walking around terrified of cliques, but instead amidst a wasteland of immaturity and confusion as to how we’re supposed to act with no jocks around to set the example.

tastes as good as it did back in high school -- and not just 'cuz me + my credit card can get as many scoops as we want

A photo posted by c a r l y e w i s e l (@carlyewisel) on

Becoming an adult in this weird, wacky time is the exact same thing. It’s a generalization, but most of our parents worked jobs they hated for 30 years and then told us that’s what we do when we get older. Maybe we’ll find something we like more, sure, but that’s kind of how it goes, because that’s life. Except... that’s no longer what life is. (Man, did they get the short stick.) Now, we’re all on the same page of knowing the train has left the station, but the destination is yet unknown. Anything is a job. Hell, everything is a job. We’re getting older by the day, but regressing by the decade, so why wouldn’t resorting to sources of sheer happiness be a welcomed respite from the stress of not knowing what in the hell is going to happen to any of us in the next few years?

Where it was once weird to talk to yourself through a computerized rectangle in your bedroom has now become a viable (and sometimes multi-million dollar) income source. These days I have no idea how to act, what not to say, how to censor myself or what protocol should be. Is talking to my phone in a snapchat video on the street weird? Seriously, I don’t know, someone please tell me!

consider these an "it gets better" video for your Long Island Iced Tea habit circa 2006

A photo posted by c a r l y e w i s e l (@carlyewisel) on

My obsession with simple pleasures like ice cream and amusements and stuffed animals is likely just a response to the chores and bills and forms that come with adult life. When did silly food get replaced by acai bowls and Friday nights become a slow parade in painful heels between over-capacity bars? I miss fun. I miss happiness! I miss the basics — and they’re all right there, ready for the taking.

I’ve pulled away from socializing and simple adult nonsense in the past few months because of this, but I can’t help but think it’s changing. Just the other night, I gave it all a shot again. I went to a hotel filled with so many suits that I was likely mistaken for a hipster prostitute, waited twenty minutes to get access to a rooftop bar, and spent $22 on a popsicle in a glass of prosecco. Could I make this at home for two bucks? Sure, but that’s not the point. It’s not just the photo op, it’s that even drinking has been taken over by a multitude of childlike whimsy. And, for once, in as long as I could possibly remember, I was happier to have been out at a bar among the rest of the adults instead of riding around a carousel with children — even if that cocktail had nothing on Epcot’s best boozy treat.


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