"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." -Albert Camus
By Kat Freydl
Dear Pope Francis,
Let me start by saying this: I would not be a good protagonist. I am not beautiful or particularly brave. I’m weak and dependent and I lack a hook. I don’t have a good voice for reading poetry, which is especially unfortunate because my heart reaches for it. When I speak, my voice often shakes. I suppose that’s the beauty of the written word. Either you are reading this or you are not, and either way my voice isn’t shaking for you.
I’m part of Generation Y. Sometimes I am proud of this, and other times I want to hide my face in a pillow. We are known for our indifference and our self-centeredness, and I would like to say this: if we do not care about us, who will? Certainly not the generation that calls us lazy but whose only obstacle was deciding which bank to put their life savings in. The generation chanting that Mike Brown deserved his demise. Don’t think I’m brave for being topical. There will always be a controversy to write an essay about.
(If I sound melodramatic, know that it is because I am angry. Teenagers always are. I think it’s because this is the age in which we starting realizing that nothing is fair and everything is permitted. Mazel tov.)
In 1982, Your Holiness, a student could work 9 hours per week, full time during school breaks, receiving minimum wage, and pay their college tuition in full with $3,500 to spare. Today, if a student worked for the same amount of time, they would come up $11,000 short. In addition to this, college admissions are more competitive than they’ve ever been; a 4.0 is no longer impressive. We must be book smart and altruistic and well-rounded and globally-minded. If taking a string of selfies makes a teenager feel better about their inevitable debt and crippling inadequacy in the eyes of college admissions boards, then so be it, I say. Please correct me if I say this in error.
I am not here to lament the comparative ease of being part of generations past compared to my own. Being a human comes with a set of struggles that aren’t bound by time. You will experience loss and disappointment and heartbreak. You will cry—oh, will you cry. This transcends generational barriers. My point here is that sometimes I’m a little in love with my generation. We are impossible and dissatisfied and full of rage, but we make art. Boys kissing boys is more of a crime than shooting black teenagers in the streets, but we make art. We remind each other not to forget these things that are happening. On social media platforms that started as blogging websites, teenagers are posting pictures and links and information that you have to work for to scrounge from news networks. From my peers I’ve learned that there are more than two genders, that I am not lesser because I am a woman, that I am not lesser for who and what I love. Let me riddle you this:
I’m sure you know all about oracle bones. In ancient China, they would carve Chinese characters into tortoiseshells or animal bones—questions—and heat them until they cracked, then interpret these cracks as the answers. I’m no oracle. I don’t know everything. I don’t know a fourth of everything. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve told you plenty of times in this essay all of the reasons why I’m not here, so let me tell you why I am: on Thursday afternoons, I used to go to philosophy club, a circle of teenagers on the floor talking about the universe, asking questions not deemed important enough to be in our school curricula. On Mondays, I went to GSA, and we’d talk with fire in our eyes about how great it was to be alive in a time on the cusp of revolution. To be part of the demographic that will make that revolution happen.
Know this: we are listening, Pope Francis. We are courageous. We are going forward. We are making noise.
I think I’d like to be an anthropologist.
Most Sincerely Yours,
Katelyn J. Freydl