We have control.
Much to-do has been made lately about the current group of 13-29ers, also known as Generation Y, or millennials. Just the same to-do has been made by every older generation about the one that follows it (and no, that quote was not spoken by Socrates, but it was written over a hundred years ago and referenced a mindset that had been around for centuries before that). I could spend paragraphs discussing the kind of world millennials are inheriting or the practical problems we’ve faced after a childhood of being told to follow our passions, but enough people have already dedicated more than enough time and bandwidth to that.
What I’d like to do is talk to you about a British radio sitcom.
This is Cabin Pressure. Written (and partially performed) by comedian John Finnemore, the show follows the owner and employees of MJN Air, a small charter firm – so small that the company is referred to at one point as an “airdot.” Because you cannot put one plane in a line. (Fans of the show call ourselves, collectively, the “fandot.”)
I’ve written a little bit about the show already, back in April. Specifically, I wrote about the character Martin Crieff, describing him as “highly-relatable-to-my-generation.” It’s true – of the four major recurring characters, Martin is the one that most young fans sympathize with and compare themselves to. And while it certainly doesn’t hurt his popularity that he happens to be played by Tumblr’s current favorite actor, casting is in no way the long and short of it.
So let me introduce you to Captain Martin Crieff.
Martin is in his early 30s. He’s unmarried, and lives in a shared house with a rotating group of college students. He hires himself out, along with his deceased dad’s old van, as a mover for ten pounds an hour, while spending years in pursuit of his dream. It’s not a frivolous dream, either: he wants to fly planes, a job that takes intense training and study to achieve, and he’s prepared for it almost entirely on his own. After having to take multiple tries at getting his pilot’s license, he was finally hired – not only hired, but hired to be the Captain! – of MJN Air, the major downside to which being that Carolyn, MJN’s CEO, can’t afford to pay him any salary.
The last season ended with a cliffhanger: Martin had been offered a position at the much more established Swiss Air and was suddenly uncertain about whether to take it. The fandot is split over whether Martin should accept the job. Yes, it’s a gig that pays more (read: anything at all) than his current “job” with MJN, there’s the chance of advancement in the future, and his new home would be a stone’s throw away from that of his current girlfriend. But MJN has been a struggling company from the beginning, and if he leaves, Carolyn may have no other choice but to fold.
For myself, I was never for a moment conflicted. Think about how many movies, tv shows… anything you’ve seen that force a character to choose between what will bring them happiness and what will bring them money. So many stories deal with the question of dreams weighed against career, but when there’s an offer on the table to make your dream the career, the answer, to me, seems obvious.
Whether he will take the job? That’s a question to be addressed by the narrative. I really doubt Finnemore is trying to do anything other than tell an interesting story through a likable character, and Martin’s ultimate decision will be whatever best serves the story. But from an outsider’s perspective, the story of Martin Crieff is a millennial wish-fulfillment fantasy. Years of under-appreciated toil for very little pay – whether in unpaid internships, underemployment, or both – and the passion to keep pursuing one’s dreams in spite of it paying off with the prospect of making a living at something that makes one happy. If only we could all be so fortunate.