Welcome To The Matrix Where It’s A Good Life
It’s a Wednesday evening.
You have two screens going as usual. On one, you’re binge-watching your latest favorite show on Netflix. On another, you have Facebook popped open and you’re mindlessly scrolling along, checking out news and friends’ status updates.
Suddenly, your temporarily blank mind realizes you’re looking at an advertisement. It’s for a new work recruitment/travel company convinced that breaking out of the 9 to 5 is the way of the future. They’re looking for people ages 25-35 who are interested in switching careers, joining them, and starting to live the dream.
“Interesting,” you think.
You mentally log that you might want to check it out later and scroll down a bit further.
You see an image of one of your best friends from high school, long since a stranger to you, posed with his new baby (his second) and his wife and eldest child. The post caption is something meant-to-be-funny about new baby spit-up and parental exhaustion, but it’s really just sort of sad.
“Why do people want to have kids,” you think. “It’s just such a nightmare.”
So you keep scrolling.
Then, your attention gets momentarily pulled from Facebook to your Netflix show. This one (the most recent worthy of your binge-time) is about a kid in high school who finds out he’s actually a superhero from birth. The show is about him finding his way, learning the ropes, while, of course, also learning to appreciate his new gifts. The plot twist though is that his only power is his superhuman intellect. He can’t fly or move mountains with his super strength. He can speak faster, think faster, process information faster than any other human on earth. And he voraciously consumes information. And because of that, he obtains everything we all want: money, freedom, power.
In this scene, the kid has just closed the deal on buying an evil, soul-sucking corporation and he plans to dismantle it for the betterment of humanity.
“Wouldn’t it be nice,” you think, “to have all that money and power and be able to really make a difference?”
You start to let your eyes wander back to Facebook but then you pause.
“Maybe it’s possible.”
“But eh, where to start.”
Your phone briefly flashes with a news update from CNN. You’re not even sure you want to check it out because it’s probably a new ridiculous thing your president has said or done.
“Man, how did he even get elected,” you think.
But you, of course, can’t be bothered to do anything to help change things.
By the time you switch back to Facebook, you’re scrolling past an advertisement about student loan repayment.
“WE CAN HELP YOU FINANCE!” The ad screams at you.
“Fuck,” you think, “I could have done without thinking about my student loans for a minute.”
You went to undergrad and grad school at a private university. So you’re in the neighborhood of $150,000 in debt with no foreseeable way out at the moment.
It’s why you work in the soul-sucking corporate job that you do. It was the best-paying option.
Sure, you hate your life every day that you wake up, but you had to go to college, because that’s what people say you’re supposed to do, then you had to go to grad school, and you had to finance it, so now you can’t really do anything you “love” because you need the money.
Your eyes wander over to your guitar sitting in the corner of the room. If things had been different….
But whatever, no time for that now.
You glance back to Facebook, where you’re looking at an advertisement for an expensive watch, by the tech company, Pear. Everyone is into it – it’s the absolute latest on the market.
It’s not really in your budget, but so what? Everyone loves it for a reason. You’ll just put it on credit. No big deal.
You mentally log to head to the store later to get it.
Facebook has decided you didn’t pay enough attention to the travel company ad so it’s flashing across your screen again, but this time, you scroll past with no interest.
It’s a pipe dream to think you’ll ever be able to do anything except your current, terrible job, so what’s the point in even thinking about it. You have to pay back your loans. So you’re stuck.
Your legs are starting to feel numb so you get up and wander to your kitchen, where you pull open the fridge and start to reach for a beer. Nah, you decide you want something stronger, so you pop up to the freezer and pull out the vodka and dump it in a glass.
You’re sipping on it as you decide to walk out on your small little balcony, where you hear the neighbor’s radio on. It’s the game. How could you have forgotten? You can watch Netflix anytime but sports are your life. You played a bit of football in undergrad before real life took over (you could have had a pretty promising career) and now you follow your team, The Blue Jackets, like it’s your life. When they win, you feel like you’ve won. When they lose, it hurts you.
I mean, let’s be real, you have nothing to do with their wins and losses save maybe padding the licensor’s pockets by buying some commercial team gear, but hey, it makes you feel a little less numb about your life to look forward to sporting events like they are your air.
The game pauses and you hear a commercial for this new thing called “A2 Milk.” Apparently, it’s “natural” milk that’s easier to digest.
“Oh, interesting,” you think. “I should try that.”
Dairy milk has never been great for your stomach, but if there’s a way to make it easier to drink, why not?
The thought that you shouldn’t be drinking another animal’s milk – that, perhaps, that, in and of itself, is unnatural – doesn’t strike you.
You wander back over to your computer to see if you can find a place to stream your game. Your phone, sitting next to you, lights up again.
It’s a notification from Instagram, someone liked your photo. You don’t have a ton of human connection these days besides work, so you eagerly open the app.
When you get Insta running, the first thing you see is a recent post about someone you know getting really fit by trying one of those new video fitness programs. They look great.
“That’s cool,” you think. “I’d like to try that….but I’m also so tired all the time. Meh, whatever.”
You scroll up a bit on Insta and see that your favorite fast food restaurant is advertising a new $1 menu of all of the cheesiest, meatiest stuff.
So, of course, you resolve to try it the next day.
Your head starts to hurt so you get up and wander over to your bathroom medicine cabinet. You pull it open and remember, with a laugh, that because of all of your ailments you own a virtual pharmacy right inside your apartment.
You don’t know why you feel so bad all the time, but you do. Your doctor hasn’t been able to figure it out, but truthfully, he doesn’t seem really interested most of the time.
You find the headache med you are looking for and reach for it. You pause for a second, remembering this medicine has side effects including extreme drowsiness, fatigue, blood clots, heart attack, and even, laughably, headaches.
“It’s the best bet,” you think and take it anyway.
It’d be nice if there were something more natural, like from a plant, with fewer side effects, but the truth is, you don’t know why you’re so sick and you trust the pharmaceutical industry and the government about why certain things are legal and certain things aren’t.
You pop back over to your computer, frustrated your game stream isn’t loading, and decide to open Tinder while you wait.
It’s really a waste of time, but you are a romantic at heart and really wishing you could find someone to save you, to take you away from the dreariness of life.
Marriage, though, hasn’t even really been on your radar. Neither have kids. But the thing is, that’s what you do, right? You fall in love, you get married, and you start pumping out babies.
Then you just work so your kids can have a theoretically better life than you.
You’ll never be able to afford college for them, though, since you’ll still be paying off your own loans well into their childhood.
I mean, it seems really stressful, but if everyone does it, there’s probably something to it right?
And you suppose you’ll buy a house at some point. That seems really expensive, but hey, people do it. Then they just work to pay off their mortgage.
And so will you.
Sure, you are sick and bored and numb yourself with mindless television and alcohol. Fitness isn’t accessible to you and you pump yourself full of pharmaceuticals just to get through the day. You’re looking at a life full of work, indebtedness to other people, and wondering why you’re even doing the things you’re doing.
But why question things? People have been living this way for years.
It’s a good life.