- Chrishaunda Lee Perez
The Necessary Balance Between Tradition and a Quicker Fix
What an era we are living in.
Used to be that people really had to put in actual time, dedication, consistency, and longevity to do well in life. The "fast track", "overnight" or "microwave success" was something that some folks might have dreamt about, but at large, most of us didn't, because we knew that those who became successful at lightening speed, usually enjoyed this good life for only a short period of time. A "one hit wonder", then back to stacking shelves on aisle 3 could easily be the fate of this experience. Keeping with tradition, we were taught that only real talent could sustain a career, and that "tried-and-true" was a staple, stable, and favorable label for a reason.
In the spirit of efficiency and creating something new, microwaves became THE pop culture go-to preparation tool for a hot meal, and the microwave mentality also received a boost. The idea of anything fast was popularized, not just a place that could whip up burgers and fries by the time you drove to the checkout booth from the ordering window only 5 feet before it.
Whispers got out that you could skip steps in various ways and breeze your way to the finish line, and this way of success was no longer only reserved for the 'lucky ones'. With regard to products even, the lines of what was considered efficient vs what was actually just fast lane business were quickly blurred. Over the past decade we have witnessed a rise in celebration of a B.S. culture on practically every level, some of the defenders of it crying out how though not foundational, these new contributions are fresh and different, and what we need today. I am all about fresh and new, but what if a "new" contribution has no base? and if an idea is not founded on something solid, how long can it truly last, regardless of how "exciting" or seemingly efficient it appears at the onset?
Even if it makes you a ton of money, what real value is the ship if it ends up sinking because the thing was built with those fabulous, yet impractical paper straws that fizzle and wilt upon contact of a raindrop? That was a mighty awesome idea, even created to help out the planet a little, to save us from the super functional, but dreaded, undeniable danger-to-the-planet, plastic ones. Unfortunately, though, the supposed paper straw savior idea could not compare to the function ability of the plastic ones, with people sometimes going through 2 or 3 of these paper gems for one drink, defeating the purpose of saving the planet at all. Lots of trees might not be so happy about this particular use of it's resources.
Then came the followup to that hip idea that became the perfect remix to taking more thought and time AND proving to be new and efficient, balancing the two ends of the tradition and quicker fix dynamic: A straw that's not made of paper or plastic, but with other biodegradable, but durable materials, like bamboo. They can actually get wet without melting or becoming soggy, and can still break down in the earth after they are disposed of. Whoever genius came up with this idea has a forward thinking, young mind, regardless of how old they are. They successfully brought us out of archaic, earth-destroying habits, into a safer, more practical, and efficient future. I personally find it very exciting that I now drink liquids through bamboo:)
Without getting too specific here (if the craft/industry/skill set/talent/product fits...), with that sort of leveling up amongst others, I am beginning to feel the tides turn on B.S. culture. People are no longer satisfied with straws that look cool and are eco-friendly, but are not actually user friendly. People today DO want forward movement. They DO want lives and careers that have adapted certain levels of technology that allows for the time they spend building to be spent more efficiently. They DO want fresh and new and exciting. But they also want something that can last. No one wants to be today's star-turned-tomorrow's-panhandler because they rushed their process for the glitz of it all. Nobody wants a wilted paper straw.
But do we do away with the paper straws altogether? Does a B.S. culture have no place at all? After all, paper straws were designed to help our world, even if they simultaneously annoy it with each wetted withering of a paper straw's base. I suppose if paper straws came with fine print about their lack of longevity, and were not advertised as a tried-and-true alternative to the 'should be extinct' plastic straw, then yes. Or if there was a "quickie career" development workshop that warned people before they embarked on any skipping-vital-steps-career-moves, they need to have a serious plan B in place, because the former career choice most likely won't last, then yes. But if the quickie product is put in place to replace something that we previously solidly enjoyed, even if all of the politics were not ideal, or an overnight success route preaches to mirror the same outcome of a journeyed career track, then no. Replacements of tried-and-true should not ultimatelty be a false sense of security.
Evolution is supposed to learn from the past, use its necessary foundations, and improve upon functionality, efficiency, effectiveness, and sometimes, meaning. Whomever created paper straws thinking it would be a great alternative were not thinking of the people like me who will let a drink sit all day, and go back to it, even if luke warm, and drink the whole of it. You have no idea how flummoxed and teed off I was one day to return to a perfectly now warm iced lemonade to find that my paper straw had disintegrated into the bottom of the cup.
This leads me back to being able to last, and being tried and true. Imagine someone who does really well as a studio performer, but then when tested live, they bomb? Imagine reading Cliff's Notes and being able to explain the big picture of a story, but when asked your opinion about a famous page that "anyone who has actually read the whole book would remember" and you have no idea what the person is talking about? Imagine getting a movie contract based on your ability to recite a singular monologue, but when prompted to recall an entire script worth of lines, you cave? Skipping steps, taking the short cut might be good in a pinch, but we cannot base our entire lives on it. These microwave skills sets won't last. I'm not saying that the inroads of today have to completely mimic the incredible and at moments, seriously challenging and lengthy roads paved by many of our greats of various time periods, but were all of these new "creations" fully thought through? Ask Beyonce, Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Gates, Deepak Chopra, Robin Roberts, Dave Chappelle, and so on of their various ilk, what goes on in their minds when fast trackers who might have found themselves at the same table with them within in a week's time of 'here to there' and are now touted as same tier. It is quite possible that while these newcomers might have enjoyed eating elbow-to-elbow with a Legend during Easter brunch, they will be noticeably absent by Christmas dinner. Hard to sustain when you truly do not have the chops. Fun while it lasted!
So the tides are changing, and settling somewhere in the middle. Doing the actual work now matters again. This is good for people who actually do and did the necessary work, who prepared like a grandma for the test. Those fashion students who understand how to drape, or cut on a bias. Those students of writing who have written thousands of pages before they found their voice as a scribe. Those hopeful voice performers who sing over and over in church or at crummy nightclubs (or today, due to COVID, sparsely populated Zoom or IG Live sessions)...your hard work will have room to still pay off in the end. People who read the WHOLE BOOK will feel esteemed to declare, "I read the whole book!" Oh, and you will be considered cool for doing so. In the spirit of efficiency, you might not have to design as many garments to get notice, sing in as many small clubs to shine, or read as many books or write as many pages....Nah, jury is still out on that one, but you get my point.
But if you still choose to take the short cut in life, hey, there is a slight chance that you just might have a bit of staying power- ask the fast-track outliers who have broken through without doing very much at all and still manage to keep their jobs or remain relevant. It is not impossible, but in my belief, this will no longer be popular culture's most celebrated route before long. I believe that an era when sweat and tears for a time working hard at something you knew you were meant to contribute to the world will again be rewarded more often than not- Maybe not to banish the "fun and fast" altogether, but to remove them from their seemingly cemented high statuses and put them back in a different, more transient tier, where they belong. Tradition will meet the quicker fix, and share a smoothie together using a bamboo straw.
Long live the nerds of any era, any craft, anywhere. Those of today, who do the necessary work, but in a more efficient way.
#Believe, and don't give up. Despite the rise of the paper straw phenomenon, the biodegradable non-plastic straw inventors weren't intimidated by them, and didn't.
For You and All of Us,