Like many a Dr. Suess work, the “Butter Battle Book” uses wack-sauce rhymes and names to innocently mask some serious real-world issues. In this case, it’s the Zooks and the Yorks, two hostile cultures who live on different sides of a wall, one-upping each other’s ammo until generals on both sides of the wall are just sitting there with bombs, waiting for the other dude to strike first. It’s supposed to be a barely disguised parable about the Cold War, but if you look at it a certain way, it’s actually about a lot more.
The two dudes spend the entire time bragging and one-upping each other, using the newly acquired weapons as ways to feel awesome about themselves. This of course, is nothing new, and it’s something humans have been doing for centuries. On some level, the weapons these guys acquire are similar to what happens as we grow older, and rack up things that we proudly associate with--using our (sometimes) well-earned titles, achievements, and lucky coincidences to arm ourselves up for a number of different life tasks--hitting on a girl at a bar, crushing a job interview, or simply establishing social worth at a party. Ultimately, this is the stuff that makes us “who we are,” in the sense that it’s what people will talk about if we die tragically, and someone needs say something to make the whole thing less depressing. “Billy was so good at his job as a Managerial Consultant,” they may say. “He also was in his college a capella group, so he totally had interests and stuff.”
We’re always arming ourselves, though. We go to high school, and it’s all about college. Everyone figuring out how to best embellish their resumes, why college is gonna be so much better than “this fucking place,” why we need to lose our virginities now so we’re properly prepared for wild college life. Then it’s college, and the process continues. Maybe you don’t want to take some terribly boring unpaid internship, but it’s one of those things that “looks good,” it’s something to put on the resume, and it’s what everyone else is doing. Next thing you know, you find yourself sending out resumes to friends of family friends for an entry level job for something that people think you’re good at based on that internship you blindly did, or the major you picked because (a. you’ve gotta pick a major by the end of the first year, and (b. Emily is in that major, and she’s definitely your best chance at a 10. Then you’re at some job of something you “are doing for just now,” in the hope that it could be good resume fodder for what you want to do “eventually.”
It’s not a bad strategy, really. Arming yourself in the short-term with a job a (hopefully decent) salary, and an apartment to take girls back to so they can roll their eyes at your DVD collection. But if we’re talking arms race, a lot of this shit--a fleeting internship here, a funny tweet there, having a job you hate just so you don’t have to tell people you’re unemployed--it doesn’t seem that cohesive. Like the world we grew up in told us to acquire all these weapons to use at our disposal, but thought it’d be funny to never give us assembling instructions. So we’re getting older, and we just have all this shit lying around. We could stuff it all in our garage I guess, but the prospect of owning a home at this point sounds pretty laughable.
What I’m saying is a bunch of semi-steaming garbage really, but when it comes to the things that matter in your life, it's high time to stop doing shit just for the sake of doing shit. Slightly compromising now to benefit later is a good idea sometimes, but one blind step leads to another blind step, and all of a sudden you’re further away than when you started. If you’re gonna build something, it’s probably a good idea to take the extra time to make sure the nails are hammered in properly. Would be pretty stupid not to, really.
Quarter-Life Crisis Pic via Shuttershock