December 8, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey

After five years toiling my late 20s and the first part of my 30s behind various desks with varying degrees of blindingly bright screens, unorganized papers, stained sticky notes riddled with unintelligible writing, candy wrappers and crumbs, I returned to the service industry this summer.

It wasn’t necessarily by choice, at least initially. I was laid off in January, the first of several very, very bad things to happen this year, but, as terrifying as it was, I felt a sense of relief when it happened, too. I think I knew deep down that, while the relative security and stability was nice, being chained to a desk was shortening my life and surely distressing my brain. I’ve always hustled, I’ve always been something of a self-starter, and I wanted more time and freedom to be on my feet, kinetic, in motion. We aren’t built to sit on our asses for 45 hours a week. We have to do what we can to keep our brains happy and full, if we can.

One rather unfortunate byproduct of the industry I was mired in while behind those desks is the ease and allure of distraction. I still fight it every day. Every day, I fight the urge to look at screens. I look out the window, I go outside and walk unconventionally long distances, I meditate, I delete apps from my phone, I leave my phone at home, I talk to people in real life, but goddammit if at the end of the day the allure of the screen doesn’t always win out, the hypnotic nature of watching a tiny loading circle spin around and around and then, with a quiet pop, there are new tweets and status updates to read and new endorphins to release. It’s completely pathetic to really only feel like you can pay attention to stuff like this, but not to the people in front of you who are desperately trying to talk to you, in person, you know, the things that truly matter.

I digress, but working a couple service industry, customer-facing jobs helps with that a little bit. I’m alone virtually all of the time—yet, then again, virtually, are we ever truly alone?—but when I’m at work I have to talk to people, coworkers, customers, whomever, and it centers and focuses me, as silly as that sounds. Running around for eight hours, upstairs, downstairs, to the kitchen, behind the bar, outside, back inside, to the bathrooms, covering every inch of a restaurant with my boots has made my body and my brain happier and healthier than it’s ever been. I think everyone should work in the service industry at least once in their lives. It teaches you a lot about how to socially interact with other people, how to work with other people, many of whom you’d ordinarily never give a second look in any other setting. It humbles you. Plus in a weird way it teaches you that ultimately, being nice to people feels far better than just acting like an asshole, when usually, especially online, it’s the other way around.

Even as healthy as my brain feels when I’m at work, when I’m home I still fall into old habits, refreshing my sites over and over again, perpetually bored, yet entertained by the nothingness, the ephemeral nature of it all. My attention span at home veers between short and non-existent. Writing has never been more difficult because why write when I can just push command+r or pull down on my phone screen every few minutes?

I’m turning 31 next week, and well, a lot of people make a big deal about turning 30 because it’s an established, if arbitrary milestone in one’s life. The distracted, unsure, perhaps questionable decision-making and fun of your twenties is supposedly over. Yet here I am, writing a long-winded thing that is ostensibly about one of my favorite songs of 2015 when I should be cleaning my room, or exercising, or meditating, or perhaps self-editing a little more judiciously. When you turn 30 you’re supposed to have it all figured out but really, you don’t. Nobody does. We’re all pretending, we all know it, and that’s fine. Life is a series of brief, sometimes euphoric, sometimes excruciating experiences that rarely, if ever go as planned; you just have to do your best to laugh and get through them.

Colleen Green’s music speaks to me in much the same way I imagine it speaks to you if you’re familiar with it. She’s perpetually distracted, unsure of herself, unsure of her future, doesn’t understand other people and their motivations well enough, wants affection and attention but also wants to be left alone, relies on outside stimulators like TV and drugs to deal, or try to deal with it all. Lyrically speaking, her music is so on-the-nose about the problems millennials face, both internal and external, and is so plain about how stupid most of them are, that it’s hard not to listen to a song like “Pay Attention” and think, “Damn. This is literally me. I’m an adult. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I pay attention to things or even talk to people?” I’m still trying to figure it out. If I ever do I’ll be sure to put it on a screen for you to read.

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